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COVID-19: What Parents of Newborns and Infants Need to Know

Every parent’s first priority is to keep their child healthy and safe.

Among new parents with babies, that instinct is powerful. It’s no surprise that many parents are worried about their newborns and young children when it comes to COVID-19.

The good news: Cases around the world indicate that babies — even newborns — aren’t usually severely impacted by COVID-19. Babies, if they do have the virus, often don’t show any symptoms or their symptoms are mild, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Scientists are still learning about the virus, but cases around the world suggest that:

  • Babies who have been born to mothers with COVID-19 did not have the virus.
  • The virus has not been found in breastmilk.
  • The virus has not been found in amniotic fluid.

How to protect your newborn or infant from COVID-19

Even though COVID-19 is usually mild for babies, parents must take steps to keep their little ones healthy. Here’s how you can put your baby’s wellness first.

1. Limit visitors.

While grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends may be eager to see your new bundle of joy, limiting interaction can help keep your family healthy. It can take anywhere from two to 14 days for symptoms to appear in someone infected with the virus and during that time, they can spread it to your family.

Instead of in-person visits, try FaceTime or another free video-conference service, like Skype or Zoom. It gives you a safe way to show off your baby to family and friends and helps forge social connections when they’re needed most.

2. Stay healthy at home.

Stay at home as much as possible. When you do need to go out to the store or run other essential errands, have someone stay at home with the baby. Be sure to take off your shoes outside and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

3. Talk to your pediatrician about office practices.

Newborns have regular well visits throughout their first year and a half. Call your doctor’s office to find out how they’re keeping sick and well patients apart. When you do visit the doctor, try to keep your baby in the carrier as long as possible.

Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before lifting your baby from the carrier. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.

It’s preferable for only one person to accompany the baby to the visit. If at all possible, be sure to leave other children at home with a caregiver or the other partner.

Once you’re back home, leave your shoes outside and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

4. Keep your house clean.

The CDC recommends disinfecting high touch surfaces regularly. Make a schedule to quickly wipe down some of the most frequently touched items — including those that regularly make their way into your baby’s mouth, like remotes and keys.

Try cleaning your child’s favorite toys on a regular basis, too:

  • Soak plastic toys in a bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach and one gallon of water.
  • Wash blankets and burp cloths after each use.
  • Wash pacifiers every day in soap and water.
  • Wash plush toys, like stuffed animals, in the washing machine. Follow label instructions.
  • Wipe off metal, wood or battery-operated toys.

5. Take care of your mental and physical health.

Caring for a baby is challenging under any circumstances. But during a global pandemic? That can seem particularly frightening. Take the steps you need to care for your physical and mental health:

  • Eat healthy: A balanced diet offers the nutrients you need to heal from childbirth, nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive and nutrients to keep your immune system strong.
  • Sleep as much as you can: Babies usually don’t sleep through the night until closer to six months. Even then, some babies (and parents) can struggle with late-night waking. Make a schedule with your partner so that you both can take turns sleeping for some time.
  • Stay active: You may not be able to visit parks, the library and other play places, but you still can get out for a walk. Strap your little one into their stroller and take a walk around the block. The physical activity and fresh air is good for your mind and body. Just make sure you’re maintaining six feet of social distance between yourself and others.

Even if you don’t think you’re suffering from PPD but are still struggling with worries about COVID-19 and your baby, talk to a healthcare provider. Your child’s pediatrician can help answer questions and ease fears. Your obstetrician can refer you to a mental health expert to help you manage the stress, anxiety and depression that sometimes appear after giving birth.

Learn more about COVID-19 and Tanner’s response. You can also talk to your child’s pediatrician about any other specific questions or concerns.

And if you need help managing your stress and anxiety, find a provider near you.

Dr. McCormick is board-certified in pediatrics and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and completed her internship and residency at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Tanner Health System, Behavioral Health Care, Children's Health Care

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