Trying to care for a newborn during a global pandemic is challenging, to say the least. With everything constantly changing, here's what you need to know to keep your baby safe and healthy.
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Baby feet with little toes outstretched on a blanket
Credit: Oleksandra Korobova/Getty Images

Learning the ropes as a new parent can be overwhelming, even at the best of times. But if you've had a new addition join your family in the last few months, you know how hard it is to look after them (and yourself) while trying to keep up with the latest news about the pandemic. Worrying about your baby's safety amid changing conditions just makes everything feel more daunting.

It's clear that this unprecedented situation has created a new reality for parents—one in which it's normal to see a pediatrician over a computer screen instead of in person, and securing formula and wipes means facing grocery shortages, rising prices, and people hoarding supplies.

"The postpartum period is usually filled with joy for most new parents, but in the current scenario, most of us are faced with a new way of life," says psychologist Navya Singh, Psy.D., the founder of digital behavioral health platform wayForward. "There can be an increase in levels of anxiety and depression."

The good news is that even though you may feel more isolated, you aren't alone. Experts weigh in on how new parents can navigate their babies' first few months after the pandemic.

Keep Your Well-Baby Visits

Things are opening back up, but many pediatricians still offer parents the option to conduct scheduled well visits from home. Be sure to ask your baby's doctor if they provide virtual visits over Skype, Zoom, or another platform, even for tiny ones, says pediatrician Matt Dougherty, M.D., of Tesson Ferry Pediatrics in St. Louis. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends in-person check-ups (especially for the first one), it encourages providers to offer telehealth visits, and strongly suggests that insurers cover these visits at the same rates as they would for office check-ups. Most now do.

"While it does not allow for the ability to get the exam that we would wish, we still have the tools to see if the baby has the correct muscle tone, visually appears to be gaining weight as we would expect, and is not having any distress, such as problems breathing," says Dr. Dougherty.

Video visits are better than phone calls because they allow pediatricians to see parents interact with their babies, assess roadblocks with breastfeeding, and ask more informed questions. Depending on local infection rates and COVID variant news, you may want to consider doing check-ups from home. If you go in person, wear a mask; you don't want to catch anything that could put your infant at risk.

If you prefer doing a video visit but are concerned it won't be thorough, remember that your doc can schedule an in-office follow-up if they spot anything concerning (such as respiratory problems), says Dr. Dougherty. Lab tests and vision and hearing exams must ultimately be done on-site, but basic problems (diaper rash, forcible spitting, many feeding issues) can be diagnosed and monitored remotely.

How to Handle Vaccine Appointments

Even if you do well visits online, you'll still need to bring your baby into your doctor's office to get vaccinated. At the height of the pandemic, some parents delayed vaccines, especially if their infants were premature or had other health issues. In general, though, doing that isn't advised because there's a schedule intentionally in place to protect them against diseases like meningitis and whooping cough, explains Dr. Dougherty. Consult your pediatrician to create the safest timeline for your little one.

Stay Safe When Stepping Outside

Because things are still so uncertain, there's no harm in enjoying extra snuggle time at home. When you do go out, though, enjoy walks in the fresh air with your baby and keep distance from others, even if you're vaccinated. Dr. Dougherty says the risk to your baby will remain low if they are in a stroller and not touching any surfaces. Also take precautions when bringing babies into grocery stores and pharmacies where friendly strangers may coo over them—it could be harder to maintain your distance.

It's wise to limit visitors to your home when you have a newborn, just in case they transmit COVID-19; make sure you are vaccinated and boosted, and ask your guests if they are. Pass around the hand sanitizer, and consider whether you would like your visitors to wear masks. After all, babies can't wear them (not until age 2, anyway), and they can't yet get vaccinated—so we have to look out for them. Remember, children under the age of 1 and people who've recently given birth may be more likely to suffer serious effects if they do contract the coronavirus. You don't want to increase those odds.

If being overly careful leaves you starved for parent-to-parent interaction, look to see if local parent groups in your area maintain online meetings. There are Facebook groups parents can join with active forums and chats that offer support, like the Fussy Baby Support Group (50,000+ members). Your health care professional may also run online support groups for people who recently gave birth. Going to in-person classes is great too; just make sure they follow precautions that make you feel comfortable.

Get the Supplies You Need

Throughout the pandemic, new parents have dealt with shortages of essential baby supplies, like diapers, wipes, and formula. This has especially affected those who rely on special varieties of allergen-friendly formula and families who can't afford to stock up on many products at once.

If you can't find what you need in stores or online, reach out to the supplier or manufacturer directly. They may have more in stock to send you. If you're in a pinch, you can also ask your pediatrician's office if they have extra samples or if there's an alternative brand that will work for your baby.

Even outside of a pandemic, it's always smart to get a few weeks' worth of the items you need at once. That way, you can reduce trips to the store and lower your risk of potential COVID-19 exposure, especially when case counts are high. If you don't have anyone to stay with the baby when you do a supply run, order what you need online instead.

Always Ask for Help When Needed

Arranging childcare can still be tricky, and it's costlier than ever. With people returning to work, there's an even greater need to find that perfect person to help out with your baby. That's why careful planning is absolutely vital to make sure you have what you need—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

If you have a partner, talk about how to split responsibilities. "Partners sharing responsibility would be critical at this time so that one parent does not get overwhelmed," says Dr. Singh. "Make a list of things each one will do, and times of the day when one person can get a break, including shifts overnight."

It's important to focus on your mental health. If you start to feel overwhelmed or think you might be experiencing postpartum depression, reach out for professional help. Many therapists offer online sessions; Dr. Singh says some HIPAA restrictions have been relaxed in light of COVID-19, making it more common. Virtual therapy may be covered by insurance, but ask your provider first. Also visit support groups online, such as PostpartumDepression.org and local organizations like the Motherhood Center of New York.