Postpartum Care & COVID-19
September 25, 2020With COVID-19 cases on the rise throughout the United States1 , new moms may face unique risks in caring for themselves and their babies postpartum. Information about the viral infection is still being discovered. Based on what experts do know, there are best practices mothers should follow when caring for their newborns.
Protecting Your Baby
There is still much we do not know about the coronavirus when it comes to newborns. So far, here is what we do know, according to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 :
- A newborn can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after being in close contact with an infected person, including the mother.
- Some babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth; however, it is not known if these babies were infected before, during, or after delivery.
- Most newborns who tested positive had mild or no symptoms and made full recoveries. Nevertheless, there have been some reports of newborns who have experienced severe illness due to the virus.
- There are some instances where a small number of other problems, such as preterm birth and other pregnancy and delivery-related issues, have been reported in mothers who tested positive for COVID-19. It is not clear whether these issues were a result of the virus.
Knowing that newborns are at risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus, new mothers, fathers, and other caregivers should take reasonable precautions. If a new mother tests positive for coronavirus during her hospital stay, the CDC recommends the mother discuss possible temporary separation from her baby to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. A healthcare provider should talk with the mother about the benefits and drawbacks of temporary separation; however, the CDC states that the mother should ultimately have the final say.
If a mother who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 chooses temporary separation and wishes to breastfeed, the CDC recommends that the mother express her breast milk and, if possible, that the baby is fed by bottle by a healthy caregiver who is not at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
If a mother with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 chooses not to separate from her newborn temporarily, the CDC recommends she take extra precautions before and during interaction with the baby.2
These precautions include:
- Washing hands frequently, especially before handling the baby.
- Wearing a cloth face covering when within six feet of the baby.
- Keeping the baby at least six feet away from the mother as much as possible, including using physical barriers, whenever the mother is not holding the baby.
These may sound like extreme and unpleasant measures to take, but the newborn’s health and safety must be prioritized.
As a new mother, you may feel eager to resume your regular routine. After all, a newborn in the house can disrupt a lot of “normalcy,” even without a global pandemic. However, new moms should be cautious when it comes to going out in public, inviting friends and family over to see the baby, or taking the baby out of the home. As the coronavirus still has no cure or vaccine, taking reasonable precautions can help protect you from infection and the possibility of severe illness, as well as passing the infection on to your baby or other people in your home.
Here are a few more guidelines for new mothers:
- Try to limit your outings to only essential errands such as grocery shopping, doctor visits, and pharmacy trips.
- Avoid large gatherings, especially where social distancing will be difficult.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has or has had symptoms in the last two weeks. (Be sure you are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, as they may be subject to change.)
- If someone in your household is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, isolate them as much as possible in a separate room until their symptoms subside. Contact your healthcare provider for more information and guidance and call 911 if symptoms become severe.
Precautions for Breastfeeding Moms
Healthcare experts have long touted the nutritional and immune-boosting properties of breast milk for newborns. Breast milk is like a customized nutritional substance that provides individualized immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the baby against illnesses.3 But is breastfeeding during the coronavirus pandemic a safe choice?
It is not known if mothers can spread the coronavirus to their babies through breast milk, but the current data suggests this is unlikely. Still, mothers who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and choose to breastfeed their babies should follow the CDC’s recommendations2 :
- Wear a cloth face covering while breastfeeding or while expressing breast milk.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before each feeding, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding with expressed breast milk. Also, wash your hands before handling bottles or breast pump equipment.
- If you express breast milk, use a dedicated breast pump that is not shared with anyone else.
- Follow the manufacturer’s or your healthcare professional’s guidelines for cleaning breast pump equipment, bottles, and nipples.
- If bottle-feeding expressed breast milk, whenever possible, allow a healthy household member who is not at high risk for severe illness to bottle feed the baby.
Prenate® Vitamin Family
This post is sponsored by Prenate® Vitamin Family, a line of prescription prenatal supplements dedicated to enhancing preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition in women. Talk with your doctor about how taking a daily prescription prenatal or postnatal vitamin could help support a healthy pregnancy and postpartum wellness.