Bringing a new baby into the world is a wonderful thing. There’s so much to enjoy in bonding with your little one and watching him or her rapidly change. Even in the best of times, there are numerous questions about how to care for your newborn, but given the current pandemic there are even more.
Connecting with others can be challenging during this time of social distancing. Although grandparents and other family and friends will want to come meet your baby, try to connect with video chats and through social media to stay in touch. Newborns have an immature immune system and are more susceptible to infections during the first few months of life.
The good news is that lack of visitors or interaction with other children shouldn’t negatively affect the early cognitive or social development of your newborn. Early development is dependent on interaction and attachment to parents and caregivers. Singing and talking with your infant, reading stories, tummy time, and getting some socially-distant time outside are what your baby needs to develop in the first several weeks after birth.
When you are out in public, continue to wear a cloth mask or face covering, but do not put one on your baby or other children under two due to the danger of suffocation. And keep in mind that wearing a face covering is not a substitute for social distancing, frequent handwashing, or other everyday precautions.
Limited data suggests that mothers with COVID-19 cannot spread the virus to their babies in their breast milk. You, your family, and healthcare providers should decide whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding.
Don’t skip your newborn visits or postpartum appointments. Your pediatric provider will check your baby’s growth and feeding, check him/her for jaundice, and make sure newborn screening tests were done, as well as any repeat or follow-up testing needed. Newborn screening tests include a bloodspot, hearing test, and test for critical congenital heart defects.
Keeping your child up to date on vaccinations remains critically important. Vaccines are your baby’s best defense against preventable illness. The hepatitis B vaccine should be offered before you leave the hospital and your baby should receive his or her fist set of vaccinations between six to eight weeks of life.
Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics continues to take extra steps to keep patients safe, including screening, masking and enhanced cleaning protocols.
Both the current pandemic and caring for a newborn can be stressful. Postpartum depression is common and can be treated. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you think you are experiencing depression. This will also be discussed at your routine visits for your newborn.
Increased stress levels and fatigue could impact your baby’s sleep practices as well. Safe sleep is an important part of keeping your infant healthy, so be sure to follow appropriate sleep guidance such as placing your baby on his or her back for all sleep times, including naps; using a firm, flat sleep surface, like a mattress in a crib, covered by a fitted sheet; and keeping soft bedding such as blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and soft toys out of your baby’s sleep area.
Spending time with your newborn is such a special part of life. Take the opportunity during this pandemic to focus on your family and rebalance the things that matter. Reach out to your healthcare provider with any questions and concerns. We are prepared to safely take care of you and your newborn; we are here and open for you.
Rachel Schwab, MD, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics. Dr. Schwab serves on the board of directors for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County, and is the Center’s medical director.
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