Whether you’re becoming a parent for the first time or the fourth, the days and weeks immediately following your baby’s birth can be as overwhelming as they are joyful and exciting.
Add the COVID-19 pandemic to the mix and it’s a whole new ballgame in which no one wanted to participate. New parents alike are feeling the effects of this unprecedented stressor at a time when they’re already undergoing major life changes.
Many are left wondering, how can we keep our baby safe? What happens if my baby catches the virus? When can my baby meet her grandparents?
Dr. Sarah Adams fields these concerns and others often as a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Hudson. To help ease anxiety, the first thing she recommends to expecting families is to put together a protection plan for their newborn before they even leave the hospital.
“In preparation for a new baby, we prepare the room, crib, clothes and now with COVID-19, it adds a whole new level of preparation,” she said. “Having a plan in place before you bring baby home will help to reduce stress during an already stressful and unpredictable time.”
Akron Children’s sat down with Dr. Adams to get answers to some of your top questions and concerns to help you prepare for raising a baby in a pandemic. Planning ahead will reduce your anxiety and allow you to focus on what’s most important — protecting your newest bundle of joy.
Can my baby have visitors from close family members?
Whether you’re planning on help from a grandparent or just introducing baby to close family members, utmost caution must be taken because of the ongoing pandemic.
Dr. Adams recommends that you decide beforehand who will meet the baby in person. It’s a good idea to ask anyone who will be around the baby to quarantine for 2 weeks before that initial meeting. For extra precaution, you may even want that family member to get tested for COVID-19 beforehand.
For others who can’t meet the baby in person, don’t underestimate the power of technology. Video chats and even phone calls are a great way to introduce your baby. She may even become accustomed to their voice or recognize their face down the line.
“Eliminating the rush of visitors could be a good thing,” said Dr. Adams. “It gives you time to establish a routine and spend quality time with your newborn. The epidemic gives you an excuse to reduce the stress that comes with having so many visitors.”
What safety precautions should we take to keep baby safe?
The same safety precautions that we as adults are taking to prevent COVID-19 are just as important for baby: maintain a social distance, wear masks around the baby and wash your hands frequently.
“Even before COVID-19, I recommended families wait at least 3 to 4 weeks before taking baby out of the house,” said Dr. Adams, who warns parents never to put a mask on their baby. “Newborns are more vulnerable to illness in the first few months of life and before they have received their vaccinations. It’s even more important in a pandemic to avoid crowds, large family gatherings and the like.”
In addition, think of ways to limit baby’s exposure from siblings who go to school or daycare. Is virtual school an option, or can a tutor come to the home? Can a grandparent help with childcare for a couple months?
If there are others who live in your home and go to work, which increases the possibility of exposures, can adjustments be made? By minimizing risk within your family, you are minimizing risk for your baby.
What if my baby shows signs of COVID-19?
Though it’s rare for newborns to catch COVID-19, it does happen. Most babies will show milder symptoms than adults, but it’s still important to watch for symptoms and stay in touch with her pediatrician.
If your baby develops a fever, cough, vomits or has diarrhea, call her pediatrician right away. She can direct you on whether to bring your baby in for an evaluation and if she should be tested for COVID-19.
Is it safe to visit the pediatrician?
Absolutely. For your baby’s health and well-being, it’s important she stays up to date on vaccinations and has frequent weight checks. Appointments also give you time to discuss family concerns and questions.
Most pediatrician offices, including Akron Children’s, have strict protocols in place to keep patients as safe as possible. If you’re uncomfortable taking your baby out in the pandemic, your pediatrician can guide you as to when and how often to come back.
In between appointments, there are other ways to communicate with your pediatrician. At Akron Children’s, telehealth appointments and MyChart Messaging are available. After hours, nurses are available for pertinent questions.
Is it safe to breastfeed?
Even mothers with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are encouraged to breastfeed while taking all necessary safety precautions to avoid spreading the virus to their babies. Proper precautions include washing your hands before touching your baby and wearing a mask during feeding.
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies and protects against many illnesses. The good news is in limited studies, the virus has not been detected in breast milk and it is not likely a source of transmission, according to the CDC.
How can I cope with a newborn and COVID-19?
First and foremost, you must take care of the caretaker — yourself! Getting proper rest, eating a healthy diet, exercising and communicating with your partner are key to reducing the stress of raising a child in a pandemic.
Share responsibilities with your partner and keep an open dialogue about your needs. Can your spouse take time off from work since you won’t have as much help from others due to the pandemic?
Having a newborn in and of itself is a big change, let alone having one during a pandemic, and change is stressful, especially when you have to limit opportunities for help with your newborn.
“If you don’t take care of yourself, it will negatively affect your baby,” said Dr. Adams. “It sounds so cliché, but it’s true that you can’t care for your baby 100% if you’re not 100%. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”