Bringing a new baby home can be stressful for any new parent. Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and the parents' stress level can become off the charts. We are in uncharted territory right now with the COVID-19 outbreak, and navigating bringing home a newborn is a unique circumstance that may not come with a lot of guidance.
In our new normal, new rules have been implemented that may change how newborn babies are typically cared for. Visitors and extra help may be limited due to social distancing measures, and in-person doctor's visits may be held as telemedicine visits instead. We spoke to several experts to get some advice on navigating this uncertain time.
What do new parents need to be aware of once they bring baby home during COVID-19?
Newborns are expected to have multiple pediatric visits postbirth to monitor weight and height trends, administer vaccines if applicable, and address any concerns. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies still have an in-person visit after discharge from the hospital according to Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, pediatrician at Einstein Pediatrics in Virginia. She explains that "many pediatric practices are only seeing newborns or young infants for their well visits, thereby limiting as much exposure as possible to respiratory or infectious illnesses."
To support social-distancing efforts and to reduce the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19, some offices are performing checkups in a parent's car, limiting the number of appointments permitted at a time in the doctor's office, and only allowing "sick" visits at designated times of the day. Parents should be aware that walk-ins may be discouraged, so they should call the office before they make the effort of traveling and leaving their home.
Parents are encouraged to wear a mask when entering the pediatrician's office (or going anywhere for that matter); however, babies under the age of 2 should avoid covering their faces to avoid risk of suffocation explains Dr. Joel "Gator" Warsh, founder of Integrative Pediatrics.
Dr. Gator explains that if an emergency situation arises, like a fever, trouble breathing, or dehydration with no urine output for 6 to 10 hours, a physical doctor's visit may be required. However, situations like an unexpected rash or excessive spit-up could likely be addressed via telemedicine.
How should new parents navigate telemedicine with a newborn?
Telemedicine may be a new concept for some families and may sound intimidating. In reality, it is a wonderful tool that allows you to communicate with your healthcare provider in real time remotely. Often, a secure and HIPAA-compliant platform is used that includes a video-chat feature so a live conversation can take place over the internet. Utilizing telemedicine for nonemergency doctor's visits allows for more social distancing and less risk for spreading COVID-19.
While telemedicine will allow families to receive the same quality of care that they receive during face-to-face appointments, there are some unique aspects to this mode of care that parents should be mindful of. Every infant visit to the pediatrician is not complete without a weight check. If a family is going to be using telemedicine, Dr. Gator suggests that families ensure they have a scale at home to monitor weight trends.
Dr. Gator also suggests that parents make sure that they are provided with a link or access code for their telemedicine appointment, that they have access to WiFi, and if an app is needed that it is downloaded before the appointment. If possible, testing the access to the platform being used before the appointment time is a good practice.
Parents should also try and time their appointment, so it is not during the baby's naptime, according to Jacqueline Jones, MD, clinical associate professor of Otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby's healthcare provider will likely want to see your baby during the appointment, and avoiding a cranky little one is preferred to allow for a thorough exam. She also recommends that the parents have a pharmacy phone number handy in case a prescription needs to be called in. Jones assures that doctors are able to assess common concerns like rashes or unusual diaper discharge (poop) effectively via telemedicine.
What advice should new parents follow during COVID-19?
The first thing parents can do is manage their stress as best as they can during this time, according to Jones. Babies feed off of parents' emotions, so keeping a calm environment is key, though in some cases that's easier said than done.
Dr. Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and creator of the Snoo, explains that a large concern is preventing the parents from getting sick during these uncertain times. If parents get sick, they may require being separated from the baby, and getting additional support will be a challenge. Parents need to take the precautions set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention seriously, which includes frequent handwashing and social distancing. Thankfully, infants do not appear to present with severe cases of the coronavirus if it is contracted, according to Karp.
Parents can also keep themselves healthy by getting good sleep, eating well, managing stress, and exercising while still complying with the CDC guidelines, advises Dr. Gator. Keeping healthy may also include some specific supplements. In addition to eating a healthy diet, Jones suggests considering supplementation of nutrients like zinc, selenium, and vitamin C to support immune health.
Dr. Jones offers additional tips like getting baby on a schedule despite being inside for the majority of the day, to breastfeed if possible to provide baby with passive immunity, and to establish a relationship with a lactation consultant who offers telemedicine services before baby is born to have support available if needed.
"I remind my newborn families that even though we are in the middle of a global pandemic, don't let this rob you of this amazing time for your new family," explains Segura. "Never hesitate to call your pediatrician for advice. Your pediatrician is an excellent resource, and we expect you to have questions and to call us!"
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.