Should the parent get distance from the newborn because of COVID-19?

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Social distancing due to #COVID-19 is affecting our relationships, especially those with newborns. COVID-19 is highly contagious, however, infants have been often asymptomatic and have had milder symptoms than adults.

The Chinese consensus, as well as The United States Centers for Disease Control, explicitly recommends separation if mothers have been suspected or confirmed that they have been affected by COVID-19. Moreover, rooming-in is acceptable if the mother wants it or there are limited hospital facilities. However, infants should be in a closed incubator or more than two meters away from the mother with a curtain or barrier separating them.

The attachment between the infant and the parent can be disrupted due to the illness. Children’s growth and development and the neurobiological processes involved in the maturation of the brain, as well as activation of neuroendocrine systems, are driven by attachment-related behaviours. Therefore, avoiding separation from birth can improve this attachment.


Factors like:

  • Skin-to-skin contact,

  • close proximity,

  • care-giving,

  • sensitivity to the infant’s cues,

  • namely recognition and interpretation,

  • identifying and responding to the infants’ needs

indicate the parent-newborn attachment.

The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants has stated that parents, and any nominated substitutes, should have continuous access to the infant and be able to remain with them at all times.

If the mother tests positive but doesn’t require COVID-19 care, should not be separated from her baby. Rooming-in supports breastfeeding and this should ideally be provided in a pressure negative room or in a room where the windows can be opened regularly. However, the mother should be wearing a surgical mask and observe careful hand hygiene when caring for her baby. Moreover, the examinations must be carried out in the room by pediatric healthcare staff wearing personal protective equipment.

After being discharged from the hospital, the baby and the mother should be quarantined for two weeks. It is also suggested the baby's cot to be two meters away from the mother's bed. Hygiene precautions should be maintained and a follow-up plan for the infant’s first month is important.

When the baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit, the parents can be part of the NICU team. They should maintain strict hand hygiene before touching the baby, wear a surgical mask at all times and not circulate within the NICU. However, the parent can visit the baby once a day, but with no set visiting hours and no limits on duration.

Source: Promoting attachment between parents and neonates despite the COVID-19 pandemic
Charlotte Tscherning 2020
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