12:32 PM

During COVID-19 Pandemic, When Can You Have Visitors Over to Meet Your Newborn?

Being a new parent is hard.

Being a new parent today is even harder.

With the limitation of visitors, changes to doctor’s offices, and lack of ability to get out of the house (among many other challenges), being a parent in COVID-times is causing new parents to feel even more isolated and ill-equipped.

But, when can you have visitors over to meet your newborn?

Like most things COVID-related, it’s not a simple question.

It’s also a decision that, given all the same information, two families might make very different choices.

Even in “normal” times, I believe that babies under 2 months should have a pretty tight circle drawn around them, which can relax more with each round of shots at 4 and 6 months. COVID has just heightened my desire to protect them even more.

It appears that infants less than 1 year are at a higher risk of severe illness than other kids.. Because of the upfront, face-to-face nature of caring for them, they may be at higher risk for exposure from a caregiver. When considering this decision, it’s essential to keep in mind the reverse (and perhaps more significant) risk to the person entering the house. Many grandparents and other family members might fall into higher-risk categories based on age or medical conditions.

But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.

Here are three factors to consider:

  1. The purpose of the visit.
  2. The behavior of the visitor.
  3. The activity at the visit.

The purpose of the visit.

The first time this comes up is at the time of delivery. If you have an older child at home, they need to be taken care, of and you should have the opportunity to have someone to support you at delivery. This one is easy. Ask the grandparent or other caregiver to take caution with social distancing, masking and other precautions around 36 weeks so that they can be as safe as possible entering the home.

After the initial delivery phase, some parents may need ongoing support from a close family member. When a parent has to go back to work or doesn't have a lot of experience with babies, they may need ongoing support. The safest way to do this is to ensure that the person entering your home has been following guidelines for at least 2 weeks before the visit. If possible, they should plan to come and stay as much as possible rather than coming and going frequently. Staying put limits their number of contacts and lowers the risk for everyone.

Purely social visits are probably the riskiest. Having any number of visitors drop in to say hi significantly increases the baby's risk because of the number of possible contacts and the lack of control over their behavior and exposures. Some parents might feel comfortable with a very close friend or family member. Still, we all must recognize the risk of doing so.

The behavior of the visitor.

There are many different approaches and mindsets concerning coronavirus. While I wish everyone took a cautious approach, that’s not the case. And while you may have family members who argue they have the right to make their own decisions regarding social distancing, mask-wearing and the like not everyone has the right to make their own decisions AND get to spend time with your baby.

If you have a close friend or family member you trust is taking an extremely cautious approach, you may feel more comfortable inviting them come over to meet your baby. Remember that you get to make your own decisions about what makes you comfortable. If you decide to take a more conservative route than your family appreciates, feel free to blame your pediatrician (especially if it's me). I promise we’re cool with that.

The activity at the visit

Once you’ve decided you’re going to see family, there are still questions about what will happen at the visit. Of course, at a baseline, we’re going to do all the usual things we would ask anyone to do when visiting a newborn.

  1. No one comes over who has possible symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose, (obviously) fever, etc.
  2. No one holds the baby without washing hands first.
  3. No one kisses the baby period.

Extra precautions you might consider in the context of COVID would be (in decreasing order of safety): drive-by only visits, patio/outside visit, no-holding/across the room visit or a masked visitor visit.

Be gracious with yourself and others

Remember again that every parent and family will make different decisions and have different comfort levels. Be kind to yourself and your fears. Consider the impact of not having visitors vs. having visitors and what that means for your level of stress because it might affect each parent differently. If you are the potential visitor, be kind, and understand if the new parents in your life ask you to stay away

We're all in this together for the long haul, and they are dealing with enough stress as it is.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at thedocsmitty@cookchildrens.org.

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnewsroom.com. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.