Bringing a Baby Home in a Pandemic
Bringing a baby home is a scary time when everything is normal, but throw in a pandemic and your anxiety can go through the roof! I worked as a Midwife for 13 years and have brought three babies home myself, so I’ve written this guide for you if you’re pregnant and worried about how it’s going to be bringing your new baby home in these strange times.
The Journey Home
Firstly, leaving the hospital can be scary. Seasoned drivers start quaking in their shoes at the thought of driving a newborn home. Make sure you practice getting your car seat in and out so you’re a pro at it before the baby goes in it. Keep 2 metres apart from anyone as you leave the hospital or birth centre. The baby will not need anything to cover them - in fact, that can be dangerous.
Once at Home - The First Few Days
Even during the lockdown, you should still get support from your community Midwife. They will visit or telephone you the day after you get home to go through feeding support, any questions you have and they will go through their health questionnaire. Check with the hospital before you go, as trusts vary on their approach. Some are offering video calls, some phone calls and some appointments. If you have a problem, you will get seen to. Keep an eye on your bleeding, stitches if you have any, and if you had a caesarean your wound. Make sure the baby is feeding regularly and is passing urine and faeces.
If You Are Breastfeeding
Baby should be feeding at least every four hours, but can be more than that. Some babies are ‘good’ in hospital and then when they get home they seem to ‘wake up’ or appear unsatisfied. This usually coincides with the second or third night and is very common.
Keep yourself hydrated and well fed, focus on correct positioning and attachment and keep going - it will regulate. If you’re having trouble latching the baby on, or it is too painful, then you need to get support sooner rather than later.
Breastfeeding support can be given by your Midwife or from local support groups. Whilst you may not be able to physically go to drop in groups, the support is very much still there. Contact your local La Leche League or NHS Breastfeeding support group.
If you have symptoms of Coronavirus, it is still safe and in fact encouraged to breastfeed even if you have tested positive for Covid-19. If you have confirmed COVID-19 or have symptoms you should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to your baby, including washing your hands before touching your baby, sterilising any breast pump or bottles and washing your hands after changing their nappy.
If available, wear a face mask or covering while feeding your baby at the breast. If you are too unwell to breastfeed you may still be able to express milk for your baby.
If You Are Bottle Feeding
Baby should be feeding at least every four hours, but can be more than that. You do not need to give water, even in hot weather. Make sure you are sterilising the bottles and making up the bottles correctly. If the baby appears hungry and unsettled, don’t rush to change the milk, all the baby needs is a brand of first milk. If the baby is draining the milk bottle, try increasing it by 1oz the next feed. Try feeding the baby slowly, pacing the feed for a more natural experience.
Going Out and About
Going out will understandably be worrying for you with a newborn and Coronavirus. Try not to hide yourself away. Walking is good for you in your recovery and getting out in nature is good for your mental health too. Again, do not cover your baby’s face or the pram, especially in warm weather. A sun parasol or breathable pram shade can be used, but do not drape blankets or muslins over the pram, as it can cause overheating and suffocation. Most of the time the baby can be uncovered.
Keep your distance from others not in your household as advised by the government. Discourage anyone from stopping to talk, and of course they mustn't peek inside the pram no matter how tempting it is!
Introducing the Baby to Family and Friends
It goes without saying that this should be virtual at the moment. I have seen some videos of lion king style introductions with family at a distance, or seeing the baby through a car window, but I would err on the side of caution. Perhaps family and friends can look through the house window to pay their respects if they wish.
It’s always a bit overwhelming when you have lots of visitors after giving birth. It’s a fine line, because you want to show the baby off but you also want that ten minutes of sleep without a small person on your boob. Take this opportunity to really rest and bond with your newborn without having to cater for lots of well meaning visitors. If they really want to help, how about ordering your groceries or dropping off treats and meals for you and the family.
When to Ask for Help
If you’re worried about yourself or the baby, do not hesitate to contact your Midwife, GP, Health Visitor or 999 if you think it is an emergency. Our health service is still running, and you won’t be a bother to anyone, they would rather you got checked out than something went wrong. If your bleeding is heavy, you feel unwell or you suspect the baby is unwell, make the call.
On the whole, it should be a similar experience to normal, except fewer visitors and fewer trips out. Your baby will still be offered the usual appointments for vaccinations and tests. It is very important to still attend these, following social distancing guidelines. Birth registration may be delayed, contact your local register office for more information.
I think the key message here is although you might feel more alone, you aren’t. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support - it may look a little different than normal but it is still there. Use this special time to be slow, learn all about this little human you have created and discover your new normal.
To learn more about Jenny, check out her Teletextpert profile.