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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

August 11, 2020, Gregory C. Martin, MD
Are Newborns at Risk When Mothers Have COVID-19?

Parents have many worries when bringing a new child into the world. Whether a first born or newest sibling, newborns raise a lot of common concerns for parents. Will the baby sleep too little or too much? Eat enough or too much? Experience development issues, croup or SIDS? The list goes on and on. Take into account a global pandemic and parental fears skyrocket — especially when a mother has tested positive for COVID-19 at the time she is set to deliver.

Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have been closely monitoring COVID-19 cases as they relate to expectant mothers and newborns. At the onset of COVID-19, stringent infection prevention measures were put in place for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum care to protect newborns from contracting the disease.

After months of national and international data about newborns born to mothers who have tested positive, the AAP has recently updated their safety precaution recommendations … and it’s all good news!

Rooming together … safely

Based on the most current evidence, babies born to COVID-positive mothers are at no greater risk of getting the disease whether they are temporarily separated from their mothers following delivery or they room-in with their mothers who practice appropriate infection prevention precautions.

To room-in safely with newborns, mothers should take the following safety measures:

  • Give a baby space: Maintain social distance when not providing newborn care
  • Mask up: Always wear a facemask when social distancing isn’t possible
  • Practice hand hygiene: Wash hands before and after holding the infant or providing newborn care, like changing diapers or feeding

With these basic precautions, mothers and newborns can safely enjoy the benefits of rooming together, like frequent skin-to-skin contact, feedings and better rest. Non-infected fathers, partners and permitted visitors should also practice these safeguards when near both mother and newborn.

Breastfeeding and bottle feeding … yes and yes

The AAP has always strongly supported breastfeeding as the best choice for infant feeding. A mother’s breast milk is proven to provide excellent nutrition and protective immunity to infants.

To date, there still have been no reports of COVID-19 being found in breastmilk. Both the AAP and WHO encourage mothers — including those infected with COVID-19 — to safely provide breastmilk to their newborns using the following safety precautions:

  • If breastfeeding, mothers should wash their hands and practice breast hygiene before and after feeding their babies. Mothers should also wear facemasks while breastfeeding to prevent newborns from becoming infected.
  • If mothers are not comfortable directly nursing their babies, they can express or pump their milk after washing their hands and breasts. Breast milk can be fed to newborns via bottles by infected mothers wearing masks or non-infected caregivers.

For more breastfeeding tips during the COVID-19 crisis, check out our other Bright Futures blog by pediatrician Dr. Gary Kirkilas.

What else should you know?

Based on the most current data, a very small percentage of infants born to women with COVID-19 have tested positive for the disease after birth. The AAP offers additional updated guidelines for infants born to mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, including delayed-cord clamping practices, infants requiring intensive care, COVID testing for newborns, and hospital discharge processes. Visit the AAP.com for more information.

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