A couple loses their only child and some time later they have another child. Is there a term for that second child? I once heard a parent use a phrase to describe it, but can't remember anymore.

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    @Lambie I'm sorry this is obviously a difficult / sensitive topic for you, but it's a valid question and has been answered in a clear and correct way (there is a term, but it's not widely known / used outside of a particular sub-community).
    – Vicky
    May 11, 2021 at 9:23
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    @Vicky I don't think you understand what I am saying. I'm saying that the naming is via others. I doubt a parent would say: "I had a rainbow baby". It is, as it were, third parties who say it.
    – Lambie
    May 11, 2021 at 14:48
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    Guys this is a perfectly straightforward language question. Please note everyone that on this site even vulgar or incredibly offensive words are regularly discussed, not to mention sensitive topics !!!
    – Fattie
    May 11, 2021 at 22:23
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    ... We shouldn't prevent this question from being asked; instead, we should ensure that the answers provide a thorough and nuanced explanation that can guide all future visitors wanting to know how to approach the issue. :-) May 12, 2021 at 1:35
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    @Lambie Are you saying that WebMD is more authoritative than any other source? Anyway, further down that very same page, it says: "A rainbow baby is a baby that you have after the loss of a child. They act as a symbol of renewal and hope. The rainbow stands as a symbol of excitement." (emphasis mine)
    – CJ Dennis
    May 13, 2021 at 2:14

5 Answers 5


I believe ‘rainbow baby’ is what you're looking for.

From Wikipedia:

A rainbow baby is a term for a child born to a family that has previously lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death during infancy

Also according to Lexico:

A baby born subsequent to a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of an infant from natural causes.


As @Pam pointed out in a comment below, Google Ngram shows a spike in the usage of rainbow baby in recent years:

Google Ngram results for 'rainbow baby'

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    The opposite would be sunshine baby. May 9, 2021 at 23:46
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    @Centaurus Like gidds, I've never heard of this before either, nor seen it in print. Doing a bit of searching, this Yahoo article suggests it originated on issue-specific message boards in 2008. It still is not a phrase which the overwhelming majority of English speakers anywhere in the world would know. As gidds says, be prepared to explain it every time you use it.
    – Graham
    May 10, 2021 at 10:50
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    I'll go one step further than the folks suggesting this may not be widely understood, and also note that this is a jargon-y term that I wouldn't ever use to describe someone else's child or family unless I knew they used it themselves. Pregnancy loss is a profoundly complicated and variable experience that no two people experience the same way, and it could be perilously to presume to know how another person wants to identify or talk about their reproductive and/or family history.
    – Sam Hanley
    May 10, 2021 at 14:00
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    I give you Google ngrams as testimony to the recent rise in popularity of this term. I've heard it comes from the Dolly Parton quote: "...if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain". Most often, I've seen it used as a specific miscarriage-related term on baby boards and parenting forums (it's commonly understood there as a softer way to normalise miscarriage).
    – Pam
    May 11, 2021 at 13:03
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    There was an earlier, rarer, use of C3 rainbow baby OED C3 rainbow baby n. (a) a child from an interracial, multicultural, or same-sex relationship; 1972 Her class has nicknamed Nathan ‘the rainbow baby’ because he is one-quarter each Navajo, Pima, Mexican and black. (b) a baby born subsequent to a miscarriage, still-birth, or the death of an infant from natural causes (now the usual sense). 2008 I have since gone on to have a healthy baby... She is my ‘rainbow baby’. Through the clouds and the rain she came and brought light and colour back into my life.
    – Greybeard
    May 11, 2021 at 15:40

I have family experience of this and it was described as "second and only child."

It's often a difficult topic for the parents to discuss and the above statement is easy to understand.

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    Thank you for sharing that. It is equally difficult for the child, which in this case was me.
    – Lambie
    May 10, 2021 at 22:47
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    Thank you also for sharing. 100% agree it incredibly difficult for parents and the child., Thankfully its not common these days. We talk about it matter of fact and openly with the 2nd child, but (try) to put no emotion or pressure on them as that's totally unfair. It does create interesting situations, for example in the middle of the supermarket I was asked by the 2nd child (age 4) the question "why did first baby die" just after we were discussing which cereal to buy. Keeps you on your toes.
    – matlabgui
    May 11, 2021 at 7:51
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    @Lambie I was also born after the previous sister's death at birth. I never thought that I was meant to be a replacement --kudos to my parents for that-- but I agree with you that the simple facts, as far as the parents dare to share, are probably the best. Matlabgui, I'm sorry for your loss. +1 for "it's a difficult topic". Understatement of the week. In any personal context, great care should be exercised with any trite labels.
    – Conrado
    May 12, 2021 at 15:25
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    Having viewed your edit, I can see that you have coined this phrase. I'm sorry that you experienced this difficulty in your family, but self-coined phrases are not acceptable answers. Answers are supposed to be verifiable (i.e. you can point to an external source to confirm it).
    – CJ Dennis
    May 13, 2021 at 2:09
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    @cjdennis to be 100% clear it was suggested to us by professionals, however I don't have a reference to link sorry.
    – matlabgui
    May 13, 2021 at 6:45

Replacement child:

A replacement child is a child conceived by parents to replace an older dead sibling.


This term originated in the field of psychology. Outside of the field, it should be used with care, as the death of a child is an especially sensitive subject, and the expression can be interpreted as an extremely callous thing to say.


In 1964 psychologists Albert C. Cain and Barbara S. Cain coined the expression:

Replacement child to refer to a child conceived shortly after the parents have lost another child.

In 1980, clinicians Robert Krell and Leslie Rabkin identified three types of replacement child: the "haunted" child, who lives in a family overwhelmed by guilt and silence, the "bound" child, who is incomparably precious and sometimes over-protected, and the "resurrected" child, who is treated as a reincarnation of the dead sibling.


Google Books shows that usage the expression “replacement child” has increased consistently from the ‘60s especially in medical, academic and specialized papers.

But the expression can be found also in more popular online papers such as:


I'm a replacement child - When Maria Lawson's older sister burned to death aged four, her mother was told by the family doctor to have another child. Which is how Maria came to be born, and – unbelievably – christened with the same name as her dead sibling



The Gift of Being A 'Replacement' Child - I grew up believing that I was a replacement child, for I was given life after another child lost his: a brother my family loved and missed, and whose absence cast an obvious shadow over my grieving mother's heart.

Usage note by @Laurel

“This term originated in the field of psychology. Outside of the field, it should be used with care, as the death of a child is an especially sensitive subject, and the expression can be interpreted as an extremely callous thing to say.”


@Lambie you are incorrect that it's what others say, because I myself am the proud mother of a sunshine baby, an angel baby as well as a rainbow baby and I say it about all 3 of my children. For the ones that don't know the meaning of these:

  1. A sunshine baby is a child born before the loss of a child due to miscarriage, still birth or early infant death.

  2. An angel baby is a child who gained their wings way too early, either still in the womb or in early infancy.

  3. A rainbow baby is a child born after the loss of an angel baby.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 5, 2022 at 22:13
  • "Gained their wings"?
    – Joachim
    Jan 6, 2022 at 13:19

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