Staying Safe and Embracing the Joy
by Mary Ann LoFrumento, MD, pediatrician
Congratulations, you just had a new baby. Whether this is your first or your fourth, all parents have a mix of emotions at the birth of a baby. In normal times these feelings are a combination of intense joy and love, mixed with a touch of nervousness about caring for this totally dependent bundle of joy.
Today, with COVID-19 in the community, parents understandably have questions, concerns and an added layer of frayed nerves. Just remember, we are all in this together and there are experienced, compassionate and capable pediatricians and pediatric nurses to help you get through this time – and help you enjoy it, too.
As often happens in life, things don’t always happen according to plan. The good news is that you have a brand-new baby to help you focus on the “now.”
With the right precautions, like hand washing and social distancing, chances increase that you, your new baby and the rest of your family will remain healthy. When one of you needs to go out for supplies, food and medicine be sure to practice social distancing. When you return home, wash hands and clean off any products you brought into the house.
Here are some positive thoughts to help get through a challenging time:
Standard New Baby Follow Up Visits:
To help protect yourself and your new baby, follow the advice of your pediatrician about how long to isolate from others and how and when to schedule follow up visits. Many pediatricians and family practitioners have special times set aside for newborns to be checked and weighed and are expanding the use of telehealth for questions and concerns. Ask them questions about what they are doing to minimize risks if you do come to the office with your baby and don’t be shy about it. The fact that you are asking reassures them that you are taking this issue seriously, too.
ENJOY THE BABYMOON:
As well-meaning friends and relatives often rush to visit the new baby, it can also be stressful for parents, especially new parents. Your family didn’t join you on your honeymoon because they respected your need to establish yourselves as a couple. Think of this as a time when you are creating a new family and you need time to get to know one another without other people hovering.
PARENTAL LEAVE EXTENDED:
A lot of us are likely working from home right now due to COVID-19. Embrace this and try to view this as allowing you more time to be available to help with the household, siblings and enjoy time with the baby that you might not have otherwise had.
BABY IN A BUBBLE:
In normal times, we advise limiting visits to healthy relatives and friends, washing hands, and no kissing on face or hands. During flu season, this is even more heightened. Right now, even this is too dangerous as some people might be contagious and not have any symptoms. It is hard, and there will be pressure from grandparents who cannot wait to hold their new grandchild. Be firm about not having visitors during the time period advised by your pediatrician. Let people know that this is how they can express their love for the baby right now.
THE VITURAL BABY REVEAL:
Today there are so many ways you can connect virtually with friends and family. Our phones, computers and even webcams can be used to interact. Make it fun by using video chat apps with family members and getting baby all dressed up to make an appearance. If you have some tech skills, think of creative ways to show off your new arrival with backgrounds and music. Or just relax and allow loving grandparents to treasure the little one with close-ups. And if you excuse the bad pun: Remember no baby ever got a computer virus.
NATURE IS SAFE:
Now that the weather is warmer, there is no harm in taking baby outside, as long as you follow your community guidelines on social distancing. Even sitting in your back yard or porch and getting some fresh air will be good for everyone.
Toddlers and preschoolers can be sources of unwelcome infection in the best of times and must be carefully supervised around the baby for safety concerns. You should introduce the baby from a safe distance, and then don’t be surprised if older brother or sister resumes playing with toys or returning to a favorite video. If there has to be physical contact, try having them press a finger on the bottom of the foot near the toes and watch the toes curl around the finger. Your older child will be sure to smile and it’s a safe way to have a connection. Remember to wash your hands between caring for the older sibling and going back to the baby.
SHARE YOUR FEELINGS:
The birth of a baby brings on strong emotions in both parents in normal times but now feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, or even grief over the loss of expectations can be magnified. Share your feelings with each other and be honest with health care professionals who are caring for you.
Don’t skip your checkups with your ob/gyn. If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or are having obsessive thoughts that you cannot stop, please contact your doctor. We are all here to help you.
Most important - enjoy this time with your new baby. Let them take you away from the stress on television and social media. Years from now we can hope to remember this as the rare moment when the world slowed down and gave you the gift of time and space to bond with and love your new baby.