Although COVID-19 has changed the way we live and gather socially this year, December continues to be a reason for family celebrations and gatherings. Several situations can cause concern for new parents—infant stress, exposure to illness, and parental depression.
Infants frequently express signs of stress in large groups of people, in loud settings, or with holiday busyness, although parents may not be aware of some of these indications. How can you, as the hospital/birthing center staff, help parents to understand what their newborn is telling them? Education on typical signs of infant stress can be discussed, including excess hiccupping, yawning, sneezing, gaze aversion, frowning, squirming, franticness, disorganized activity, blotchy skin, and pushing away with their arms/legs. Calming techniques can help to alieve the majority of these stress signs, with the first being to breastfeed the infant. Holding her/him close, enclosing the baby, stepping into a quiet area, or taking the infant back from others can also help.
Especially this year, with COVID-19, parents may be frightened about social or family gatherings during the holidays. Discussing the many ways to keep their new baby healthy may help them feel better, including the number one positive health choice, breastfeeding. Others could include keeping their infant in a wrap/carrier/sling on the mother’s body and out of the hands of others, staying home to avoid others, limiting visitors, increased handwashing, social distancing, use of technologies to be in contact with family and friends, and wearing a mask.
Many countries have noted an increase in parental depression during the past nine months of social distancing, closed stores/schools/religious institutions, and holidays spent without family all caused by COVID-19. Education should be provided to new families at discharge on the potential of postpartum depression in both parents but especially in the mother. Resources can be given for therapy or medication to help the parent(s) through this difficult experience, and if noted within the hospital stay, the primary care provider could be alerted to the potential signs of increased depression in the postpartum phase.
You are making a difference in the lives of families on a daily basis with the evidence-based education you provide to them for whichever topic is needed by each family. Please keep up this important work and know that we here at Step 2 Education applaud you every day!
Stay safe and enjoy your holidays, whatever form that might take for you.
Professional Development Educator
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Last Updated: September 2018