There’s no doubt that having a baby is a major life change. You’re adding another person to your household!
Additionally, you are coping with your recovery from birth as well as adjusting to a new, erratic schedule. And of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has added new layers of concerns for first-time parents.
Camille Graham, MD, a primary care provider and pediatrician with Mercy Health – Kenwood Primary Care and Pediatrics, shares some tips on how to handle the transition of bringing baby home.
Breastfeeding during COVID-19
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are researchers still testing to determine whether this virus can pass through breast milk and infect a baby. The good news is that there have been no reports of this to date. However, if you are a new mother and have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has, you should take extra precautions.
“Wear a mask and wash your hands as well as breasts before and after holding the baby,” says Dr. Graham. “It’s more than worth the effort since when mom starts nursing, she’s going to produce antibodies that will help the baby. The first milk that baby gets is so full of antibodies and it helps turn on the baby’s immune system.”
As hard as it might be, a mother who has contracted COVID-19 should try to limit her interactions with her new baby as much as possible.
“If mom has COVID-19, it’s a good idea, if possible, to have another caregiver manage baby’s diaper changes and baths,” says Dr. Graham. “If that’s not possible, mom should wash hands before and after handling baby and wear a mask when she’s in close contact with her child.”
Visitors during the pandemic
While it’s a good idea to have people outside your household who can help with your newborn, COVID-19 has changed who you might have step in.
“The recommendation is to limit visitors at this time,” says Dr. Graham. “Parents need to screen their visitors and limit them to one or two people at a time. It’s probably best to not have children high school age or younger visit for at least the first two months of baby’s life.”
As for siblings, Dr. Graham says that parents with babies in their household and small kids in daycare or school need to be very careful.
“Make sure kids are washing their hands before holding the baby and wear a mask if they are two or older. Studies show that children can harbor COVID-19 in their noses, so you need to be cautious.”
Taking your new baby out in public
“I recommend that you avoid taking baby to social gatherings like church, restaurants or the grocery store for two or three months,” says Dr. Graham. “Even before COVID-19, running simple tasks, like grocery shopping, with a newborn can be challenging. Now there’s the risk of infection.”
One outing you can’t skip, though, is your baby’s wellness visit with their pediatrician. These appointments allow your pediatrician to monitor your newborn’s growth and development.
“Your doctor’s office is probably the safest place to visit, and we are using so many COVID-19 precautions,” shares Dr. Graham.
These appointments also help your pediatrician to catch any problems early, which allow for better outcomes. You baby’s vaccinations will take place at these visits as well. And providers aren’t only caring for babies during this time.
“We also assess parent well-being when we meet, give tips on positive parenting and review important safety issues such as safe sleep, safe water temperature and the importance and proper use of car seats.”
Remember, your pediatrician’s office is there for you and your baby. Don’t turn to the internet for advice.
“Parents feel guilty about calling in the middle of the night but there are serious things that can happen. We would much rather hear from you to ensure you and baby are okay and getting the help you need.”
Monitoring eating habits
“Outside of COVID-19 concerns, new parents often wonder if baby is eating too much or too little,” Dr. Graham shares.
If you are breastfeeding your baby, they will need to eat every one to two hours in their first few days. Then, they will need to eat eight to ten times in 24 hours during their first weeks of life.
“Frequent breastfeeding helps stimulate more milk production. Let baby be the guide. Formula-fed babies eat less often, about every three to four hours on average,” says Dr. Graham.
Dr. Graham encourages breastfeeding but notes that no matter how you feed your baby, all newborns lose weight in the first days of life and then regain it by the end of the second week. Thus, weight checks at your pediatrician’s office are important for determining if the baby is getting enough to eat.
The amount a baby poops is another way to track this.
“Baby should poop after every feed once breastfeeding is established. Formula-fed babies poop two to four times a day,” shares Dr. Graham. “If your baby is not passing at least one poop a day, that’s a concern. Baby may not be taking in enough food or could have an obstruction.”
Growth spurts can also lead to a change in your baby’s feeding pattern.
“You can expect a growth spurt every two to three weeks. If baby wants to eat more and you are breastfeeding, mom’s milk supply should match baby’s needs,” says Dr. Graham.
Safe sleeping and establishing routines
“A sofa is not a safe sleep location. Neither is mom’s bed, due to the danger of accidental suffocation,” says Dr. Graham. “Babies need to sleep alone, on their backs and in the crib, with no stuffed animals, pillows, blankets or bumper pads. Also, make sure your crib has a firm mattress.”
Working to establish a regular sleeping pattern is helpful for both baby and parents.
“You can help baby get into a regular sleep pattern by minimizing stimulation in the evening, feeding the baby at night and putting the baby down to sleep,” Dr. Graham says. “When baby wakes up in the middle of the night, attend to their needs, keep stimulation to a minimum and put the baby back down to sleep.”
Most babies don’t sleep for a six-hour stretch at night until they are six to eight weeks or even three months old. Eventually, you’ll find that baby stays asleep for longer periods of time, allowing you to get much needed rest, too.
Establishing routines beyond sleeping are also beneficial.
“The first month or two, you need to go by the baby’s schedule. By nine months, baby should eat when the family eats and sleep when the family sleeps.”
Also, enjoy holding your baby but don’t be afraid to let go.
“There is no such thing as holding baby too much, and it helps with mental development and bonding,” says Dr. Graham. “But they cut the cord for a reason! Parents need to be able to get a shower. Your baby will be just fine if you put them down in their crib while you attend to essential tasks.”
Find a Mercy Health pediatrician near you!