Caring for a baby is both extremely rewarding and challenging during the best of times. Unfortunately right now, while we enter the third year of the pandemic, there are additional challenges that parents face.
There are so many questions we have. Is it safe to socialize? Who can safely be around my baby? How do I keep myself and my baby healthy? How do I deal with my friends and family that have different opinions about COVID-19 than I do? The list goes on and on.
I have created the following seven strategies to help you navigate the world in a way that makes sense for you and your baby.
1) Do what you can to keep yourself healthy. As a parent you are the one that your baby is around the most and therefore the one from whom he/she is most at risk of exposure.
2) Lower the risk of infection for your baby and the rest of your household. Identify the people in your life with whom you are comfortable being around. Although this number may be limited due to Covid precautions, it is so important to know who you can connect with when you need to. This list of people are those that follow the same or similar precautions as you. Don’t worry if there is a best friend or family member that is not on this list. There are other ways to stay connected with them that I will mention in #6 below.
3) Take care of yourself! I know this sounds impossible if you have a baby. However, it is crucial. Our immune systems are negatively impacted by high levels of stress hormones running through our bodies for a prolonged period of time. Right now a healthy immune system is vitally important so that if we are exposed (and many of us will be) our body has its own natural defenses in place. Ways of taking care of yourself include (but are not limited to) good nutrition, hydration, sleep (I know this is difficult to come by right now), meditation, calming breaths, moving one’s body in fun ways, supportive relationships, and positive thoughts.
4) Know that you are not alone. There were over 4,500 births in Berks County alone last year. There are a lot of parents trying to navigate this unique challenge. Connecting with other parents is extremely helpful and provides a means of support. If you are not comfortable connecting with others in person, there are many online groups both local and global. For example, the Moms of Berks facebook group provides local moms with many types of support and the membership includes a large number of moms with infants.
5) Don’t isolate yourself. It is impossible to care for your baby alone. I recognize that our “village” may be smaller right now, but the emotional and physical cost of being isolated is extremely high. You need to take all of the precautions that you deem appropriate, but holding up alone should not be one of them. Precautions such as being outside, using air purifiers (rated for viruses), masks, vaccinations for those eligible, social distancing, frequent hand washing, coughing and sneezing in a tissue or elbow are all appropriate and effective. Use your best judgement to keep you and your family healthy, but do not isolate!
6) Use virtual options and outside venues to socialize with those family and friends that you do not feel comfortable getting together in person. This is an acceptable option for those you do not include in #2 above.
7) Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your primary care clinician and your child’s pediatrician. Don’t hesitate to ask both of these professionals any questions you have regarding your and your baby’s risks of infection, risk of serious illness, and their latest precaution recommendations based on the most up to date research and clinical practices in place. Remember, these professionals are valuable members of your “village” and you are available to assist you as needed.
Of course this list is not exhaustive but I hope it provides you with a place to start. I know you want what is best for you and your family and I want you to feel supported.