Due to social distancing guidelines currently in place, having a newborn baby during COVID-19 does not bring with it the usual social supports and external help that many parents can avail of – grandparents calling over to help or neighbours and friends popping in for a much-needed cup of coffee. As our movements and contact with the outside world are highly restricted at this time, it can be very hard for parents of a newborn.
There are also the unprecedented outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic that will hit new parents, such as job loss, childcare loss for their older children and remote working for those not on paternity leave.
Here we outline some tips that will hopefully make these first few weeks easier for you at a time when you thought you would have all hands on deck in terms of support.
1. Try all the tricks
If your baby is crying, they want to be soothed. This doesn’t always work on the first try, so you might need to try a few different methods repeatedly until them calm. These methods include:
- Gently rocking
If none of these methods work, put the baby down and take a break. While some babies cry for a long time, many parents are surprised at how quickly babies will tire themselves out and end up crying themselves to sleep.
2. Make sure your baby is in a safe sleep environment
A safe sleep environment consists of your baby lying on their back on a firm sleep surface with a tight-fitting sheet, away from soft blankets, toys, pillows or other bedding.
3. Be mindful of your own needs
The challenges that new parents face can become overwhelming at times – this is completely normal and to be expected, especially at a time like this.
Rest as much as you can – try sleeping when the baby does. It is also important to make time for yourself if you have a partner or another caregiving adult to watch the baby. Listen to a podcast, some music, read a book, give a friend a call, have a cup of tea or just relax.
4. Stay connected
Social distancing during the current COVID-19 outbreak can feel isolating and lonely at the best of times, for those of us who aren’t new parents. As a new parent, you need even more support. Make sure to call, video chat and use social media to stay connected to your friends and loved ones.
On the other hand – if you are on the receiving end of a phone call from a parent with a newborn – make sure to listen before offering advice. Put yourself in their shoes – you are a parent for the first time and have a newborn baby crying on your shoulder, while you try to reassure them without being able to ask what is wrong. Keeping this outlook in mind can help you to provide the social support that all new parents need, especially now.
5. Enlist your helpers
If you have older children, assign them a “special helper” and encourage them to help with the new baby in developmentally suitable ways. They will feel important being asked to help and it will help them bond with the new baby, as well as giving you at least some reprieve.
6. Seek help
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. If you had a history of depression before your baby was born, you may be at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
Symptoms may start as baby blues and then get worse, or they may take some time to develop. It may be most obvious when your baby is 4 - 6 months old. Around 15% of new mothers in Ireland experience postpartum depression. Many doctors, nurses, counsellors and mental health providers are providing virtual consultations or visits over the phone or via video.
7. Reach out
If you are a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbour to a family with a newborn, this is the time to reach out in whatever way you can. In addition to social support on the phone, can you buy nappies in your weekly shop or other baby supplies they might need? Can you drop off groceries or treats for the siblings?
8. Find a forum
New parents can find it helpful to discuss their experiences with other new parents going through the same thing. As well as seeking help from your social circle, wider support network and medical professionals, check out some online discussion forums for new parents where you can discuss things, share problems, stories and tips with one another online.
9. Contact your paediatrician
Never hesitate to call your paediatrician for advice or if you are worried about something. Not only are they an excellent resource for understanding your new baby’s needs but also your own, including those related to postpartum depression.