We experience very strange times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we see various responses to it. We see some conflicting and confusing approaches such as in some NICUs where parent’s visitation is limited while others still embrace the concept of ‘no separation’.

There are also questions such as:

  • Should the parents wear masks when communicating with their baby?
  • Should they touch the baby?
  • Should both parents be allowed in the NICU?
  • What post-discharge information should we give them regarding Covid-19 and the care of their baby?
  • And many more.

The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have divided neonatal healthcare workers into 2 groups promoting either:

  • Maximum protection against the risk of Covid-19 infection for mother, baby and healthcare workers OR
  • Maximum protection of the newborn’s long term outcomes.

Decisions on how to approach neonatal care amidst the Covid-19 pandemic are based on balancing these 2 objectives and trying to determine which carry the most weight or benefit.

Optimal long term developmental outcomes, that need protection, are based on the provision /development of:

  • Facial recognition
  • Skin-to-skin care
  • Breastfeeding
  • And especially bonding and attachment.

In order to provide the above, the following would need to be included in Neonatal COVID-19 management policy:

  • Zero-separation of mother and baby
  • Access for both parents to the NICU
  • Encouragement  of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact
  • Parents to have no masks on while making eye-contact with their baby.

WHO has attempted to bridge this gap and provide some much needed guidance on managing neonates during this Pandemic.

 “Can I touch and hold my newborn baby if I have COVID-19?

WHO: “Yes. Close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding helps a baby to thrive. You should be supported to breastfeed safely, with good respiratory hygiene; hold your newborn skin-to-skin, and share a room with your baby. You should wash your hands before and after touching your baby, and keep all surfaces clean.”

Find more details by clicking the link below.

(https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-pregnancy-and-childbirth)

As neonatal nurses we need to advocate for the protection of the babies and their families, and that means in the short term to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but also to optimise long term outcomes. This may require some compromise in implementation of infection prevention measures in order to balance the importance of bonding and attachment between the babies and their parents.

Keep safe

Carin Maree

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