The COVID-19 pandemic and how it changes coming home with a newborn. Here are the recommendations of public health authorities on the matter.
September 22, 2020 | The measures implemented to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus have not only modified how a pregnancy is monitored and how giving birth takes place. Coming home with a newborn is also not what is used to be. For one, are the traditional welcome visits still appropriate?
Updated on September 23, 2020
According to Sybille Jussome, communications advisor at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), babies are more vulnerable to infections and a certain degree of prudence should therefore be exercised. According to Sainte-Justine UHC, the vulnerability of their immune system is markedly greater during the first 2 months of life. As a matter of fact, Health Canada recommends that the parents of a newborn should refuse any visits except for medical reasons to protect the baby’s health.
The Importance of a Support Network
In a document published last July, INSPQ nevertheless stresses that a support network can help parents adapt to their new role. Indeed, according to Sainte-Justine UHC, help from the extended family can reduce the risk of conflicts at home and offer parents a necessary pause after the baby comes home. It is therefore important to foster this support in order to prevent mental health issues that could manifest themselves during this period of increased vulnerability for the parents.
Sainte-Justine UHC also notes that this situation might be perceived as a dilemma by parents who feel they must choose between the support of their loved ones and the safety of their family. Another concern for those parents is the return of siblings at their daycare centre. Since there is no such thing as a risk-free situation, the hospital suggests that parents talk to their health care professional before making a decision.
As for the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS), it recommends to families who have welcomed a newborn to not have visitors unless they are there specifically to offer their support, according to Marie-Claude Lacasse, the ministry’s spokesperson. MSSS stresses that grandparents over the age of 70 are more likely to experience complications if they become infected with COVID-19.
A Few Precautions
For families who choose to have visitors, public health experts have a few recommendations to protect the baby’s health and everyone else’s.
Public health recommendations may vary according to the evolution of the situation in each of Québec’s regions. INSPQ invites parents to consult the MSSS web site to find out what guidelines are in effect in their region.
Ask people with symptoms such as a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, vomiting or stomach aches to postpone their visit. The same goes for people who were in contact with a confirmed case or someone awaiting their test result.
Require everyone to wash their hands thoroughly as soon as they walk in the house and before handling the baby.
According to the INSPQ’s Sybille Jussome, there are several ways one can help the parents of a newborn while respecting the current guidelines to protect the baby as well as the elderly.
Prepare frozen meals for the whole family.
Run errands for them at the grocery store or the pharmacy.
Offer emotional support over the phone, by SMS or using apps such as FaceTime or Skype.
If a mother is infected with COVID-19 or believes she might be and feels too ill to care for the baby, she can ask a healthy adult to do it for her. However, since the virus is likely present in the household, that care provider should wear a mask and wash their hands frequently while tending to the baby’s needs.
Sources: Santé Canada, CHU Sainte-Justine, Gouvernement du Québec and INSPQ
Kathleen Couillard—Naître et grandir