Raising a Baby in the Era of COVID-19

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Key Takeaways

  • Approximately 1.5 million babies have been born in the U.S. since March 2020, when COVID-19 began its rapid spread through the country.
  • New parents are feeling the effects of this unprecedented stressor at a time when they're already undergoing major life changes.

Welcoming a baby into the world and into your family is one of the most miraculous and amazing things you can do. As a parent, you want to provide the very best beginnings for your child, and do everything in your power to make that so.

But what happens when you are raising a baby during a global pandemic like coronavirus? Certainly no parent asked for this type of challenge, and it’s likely that you have many questions and concerns. Will my baby get the virus? How can I keep my baby safe during this time? Is social isolation bad for my baby? Is it harmful for my baby to be surrounded by people wearing masks? When can we visit the grandparents?

What This Means For You

If you are flooded with questions right now, you are not alone. Raising a baby during coronavirus can be very stressful and unpredictable. But just like any good, caring parent, you will get through this. Simply being curious about how to make this okay for you and your baby is a great first step.

Being armed with smart, evidence-based information is your best bet for making it through this tough time—and we’ve got you covered.

Health Concerns and Keeping Your Baby Safe

What Will Happen If My Baby Gets COVID-19?

When you are the parent of a newborn, keeping your baby healthy is a top concern. After all, babies don’t have fully developed immune systems yet and can be more vulnerable to viruses and infections.

You are right to be concerned about what might happen if your baby contracts coronavirus, especially since there are still so many unknowns about the effects of the virus, as well as its long-term impact.

However, what we know so far is that generally, healthy babies without underlying health conditions do not get as sick are adults from the virus, and their mortality rates are significantly lower.

“Based on available evidence, most children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults,” explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.”

Remember, though, that all babies are different. If you are dealing with a medically vulnerable child, or have any questions about your child’s health as it related to coronavirus, you should contact your pediatrician for more information. And in either case, everyone should take care to ensure that their babies and children do not get exposed to the virus.

According to The Mayo Clinic, those who are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 include:

  • Children who have congenital heart disease
  • Children with genetic conditions
  • Children with conditions involving the nervous system or metabolism

What Are Some Tips for Keeping Baby Safe During COVID-19?

The best way to keep your baby safe during the coronavirus pandemic is to practice social distancing, limit your baby’s contact with others as much as possible, and practice good hygiene.

While you certainly don’t want to keep your baby cooped up in the house all the time, keep your baby distanced from others when out and about. Avoid crowds, maintain six feet of distance from others when out, wear masks when proper distancing can’t be maintained, and discourage others from directly fawning over your baby (feel free to be assertive about this!).

What If My Baby Shows Signs of COVID-19?

Again, most babies show milder symptoms of COVID-19 than adults. Some may not show any symptoms at all and still be infected with the virus (asymptomatic carriers). At the same time, in some rare cases, babies show severe symptoms and even require hospitalization. That’s why it’s important to watch your baby for symptoms, and stay in touch with your baby’s pediatrician.

Symptoms of COVID-19 in children include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Exhaustion

If your baby has any of these symptoms, you should call your pediatrician. They will tell you whether your baby should be brought in and whether testing for COVID-19 is necessary.

While most mild cases of COVID-19 in babies can be treated at home with comfort care, if your baby spikes a high fever, shows signs of shortness of breath, or if your instinct tells you something is seriously wrong, you shouldn’t hesitate to take your baby to the emergency room right away.

Is It Safe for My Baby to Visit the Pediatrician?

The short answer is a resounding YES! Most pediatricians' offices have taken great pains to make their offices as safe as possible. Social distancing and masking (for adults and older children) are usually required. Strict disinfection protocols are often followed. You can contact your pediatrician to find out what safety measures are in place. Skipping well visits and immunization appointments is not recommended at this time. 

It’s understandable that you might feel uneasy about visiting the doctor right now, but it’s important for your baby’s health and well-being that you keep up with their scheduled visits. You wouldn’t want any other health issues in your baby to be missed, and it’s vital that you keep your child’s immunization schedule up to date.

Do Babies Have to Wear Masks?

According to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP), masks are generally recommended for children over the age of two. It is not recommended that babies wear masks—in fact, putting a mask on your baby is considered dangerous. However, all adults and children over the age of two in your household should wear cloth face coverings outside the home when social distancing (six feet) cannot be maintained.

Coronavirus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets and face coverings are one of best ways to protect yourself and others from spreading and contracting the virus. By minimizing risk within your family, you are minimizing risk for your baby.

Is It Safe to Breastfeed?

As of this writing, the Academy Of American Pediatrics (AAP) advises that breastfeeding is safe during the pandemic.

Even mothers with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are encouraged to breastfeed while taking proper safety precautions not to spread the virus to their babies. Mask wearing and frequent hand washing are important in these cases.

Right now, it is not suspected that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk and experts agree that the antibodies, antiviral properties, and other benefits that breastfeeding offers are likely to be protective when it comes to COVID-19 infections in babies. If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding during coronavirus, contact your pediatrician or speak to a lactation consultant.

Visiting Family During Coronavirus

Can Grandparents Visit My Baby?

There is nothing quite as special as having a grandparent or other extended family member meet your baby for the first time. And many of us want help from our families after our babies are born. This is completely understandable.

However, given the nature of the pandemic and the risks involved, both for your baby, your immediate family, as well as your extended family members, utmost caution must be taken before a visit can be arranged.

You will likely get different advice on this matter depending on who you speak to, and you should seek advice from your pediatrician first and foremost. Some pediatricians will advise you not to have face-to-face visits with extended family at all. Some will say that socially distanced visits with masks are acceptable.

If you want a family member to stay with you and help out long-term, your pediatrician may recommend having both you and your family member quarantine for two weeks before they come to stay with you. They may also recommend that you and the family member get tested for COVID-19 before meeting, and that tests be combined with quarantining.

If you are unable to visit your family members in person right now, don’t underestimate the power of digital connections. Video chatting and even phone calls can be wonderful opportunities for your loved ones to connect with your baby. Your baby may even become accustomed to their voice or be able to recognize their face down the line.

When Is It Safe for My Baby to Leave the House?

Some pediatricians recommend staying home for several weeks or months after a baby’s birth, regardless of coronavirus. Again, remember that your baby is generally more vulnerable to illness in their early months and before they have received their vaccinations. You can contact your baby’s pediatrician to find out what their recommendations are in light of the current pandemic.

Once you get the green light to take your first trip out of the house, you will want to practice strict social distancing with your baby, and avoid crowds.

Socio-Emotional and Developmental Concerns

What Happens When a Baby Is Confronted With So Many Faces in Masks?

You may be concerned that raising a baby where most strangers are wearing masks may be harmful to your baby’s development. At this point in pandemic, there are no long-term studies to tell us what the effects of this may be. But there are a few important points to keep in mind.

First of all, even if your baby is in daycare full-time, your baby is likely spending most of their 24 hours with you at home—where you are not wearing a mask. In the early years, a baby’s parents are the most important people in their lives, and they learn the most about communication and love from you.

In addition, babies are more resilient than we think. Spending time cared for or among other adults wearing masks is something babies can adapt to. Remember, too, that babies pick up on social cues beyond facial expressions—including tone of voice, touch, and other gestures of care and warmth.

How Might Social Isolation Affect a Baby’s Development?

It’s natural to be concerned that keeping your baby sheltered and separated from others may be detrimental to their development. Again, there are no long term studies yet on this phenomenon in light of the current pandemic.

However, “socialization” with other babies or children isn’t something you generally need to be highly concerned about when you are raising a baby. Many babies spend their early years primarily with their parents and siblings and turn out just fine. Child development and socialization with peers is usually more of a concern from the preschool years and beyond.

That said, parent bonding is important for babies, so do take extra care to spend time connecting with your baby during this time. Babies are hard-wired to fall in love with their parents, and spending some good one-on-one time with them now will be good for your soul as well as theirs. There is nothing more amazing than absorbing those first smiles and laughs, and knowing just the right silly sound to make your baby giggle.

A Word From Verywell

Raising a baby during coronavirus can be extremely stressful. You are not just worried about your baby’s health, but also about their development, their relationships with others, and their future. You likely have so many questions and fears. Remember that your pediatrician is a great resource here, and you should not feel afraid to reach out with any questions, large or small.

Sometimes the kinds of fears that take over during a time this can have a strong impact on your mental health.

If you are suffering from severe anxiety or depression, or showing signs of a postpartum mood disorder, contact your doctor or a therapist right away. Your mental health matters, and you will not be able to be the parent your baby needs until you are feeling balanced and stable.

Most of all, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Yes, this pandemic is very worrisome and there are many unknowns and “what ifs.” But scientists and doctors are working overtime to figure out a way to get the pandemic under control, and to lead us all to a more normal way of life. The best thing you can do for right now is take proper precautions, keep your baby healthy, shower them with love, and trust that normal (or the “new normal”) will be here before you know it.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Mayo Clinic. COVID-19 in babies and children.

  2. CDC. Screening K-12 students for symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and considerations.

  3. CDC. Coronavirus (COVID-19) frequently asked questions.

Additional Reading

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.