Having a newborn or toddler is stressful by itself, but the Covid-19 pandemic has added a whole new layer of anxiety to it. As parents, our priority is always the well-being of our children and it’s scary to feel like we might not be able to protect them. Newborn babies have weak immune systems and are particularly vulnerable if exposed to dangerous viruses. Toddlers on the other-hand are endlessly curious and love touching and putting new things in their mouths. How do we keep our smallest family members safe during this coronavirus outbreak?
Adhere to social distancing: A lockdown is still in place in South Africa to prevent the unnecessary movement and gathering of people to help curb the spread of the virus. As the parent to a baby or toddler, you will need to take social distancing particularly seriously and avoid coming into contact with anyone other than direct family.
Wash your hands regularly: Handwashing with soap, or using hand sanitiser with a 70% alcohol content, is one of the most effective ways of preventing the virus from spreading. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you get home from an outing, before handling your child, before preparing food, and before giving your child food or milk (including breastfeeding). Ask everyone in your house to do the same, and encourage your toddler to wash their hands with you by making a fun game out of it.
Clean surfaces: Thoroughly clean surfaces or objects that are regularly touched. This includes countertops, keys, door handles, and cell phones.
To mask or not to mask: If you’re an adult, definitely wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose when in public. This lessens the chance of the virus being passed to you, or you passing it to others – if you don’t realise you’ve been infected. Babies and toddlers under 2 years old should not wear a mask or any other face covering. Their airways are smaller than ours and covering their faces makes breathing more difficult for them. There’s also a risk of suffocation, choking or strangulation if a child under 2 wears a mask. The child is also likely to try remove the mask, which means they’ll touch their face a lot, increasing their risk of catching or spreading the virus.
Going out: If you do have to go out, keep your baby in an infant carrier against your body or in a pram covered with a blanket. Make sure that the blanket doesn’t touch the baby. Do your best to keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people. If you have an older baby, encourage them not to touch anything. This is tricky, because babies and toddlers learn by touching. If you have a stroller, it may be a good idea to let them ride in that while you’re out. Wipe down the pram, stroller or baby carrier when you get home. Remember to avoid touching your face, specifically your eyes, nose and mouth – and teach your children to do the same.
Use social media: Parents of newborn babies yearn to share their early days with their nearest and dearest. With limited options for visiting, new parents can turn to social media to introduce their precious baby to relatives. Share photos and videos on WhatsApp or host video calls on Zoom or other platforms so that they can see you and your bundle of joy in real time.
Avoid sick people: Not everyone who’s infected with Covid-19 gets severe symptoms of the disease. It’s best to avoid anyone who is even a little bit sick, just to be safe. If you do have to come into contact with other people, ask them directly whether they are sick or have been sick recently, even if it was a minor sore throat.
Healthy diet: While a healthy diet and vitamin supplements won’t stop your child from getting sick if exposed to the virus, it will help keep their immune system strong. Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to continue feeding their babies on demand, as breastmilk also strengthens the baby’s immune system.
If you are concerned that you or your children may have been exposed to the virus, please phone your doctor for advice.