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Protecting baby (and you) during the pandemic

Becoming a new parent has always been a period of heightened emotions and uncertainty. During the Covid-19 crisis, parents-to-be and new parents face unique challenges, increasing feelings of uncertainty and worry.

We know that this is an unsettling time, especially if you’re raising or about to bring a little one into the world. That’s why we have carefully collected and consolidated research from reputable sources to help provide some guidance on how to protect your baby—and you—during the pandemic.

Pregnancy during the pandemic

For pregnant women, a top priority is staying healthy during the pandemic. Expectant mothers are safeguarding not only their health, but the health of their unborn child.

Unfortunately, experts do not fully understand if pregnant women are at a greater risk of Covid-19 infection or complications. The limited data to date suggests that pregnant women are at a similar risk as other adults. However, women who are pregnant have a greater chance of severe illness with viruses in the same family as the novel coronavirus.

The reason that pregnant women are more prone to severe illness is that pregnancy causes several changes in the body—including changes to the immune system. These changes increase the severity of respiratory infections from viruses like influenza and potentially Covid-19.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important for pregnant woman to protect themselves from the Covid-19 virus and other illnesses. To do this, practice good hygiene and take care of your body.

How you live impacts your immune function. Our immune health is a central component of our defense against the novel coronavirus and other infections.

When you eat healthily, exercise regularly, and practice relaxation techniques, you strengthen your immune system.

Symptoms of Covid-19 to look out for

Families should be on the lookout for early symptoms of Covid-19. When you identify the virus early, you reduce your chances of passing it to your family or community. Symptoms of the novel coronavirus include:

  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of taste or smell

If you suspect that you or anyone else in your family might have Covid-19, call your doctor for advice. The best next-steps can change from one day to the next, so speaking with a healthcare professional is a must.

How to protect yourself

The best defense against the novel coronavirus is to limit your chances of getting sick. To protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Keep a distance of at least 2 meters between yourself and others, and avoid crowded spaces.
  • Avoid meeting people who are sick or who have been exposed to the virus.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze (then dispose of the used tissue immediately).
  • Sanitize surfaces you frequently touch, including doorknobs, countertops, and sink handles.
  • Wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose whenever you leave the house.
  • Stay home when you can. This includes working from home and limiting public transportation.

When to get tested

If you’re experiencing any of the Covid-19 symptoms above, contact your local doctor or healthcare facility immediately. Inform them if you are pregnant, as this may influence their advice. Your local medical professionals can guide you on what you should do. This may or may not include testing.

Childbirth: Is baby at risk?

Scientists are still researching if vertical transmission—from mom to baby during pregnancy and labor—is possible. To date, experts have not found Covid-19 in breast milk, amniotic fluid, or the umbilical cord blood. Therefore, experts don’t believe that your unborn baby is at risk of contracting the virus were you to get sick.

Among newborns who tested positive for Covid-19, doctors could not determine if they contracted the virus before or after birth. The newborns may have contracted the virus through person-to-person contact post-birth.

Work with your obstetrician or midwife to determine where and how to give birth. Where you live and your individual preference influence what’s right for you. Both C-section and vaginal delivery are considered viable options during the pandemic. For some, this includes natural childbirth at home.

Breastfeeding your newborn safely

Breast milk is the best food for baby. It contains all of the nutrients your infant needs for healthy development, including that of their immune system.

Breast milk protects baby against diseases and infections. In the wake of Covid-19, the immune-boosting properties of breast milk make breastfeeding even more important.

Experts currently recommend for moms with the novel coronavirus to continue breastfeeding if they wish to. Studies have not detected Covid-19 in breast milk (although further research is needed to confirm this pattern). And if you take the right precautions, baby can safely enjoy its immune-boosting benefits.

If you decide to breastfeed your baby when you have the novel coronavirus, talk to your doctor for current recommendations. As of today, experts recommend following certain hygiene guidelines.

For moms who feel well, wash your hands and breasts with soap and water for 20 seconds or more directly before breastfeeding. Wear a mask when feeding baby for further protection.

If you’re feeling unwell, you can express milk. Follow the same steps as you would for breastfeeding directly. Additionally:

  • Wash your hands before handling the breast milk pumping kit
  • Sanitize the kit at least once a day or more as per the instructions given by the manufacturer
  • Sanitize baby’s feeding bottle frequently as per manufacturer guidelines 
  • Regularly sanitize areas that contact the pumping kit and bottle, including where the pump kit and feeding supplies are stored
  • Wear a mask while expressing breast milk
  • When possible, have someone who is healthy feed baby the expressed breast milk

Nutrition for pregnant women and new mothers

A robust immune system is the first line of defense against any infection, including the novel coronavirus. Therefore, pregnant women and new moms should eat healthy food and take the recommended supplements for optimal immune health.

Following is a list of micronutrients that are especially valuable in supporting immune health, along with foods high in these nutrients.

  • Vitamin A: Leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, yellow corn, papayas, mangoes, and eggs.
  • Vitamin C: Broccoli, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, strawberries, citrus fruits, pineapples, kiwis, and papayas.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone that humans produce when our skin gets direct sun exposure. If you don’t spend time in sunlight regularly, the best source of vitamin D is a daily supplement.
  • Vitamin E: Almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, avocadoes, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, squash, and mangoes.
  • Vitamin B2: Salmon, trout, organ meats, eggs, milk, mussels, oysters, legumes, dark chicken and turkey meat, nutritional yeast, and yogurt.
  • Vitamin B6: Sunflower seeds, trout, chicken and turkey breast, legumes, beef, organ meats, and salmon.
  • Vitamin B12: Salmon, organ meats, milk, eggs, beef, muscles, oysters, pork, yogurt, and nutritional yeast.
  • Folic acid: Leafy green vegetables, beans, whole grains, and citrus fruits.
  • Iron: Leafy green vegetables, oysters, sardines, mussels, legumes, organ meats, soybeans, and dark chocolate.
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts (only eat a few times per week to avoid selenium toxicity), fish, pork, turkey, chicken, and beef.
  • Zinc: Oysters, red meat, hemp seeds, cashews, and dark chocolate.

In addition to eating plenty of whole foods, it’s advisable to cut down on refined foods and sugars.

A note on foods to be cautious of

There are some foods that are healthy in some cases, but not in others. Fish and organ meats can be both beneficial and dangerous for pregnant woman.

Fish, such as salmon, are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. However, there are certain types of fish that pregnant woman should avoid or limit. When it comes to fish, pregnant woman should limit their consumption of fish high in mercury to 1-2 times per month max. Mercury consumption can be dangerous for your unborn baby. Some of the popular high-mercury fish include:

  • Tuna
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Shark

Additionally, avoid raw fish and shellfish completely. Parasites found within are unsafe when pregnant.

Organ meats are another food rich in nutrients but unsafe in large quantities. Because high levels of copper and vitamin A are dangerous, only eat organ meat once per week maximum.

Nutrition for infants and toddlers

Best feeding practices for infants and toddlers remain the same as before the start of this pandemic. However, with the looming threat of a new virus, it’s more important than ever to start right.

With the right feeding plan, you boost baby’s immunity and reduce baby’s risk of diet-related illnesses. From breastfeeding to a veggies-first approach, you want to ensure that your baby is getting balanced nutrition and building a healthy palate.

For in-depth details on the best way to support optimal nutrition during the first two years of your baby’s life, check out Baby’s Good Feeding Guide.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.


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