“It takes a village.” By the time new parents welcome a baby, even if it’s not their first, they’ve likely been reminded of this age-old adage more than once. Unfortunately, the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 means continued isolation from our “villages,” presenting more challenges to parents of newborns during a precious, though often overwhelming time.
While your pediatrician can provide reassurance and advice, the task falls to parents to remain calm in day-to-day life as they get used to a new family member. While there is no magic solution to the unprecedented stressors of 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics and your ONE Pediatrics physician have several recommendations for new parents:
Every baby is unique, and it might take a little time to learn what they like best. Settling a fussy infant may require several attempts before they relax, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong. All babies cry, and parents learn faster than they realize.
Fed is best. New mothers may feel added pressure to breastfeed, particularly if they’ve welcomed their first baby or had success nursing an older sibling. If feeding becomes exceedingly stressful or baby is not getting the amount they need, there is no shame in formula feeding. “Some babies have digestive sensitivities that take time to learn and adapt to,” says Dr. Patrick Hynes at Prospect Pediatrics. “Any number of formulas are made with these needs in mind. If formula becomes cost-prohibitive, absolutely talk to your pediatrician. We’re happy to provide information about lowering your formula budget.”
Even if breastfeeding is going well, it’s still a 24-hour job. If you live with a nursing mom, show support through each feeding. It’s hard to go wrong by offering a snack or plugging in a phone charger next to their favorite nursing spot.
Take care of yourself. This advice applies to everyone, but new parents who would normally benefit from grandparent visits or friends stopping by with coffee can’t indulge those interactions like they would have in times past. Remember that “mommy media” can be misleading—your self-care doesn’t have to include a picturesque stroll through the woods or a new hobby to show off. The goal is to care for YOU, not the approval of others.
If you feel panicked or angry in the presence of a restless infant, lay him or her down in a safe sleep environment and step away for a moment to collect yourself. The best place to set baby down is on a firm sleep surface with a fitted sheet and no other blankets, pillows, toys or bedding materials.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Plenty of mothers experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety, and COVID-19 does not help their stress levels. You may find yourself completing multiple depression surveys for both your OBGYN and pediatrician, but the goal is to ensure that new moms get the care they need. You are encouraged to speak honestly about your concerns, even if a friend or family member has said they’re “normal.” It’s better to have an abundance of support than not enough.
If someone you know has recently welcomed a new baby, offer kindness in small ways and respect their boundaries for staying healthy and sane. You might consider delivering a meal or shipping an extra box of diapers to their home. If you overhear a coworker’s crying baby on a conference call, it’s safe to assume they’re frazzled and would appreciate a sympathetic comment.
For more information about newborn care and COVID-19 safety, visit www.healthychildren.org