Butterfly logo could become a potent national neonatal symbol

A simple idea from one patient has been turned into an initiative that it is hoped will be implemented in neonatal units up and down the UK.

But it stemmed from one unintentional throwaway comment.

Millie Smith came up with the idea after one of her 10-week-old premature twins died and another mother, who had heard twins crying, told her that she was lucky not to have twins.

The other mother did not realise Ms Smith had been bereaved and could not have realised the effect that her comment would have.

Neonatal units

Ms Smith recalls that this comment prompted her decision to try to help families in a similar situation.

The purple butterfly logo, which can be placed on cots in neonatal units to alert nurses and families that a baby from a multiple birth has died, was invented.

The idea has now won the backing of a children’s palliative care charity and neonatal nurses’ representatives.

It is being used in one hospital and it is hoped that the idea will catch on in other units.

Silent symbol

The hope is that the purple butterfly will be a silent symbol that nurses and patients in busy neonatal units will eventually recognise automatically. 

As education chair of the Neonatal Nurses Association Julia Petty explains: ‘It is particularly useful for staff in busy units, where sometimes if we don’t know a family, we might be unaware of the situation.

‘It’s to avoid staff saying the wrong thing inadvertently to parents, and parents having to explain.’


‘In an ideal world you would get that information in a handover. A good handover should include the family background and the background of the baby and, in most cases, that does happen.

‘But there are cases in busy times where sometimes information is missed.’

‘It is particularly useful for staff in busy units, to avoid staff saying the wrong thing’