COVID-19 FAQs: How can I keep my newborn safe?

Physical distancing from anyone who's sick can help child & parent stay healthy

COVID-19 FAQs: How can I keep my newborn safe?

So, you welcomed a newborn into your family in 2020 and now wonder what steps can be followed to keep your bundle of joy as safe as possible during the pandemic? Experts at Sanford Health offer the following guidance.

Hand hygiene, visits

Stephanie Hanson, M.D., is a pediatric physician at Sanford West Fargo Clinic. She says hand hygiene is critical when handling a newborn.

“Hand washing is so easy to do, but it’s so often overlooked. It’s a really great way to help prevent the spread of the infection,” said Hanson.

Hanson recommends washing for at least 20 seconds, with good technique, paired with frequent use of hand sanitizer.

Sanford Health pediatric infectious disease specialist Santiago Lopez, M.D., says for visits, everyone should stick to physical distancing guidelines. Especially in places experiencing high rates of COVID-19 community spread.

“When you have community spread of the virus, other family members that don’t live in the household can be exposed to the virus. Even without symptoms, they can spread they virus when they come into the house and visit the baby,” he said.

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He acknowledges this can be difficult, because the arrival of a newborn is a celebratory occasion.

“It’s hard to say this, but ideally, try to minimize that contact. Keep the distance, and wear a mask as much as possible,” adds Dr. Lopez.

If one parent has COVID-19, Dr. Lopez recommends having the other parent do the majority of the caretaking.

“Breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your child, but all the other care should be done by the other caregiver, if possible. Try to minimize the exposure until that parent gets out of quarantine.”

Dr. Hanson says physical distancing measures are critically important, because a baby’s immune system “hasn’t faced the challenges that an older child or an adult has faced.”

“They are very susceptible to infection, and can run the risk of having serious complications from infection. It really is prudent and safe to try and limit their exposure as much as possible.”

No masks for baby

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanford Health has stressed the importance of wearing a mask. However, under no circumstances should an infant or child under the age of two wear a mask, says Dr. Hanson.

“You shouldn’t be trying to mask your newborn. I don’t recommend any of the face shields or anything like that. That can be dangerous for a newborn’s airway, and cause them to have difficulty breathing.

“There’s also a potential strangulation risk, and can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),” she added.

Dr. Hanson says as far as parents wearing a mask, it depends on if they’re infected with COVID-19.

“If a parent is infected with the novel coronavirus, they should separate from the baby as much as possible. Obviously, that’s not always practical. You can’t always do that. So that’s an instance where masking would be appropriate if you’re going to be working with the baby,” said Dr. Hanson.

Related: What kind of mask is best? Ask an infectious disease doctor

Dr. Lopez agrees.

“Try to minimize that exposure until the one parent gets out of quarantine, or can’t transmit anymore.”

Learn more

Posted In Children's, COVID-19, Frequently Asked Questions, Parenting, Pregnancy, Women's