It’s exciting, and a little scary, taking a new baby home. Throw in a COVID-19 diagnosis, and that adds a whole new level of anxiety to the mix. Stephen Rinderknecht, DO, UnityPoint Health, offers recommendations for how to continue to safely care for your baby after a positive COVID-19 test, or while waiting for test results.
What to Do if You Have COVID-19 and a Baby
If you’re thinking, “I have COVID and a baby, what now?” First, don’t fret. Here are some recommendations to get your through this rough patch. The most important thing is to do what you feel is best, and doable, for your family. Here’s what the CDC recommends for newborn care during your COVID-19 illness:
- Isolate. Stay home and away from others, including the baby, as much as possible for the CDC’s recommend isolation period.
- Find support. Tap a healthy spouse, family member or support person to care for the baby in a separate area of the home as often as possible. Caregivers should ideally be fully vaccinated and boosted.
- Mask up. Wear a well-fitted mask when around others during your isolation. Other caregivers should wear a mask when within six feet of your newborn for the entire time you are in isolation, and during their own quarantine after you complete your isolation.
- Wash first. Anyone who’s caring for the baby should wash their hands or use 60% (or higher) alcohol hand sanitizer before holding or feeding the child.
“We know none of this is ideal when you already have the built-in stressors of caring for your new baby, but hang in there. While the isolation period will seem long, it’ll be behind you before you know it,” Dr. Rinderknecht says.
Remember, pregnant people, or those recently pregnant, are more likely to get severely sick from COVID-19 compared to people who aren’t pregnant. Keep tabs on your symptoms and contact your doctor if they worsen. If you have chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath or other serious symptoms, go to the emergency department.
Feeding Your Baby While Having COVID-19
Breast milk is encouraged whether through breastfeeding or pumping, and protective antibodies are in breastmilk. Studies are still underway to determine if the antibodies protect the baby from COVID-19. However, similar antibody levels from other vaccines, like whooping cough, administered during pregnancy have proven to be protective for babies.
The CDC says breast milk is not likely to spread COVID-19 to babies. Makes sure you wash your hands and wear a mask during breastfeeding. If you’re using a breast pump, or letting a caregiver feed your baby, follow CDC recommendations for the best ways to keep your pump clean.
Watching Your Baby for COVID-19 Symptoms
If you, or anyone your baby has been in contact with has COVID-19, watch your baby for symptoms. Those could include:
- Fever (In babies under 2 months old, anything over 100.4 is serious. Follow up with a doctor immediately.)
- Decrease in wet diapers and stool
- Difficulty eating
- Increase work of breathing or swallowing
- Runny nose
“We know it can be alarming to notice any of these symptoms when your baby is so little. If you do, talk with your baby’s doctor. Newborns can be testing in our clinics with a nasal swab. We’re here to support you,” Dr. Rinderknecht says.
COVID-19 Vaccines Right After Delivering a Baby
If you have COVID-19 and a baby and you’re unvaccinated, make plans to get vaccinated once your isolation period is complete. Research is still very new, but some studies show it’s easier to get re-infected with the omicron variant than with past variants. For that reason, adding all the layers of protection you can, including getting vaccinated and boosted, is more important than ever. Natural immunity does appear to provide some protection, but the vaccines offer a more stable and longer lasting defense overall.
“If you’ve had to begin your first days or months with your new baby in isolation, we understand how emotionally and physically challenging that can be. Make sure you get your booster, or your two-dose vaccination series if you haven’t, as soon as possible to avoid going through it again with your new baby,” Dr. Rinderknecht says.