Due to fears related to COVID-19, some hospitals have implemented a policy of separating mothers and babies immediately after birth. Some hospitals limit the separation to COVID positive mothers and some do not. Is this the right policy?
The fact is - we know very little about COVID-19 and its influence on mother's and baby's health, so we don't know if this policy is effective in preventing transmission of COVID-19 to babies. It is also known that contact between a baby and mother right after birth provides health benefits for the baby.
Every mother wants the absolute best for her baby.
So, how do you balance these two in a situation with lots of unknown?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), newborn babies should stay with their mothers and have skin to skin contact even if mom is confirmed to be COVID positive. Breastfeeding is an essential part of the baby's life and health. It helps to build up the immune system of the newborn. Colostrum, very thick first milk, is providing the first useful bacteria for baby's gut. Therefore, some hospitals make you wear a mask and wash your hands before you touch the baby, but do not separate the baby from the mother.
In contrast, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insists that babies are separated from COVID positive parents. CDC still considers breast milk to be essential for the baby, but CDC recommends pumping breast milk and providing the breast milk to a healthy nurse or other caregiver for feeding the baby. However, CDC does not take into consideration that a lot of people can have COVID but still be asymptomatic. There is no way to be certain that the nurse or caregiver is not COVID positive.
Most hospitals do an amazing job separating COVID patients and keeping those patients far from labor and delivery units, but there is still some degree of risk with every person entering the room. Pregnant mothers and newborn babies are generally considered to be in the high risk group for most viruses. However, at the moment, higher risk in pregnancy or infants to COVID in particular has not been confirmed. Also if the separation is technically impossible, you can protect the baby by placing the crib behind a curtain or further away from the sick parent.
The goal is to minimize the risk for the newborn baby. But what do you do then when you are released from the hospital and arrive at home with your baby, but it becomes very difficult to really separate the mother from the baby? While separation from the first hour after birth can have negative influence on family bonding , successful breastfeeding can help with psychological well being of the whole family.
The good news is that the mother still has a voice in deciding whether they want to be separated from their baby after birth or not. Hospital policy is based on what they believe is best to keep mother and baby healthy. But, it is still your right to make those decisions for you and your baby. If you do not want to be separated from your baby immediately after birth due to hospital policy, you can simply fill out the form in the hospital and make the best choice for your family.