A heartbroken mum who posed for a poignant post-mortem photoshoot with her baby after she died believes every grieving parent should do the same.
Laura Winner lost first daughter Adaline to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in December 2015 at seven weeks old after putting her down for an afternoon nap.
The 30-year-old has now revealed the powerful images from a post-mortem photoshoot she posed for with Adaline's lifeless body five days after she died to memorialise their last moments together.
Laura, who now has another daughter, said some friends and family criticised the photoshoot as 'inappropriate' but she believes it is something all grieving parents should do.
The former nursing assistant, from South Dakota, USA, said: ‘At the time I didn't think there was anything unusual about getting photographs with my daughter after she had passed.
‘We had just brought Adaline a gorgeous pink dress the day before she died because we had arranged to get some professional baby photos taken.
‘But we had no idea that she would wear this dress in a post-mortem photoshoot instead.
‘The photoshoot just seemed like the normal thing to do and it was so comforting to be able to hold and be with her again.
‘I just sat and held her for hours that day, stroking her hair and talking to her. I didn't want to say goodbye to my baby.
‘She just looked like she was sleeping, none of it felt real. I kept thinking 'okay, you can wake up now'.
‘I've had lots of people get very upset about the photoshoot and tell me that the whole thing was inappropriate.
‘But I just tell them it's a way to keep our baby's memory alive. Even now, I can look at those photographs and find peace.
‘Negative feedback about the photos always comes from people who haven't been through that kind of loss. You could never understand how it feels until you've been through it.
‘Although some might think it is strange, it actually really helps with the grieving process and getting some closure, especially when your child dies so unexpectedly.
‘I really encourage everyone who has lost a child to have post-mortem photos done.
‘I never hear people say they wish they'd never done it, but there are a lot of parents who have said they wish they had done it at the time and now it's too late.
‘There is such a taboo surrounding death but it's a fact of life and is not something that should be considered shameful or be hidden.
Laura said she felt a 'lingering sense of doom' early on in her pregnancy with Adaline, and couldn't shake the feeling 'something terrible was going to happen'.
Laura said after Adaline's death she was tortured by painful thoughts she could accidentally have rolled onto her daughter in her sleep – leaving her in a very dark place.
She and air force husband Sean now release pink balloons each year for Adaline's birthday and on the anniversary of her death and donated a package of gifts to the neonatal intensive care unit at their local hospital.
Laura also is determined to raise awareness of self-sleep practices, which advise SIDS could be more likely if babies sleep in the same bed as their parents.
And nearly a year after losing their daughter, the couple discovered Laura was pregnant again – with second daughter Hailey born in May 2017.
Laura said: ‘We were overjoyed when we found out we were having another baby and I cried when I found out we were having another girl. We couldn't be happier.
‘I always sit and imagine what it would be like if Adaline were still here playing with Hailey.
‘The pain is still there but we've learned to live with it and we feel blessed to have had Adaline in our lives, even if for a short time.
‘I feel like Adaline's spirit is watching over her little sister all the time. Hailey has her very own guardian angel for life.’
If you are struggling to cope, help is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14