Can Newborns Get COVID-19?

If you are getting ready to give birth—especially if this is your first child—you probably have a lot of questions running through your head:  How will I know when to go to the hospital? How long will I be in labor? What if I have to have a C-section?

If you’re getting ready to give birth during a pandemic?  Your list of questions just got a little longer.  Here are some of the most common questions I see when it comes to newborns and COVID-19:

How do newborns get COVID-19?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, children represent only about 11% of all COVID-19 cases. For newborns, it is estimated that only about 2% to 5% of infants born to women with COVID-19 near the time of delivery test positive for the virus in the days after birth.

The CDC has found that the virus is thought to occur primarily through “respiratory droplets during the postnatal period” when newborns are exposed to mothers or caregivers who are infected.  While the majority of babies are asymptomatic and fully recover, those with underlying medical conditions are at the most risk of developing a severe illness.

How can I protect my baby from getting COVID-19?
The best way to protect your newborn from getting the virus is to keep yourself from getting it as well.  I recommend you:

  • Wear a mask, especially when you cannot maintain proper social distancing.
  • Avoid others who are not wearing masks if possible.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others outside of your household.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not skip your regularly scheduled healthcare appointments. Talk to your doctor about virtual appointments if you’re feeling uneasy about going into her office.

What if I have tested positive for COVID-19 before delivery?
Current evidence suggests that the risk of a newborn getting COVID-19 from its mother is low, especially if she takes the necessary precautions such as wearing a mask and washing her hands.  If you have tested positive for the virus when it is time to deliver, do the following:

  • Notify the hospital as soon as you go into labor, giving them plenty of notice to prepare for your arrival.
  • You and your partner should both wear face masks and follow the hospital’s safety precautions during labor and deliver.
  • Your infant will receive all the usual care right after birth and you should be able to hold your baby against your skin after delivery.
  • Discuss with your doctor and healthcare team about having the baby stay in your room. If your newborn does stay in your room, be sure to keep a safe distance when you are not directly caring for your baby, wear a mask, and wash your hands.  If you’re too sick to care for your baby, you may opt to have them stay in a separate room.
  • Newborns of mothers who have COVID-19 are usually tested 24 and 48 hours after they are born. If your baby does test positive, they will be tested every 48-72 hours until there are two negative tests in a row.
  • Continue following these safety guidelines as you return home with your new baby until you no longer have symptoms and are no longer positive for the virus.

Should my baby wear a mask?
Babies and toddlers under two years of age should NOT wear a mask. You can help protect your baby from the virus by:

  • Avoiding people who are sick.
  • Washing your hands before handling your child or preparing a bottle or food.
  • Cleaning surfaces and objects people touch a lot like doorknobs and countertops.
  • Limiting visitors and ask those who do visit to wear a mask and wash their hands.

What are the symptoms in babies?
Symptoms for babies are similar to those for adults; however, they are often milder in children and may include fever, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and coughing.  Parents may also notice vomiting, diarrhea, and poor feeding.

When to seek medical care
Parents should immediately seek medical care of they notice these signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or catching his/her breath
  • Inability to keep down any liquids
  • Inability to awaken or seem confused upon waking up
  • Bluish lips

We continue to learn a lot about how COVID-19 affects babies during and after delivery.  If you have any questions about your newborn’s health, please do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider. And be sure to keep all of your regular checkups and appointments to make sure your baby is staying on track with overall growth and development.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and medical issues and is provided as an entertainment and informational resource only. It is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This blog is opinion based and these opinions do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of any potentially affiliated organization. The information on this blog may be revised and/or otherwise managed.

Leave a Comment