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Parenting in a Pandemic: Tips to Keep the Calm at Home

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:

​​​Fear, uncertainty, and being holed up at home more to slow the spread of COVID-19​ can make it tough for families to keep a sense of calm. But it’s important to help children feel safe, keep healthy routines, manage their emotions and behavior and build resilience.

Here are some tips from the American Academy (AAP) to help your family get through the stress of the pandemic. ​

Address children’s fears

Children rely on their parents for safety, both physical and emotional. Reassure your children that you are there for them and that your family will get through this together.

  • Answer questions about the pandemic simply & honestly. Talk with children about any frightening news​ they hear. It is OK to say people are getting sick, but remind them that following safety steps like hand washing , wearing cloth face coverings, and staying home more will help your family stay healthy.
  • Recognize your child’s feelings. Calmly say, for example, “I can see that you are upset because you can’t have a sleepover with your friends right now.” Guiding questions can help older children and teens work through issues. (“I know it is disappointing not to be able to do some of the things you did before the pandemic. What are some other ways you can have fun with your friends?”)
  • Keep in touch with loved ones. Children may also worry about a grandparent who is living alone or a relative or friend with an increased risk of getting COVID-19. When safe, physically distanced visits aren’t possible, video chats can help ease their anxiety.
  • Model how to manage feelings. Talk through how you are managing your own feelings. (“I am worried about Grandma since I can’t go visit her. I will put a reminder on my phone to call her in the morning and the afternoon until it is safe to see her.”)
  • Tell your child before you leave the house for work or essential errands. In a calm and reassuring voice, tell them where you are going, how long you will be gone, when you will return, and that you are taking steps to stay safe.
  • Look forward. Tell them that scientists are working hard to figure out how to help people who get sick, how to prevent it, and that things will get better.
  • Offer extra hugs and say “I love you” more often.

Keep healthy routines

During the pandemic, it is more important than ever to maintain bedtime and other routines. They create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time. All children, including teens, benefit from routines that are predictable yet flexible enough to meet individual needs.

  • Structure the day. With the usual routines thrown off, establish new daily schedules. Break up schoolwork when possible. Older children and teens can help with schedules, but they should follow a general order, such as:
    • wake-up routines, getting dressed, breakfast and some active play in the morning, followed by quiet play and snack to transition into schoolwork.
    • lunch, chores, exercise, some online social time with friends, and then homework in the afternoon.
    • family time & reading​ before bed.
​A word about bedtimes​Children often have more trouble with bedtime during any stressful period. Try to keep normal nighttime routines such as Book, Brush, Bed for younger children. Put a family picture by their bed for “ex​​tra love” until morning. Bedtimes can shift some for older children and teens, but it is a good idea to keep it in a reasonable range so the sleep-wake cycle isn’t thrown off. Too little sleep makes it more challenging to learn and to deal with emotions. Remember to turn off cell phones and other mobile devices an hour before bedtime.​

Use positive discipline

Everyone is more anxious and worried during the pandemic. Younger children may not have the words to describe their feelings. They’re more likely to act out their stress, anxiety or fear through their behavior (which can, in turn, upset parents, particularly if they are already stressed). Older children and teens may be extra irritable as they miss out on normal events they looked forward to and activities they enjoy with their friends.

Some ways you can help your children manage their emotions and behavior:

  • Redirect bad behavior. Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored or don’t know any better. Find something else for them to do.
  • Creative play. Suggest your children draw pictures of ways your family is staying safe. Make a collage and hang it up to remind everyone. Or, build an indoor fort or castle to keep the germs at bay, bringing in favorite stuffed animals or toys.
  • Direct your attention. Attention–to reinforce good behaviors and discourage others–is a powerful tool. Notice good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Explaining clear expectations, particularly with older children, can help with this.
  • Use rewards & privileges to reinforce good behaviors (completing school assignments, chores, getting along with siblings, etc.) that wouldn’t normally be given during less stressful times.
  • Know when not to respond. As long as your child isn’t doing something dangerous and gets attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it.
  • Use time-outs. This discipline tool works best by warning children they will get a time-out if they don’t stop. Remind them what they did wrong in as few words―and with as little emotion―as possible. Then, remove them from the situation for a pre-set length of time (1 minute per year of age is a good guide).
​Special Time InEven with everyone home together 24/7, set aside some special time with each child. Ideas can include cooking or reading​ together, for example, or playing a favorite game. You choo​se the time, and let your child choose the activity. Just 10 or 20 minutes of your undivided attention, even if only once every few days, will mean a lot to your child. Keep cell phones off or on silent so you don’t get distracted.​

  • Avoid physical punishment. Spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical or “corporal” punishment risks injury and isn’t effective. Physical punishment can increase aggression in children over time, fails to teach them to behave or practice self-control, and can even interfere with normal brain development. Corporal punishment may take away a child’s sense of safety and security at home, which are especially needed now.
The AAP reminds parents and caregivers never to shake or jerk a child, which could cause permanent injuries and disabilities and even result in death. Tips for calming a​ fussy baby and advice for caregivers who have reached a breaking point can be found here. If you have a friend, relative, or neighbor with the new baby at home, think of ways you can reach out to provide support during the isolation period.​
  • Take care of yourself. Caregivers also should be sure to take care of themselves physically: eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep. Find ways to decompress and take breaks. If more than one parent is home, take turns watching the children if possible.
  • Take a breath. In addition to reaching out to others for help, the AAP recommends parents feeling overwhelmed or especially stressed try to take just a few seconds to ask themselves:
    • Does the problem represent an immediate danger?
    • How will I feel about this problem tomorrow?
    • Is this situation permanent?

In many cases, the answers will deflate the panic and the impulse to lash out physically or verbally at children.​

Remember

Reach out to your pediatrician with any concerns you have about your child’s behavioral or emotional well-being and managing your family’s stress. 

CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population

From the CDC:

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

The following is attributable to CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky:

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”IF YOU TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 (ISOLATE)

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

  • Stay home for 5 days.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.IF YOU WERE EXPOSED TO SOMEONE WITH COVID-19 (QUARANTINE)

If you:

Have been boosted
OR
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months
OR
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months

  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.

If you:

Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted
OR
Completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted
OR
Are unvaccinated

  • Stay home for 5 days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
  • If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5 if possible.

If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home

###
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICESexternal icon

CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether disease start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.

To read the full article click here.

Minding Your Child’s Mental Health

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The ongoing stress, fear, grief, and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on children and teens. Many are having a tough time coping emotionally.

More than 140,000 children in the United States have experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver from COVID, for example. Children of racial and ethnic minority families have been hit especially hard. Research shows they’ve had up to 4.5 times the risk of losing a caregiver to COVID, compared to other kids.

Many families have also lost jobs and had vital supports such as school, health care services, and other community programs interrupted. And many have experienced or witnessed a rise in racism and xenophobia during the pandemic, particularly toward families of Asian descent.

A rise in mental health emergencies

Since the start of the pandemic, hospitals have seen more mental health emergencies among kids. Between March and October 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17. There was also a more than 50% increase in suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits among girls ages 12-17 in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.

Even with the protection of the COVID-19 vaccines now available to children who are old enough for them, pandemic-related stress and traumas may have lasting effects on the developing minds of children and teens. Continue to check in with your child often and watch and listen for signs they are struggling. And remember that your pediatrician is here to help.

How is your child coping?

Invite your child to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, and angry could be normal reactions to stress. However, if these feelings are constant and overwhelming–or if they affect your child’s ability to keep doing what they usually do, such as going to school, doing their work, or having fun–these may be signs they need more support during this difficult time.

Keep in mind that younger children may not know how to talk about these feelings, but may show changes in their development or behavior. Teens and young adults, meanwhile, may try to hide their feelings because they don’t want to bother others.

Recognizing signs of stress in your child

Signs of stress and mental health challenges are not the same for every child or teen, but there are some common symptoms.

Infants, toddlers and young children…

may show backward progress in skills and developmental milestones. They may also have increased problems with:

  • fussiness and irritability, startling and crying more easily, and be more difficult to console.
  • trouble falling asleep and waking up more during the night.
  • feeding issues such as nausea and vomiting, constipation or loose stools, or new complaints of stomach pain.
  • being anxious when they have to separate from their family, clinginess, not wanting to socialize, and fear of going outside.
  • hitting, frustration, biting, and more frequent or intense tantrums.
  • bedwetting after they’re potty trained.
  • aggressive behavior.

Older children and adolescents…

may show signs of distress with symptoms such as:

  • changes in mood that are not usual for your child, such as ongoing irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
  • changes in behavior, such as stepping back from personal relationships. For example, if your outgoing teen stops spending time or texting or video chatting with friends, this may be cause for concern.
  • loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Did your music-loving child suddenly stop wanting to practice guitar, for example? Did your aspiring chef lose all interest in cooking and baking?
  • a hard time falling or staying asleep, or starting to sleep all the time.
  • changes in appetite, weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time.
  • problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
  • less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic effort.
  • changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene.
  • an increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
  • thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it (see “A word about suicide risk,” below.

How your pediatrician can help

Staying in touch with your pediatrician is more important than ever during this pandemic. If you have any concerns, ask your pediatrician’s office about checking on your child’s social and emotional health. This can be especially important for children facing higher rates of illness or risk from COVID-19, such as children of color, those living in poverty, special health care needs or developmental differences. Children who are refugees and those involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems​ may also be more at risk.

Pediatricians can screen for depression and ask about other concerns like anxiety or trouble coping with stress. The doctor may also ask about these symptoms in other family members, as this can impact your child’s health, and whether they know anyone who has become sick with COVID-19. It’s important to offer your teen some time to talk one-on-one with the pediatrician during the visit to ensure they have the chance to speak as openly as possible. Many pediatricians are also offering telehealth visits during the pandemic.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one to COVID-19

Children, adolescents, and families who experienced the loss of a loved family member or friend to COVID-19 are at increased risk for mental health challenges and may need special attention and professional counseling to manage their loss and grief.

Supporting your child

Your pediatrician can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience. Always check in with your child, ask them how they are feeling, and remind them you are there to talk if they want to, when they are ready. Some children or adolescents may need more time and space to express their feelings. Some may do better with gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress. Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities.

A word about suicide risk

Rates of suicide for both adolescents and adults increase during times of high stress. In addition to screening for depression, your pediatrician can screen for suicide risk.

Remember, not everyone who considers suicide will talk about it, and not everyone who talks about suicide will act on their words. However, any talk about suicide should be taken seriously. If you are worried about your child, it is critical to make your home safe by removing weapons and ammunition from the house and securing medications in a locked cabinet.

Seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘TALK’ to 741741. Reserve 911 for situations where self-harming actions are happening or are about to happen. In a non-crisis situation, talk with your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your child’s mental health.

Self-care and setting the tone

Parents set the tone in the household. Expressing extreme doom or fear can affect your children. It can be challenging to stay positive, especially if you’re struggling with your own stress. But try to relay consistent messages that a brighter future​ lies ahead. It helps to set aside time to take care of yourself when possible, and seek the support you may need for your own mental health. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, yoga or stretching can help the entire family build coping skills. Build in down time for the whole family to connect and relax, enjoying a nap, movie time or simply spending time together.

Remember

Keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help maintain your family’s mental health during this difficult time.

Holiday Gatherings: Tips to Protect Kids Too Young for COVID Vaccines

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:

For many families, the holidays are about getting together with relatives and friends. As COVID-19 surges again with new variants, chil​dren younger than 5 years old are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Even though children ages 5-11 years can get vaccinated against COVID, it takes two weeks after the second dose to be fully protected.

Everyone can play a role in protecting those at higher risk of severe illness as we gather together this holiday season. If you’ll be celebrating with unvaccinated children and other higher-risk loved ones, keep these tips in mind to help minimize exposure to COVID-19.

Getting together for the holidays safely

Celebrate with fully vaccinated family and friends. Limiting gatherings to fully vaccinated guests is the best way to protect young children who are not yet vaccinated, or individuals who have weakened immune systems. Encourage loved ones who are eligible to get fully vaccinated before gatherings. Encourage everyone 16 and older to get booster shots. For loved ones who are not vaccinated, consider joining by video chat for traditions such as cooking a favorite dish, opening gifts, or sharing words of gratitude before the meal.

Urge guests to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19. They should get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Do not host or attend any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household has been:

  • diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still at risk of spreading it to others
  • has had any symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of the gathering
  • is waiting for viral test results; or has a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days

Consider using COVID-19 at-home self-tests before gatherings of families from different households. You can use these tests, available over-the-counter, regardless of vaccination status or whether or not you have symptoms. Self-tests should be done no more than a day before the gathering. Anyone with a positive self-test should avoid get-togethers to reduce the risk of spreading disease to someone else.

For families with vaccinated and unvaccinated members, the safest way to prevent the spread of highly contagious COVID-19 variants is to wear masks at all indoor gatherings with others.

Additional ways to reduce risk:

  • Keep the gathering small and short. Keep your guest list as small as possible and reduce the amount of time you would usually visit.
  • Open windows and celebrate outside when possible. Open windows for better ventilation. If weather permits, gather outdoors.
  • Consider an outdoor treat exchange. Another way to share the holiday spirit is to prepare traditional recipes for family and neighbors. Enjoy the treats outdoors with some hot cocoa or cider.
  • Keep it clean. Remind children to wash hands often, and keep hand sanitizer within reach.

What about holiday shopping?

Wear masks while shopping indoors, especially in areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates. Avoid bringing children under 2 years old with you during holiday shopping trips, since they are too young to wear masks, or go when stores are not as busy.

Can we travel for the holidays?

Public health experts are still discouraging people who are not fully vaccinated from traveling for holiday gatherings. Families who must travel and have children who are not fully vaccinated should choose the safest travel options for their group.

If your child is too young for the vaccine, you may want to travel by car with members of your household who are vaccinated in a private vehicle, if possible. Wear a mask at gas stations and rest stops. If you must travel by air, be careful around large groups clustered at security lines and concourses, wear masks in airports and on planes, and hang back until lines have thinned.

Remember

Stay safe this holiday season and your family will be even more grateful for your traditions in the years to come.

Pediatric Vaccines: Top 8 Parental Concerns Answered

For 5-11 year old, starting November 6th, a COVID-19 vaccine will be authorized for emergency use. The vaccine is a 2-dose series taken 3 weeks apart. Each is 1/3 the dosage of the adolescent/adult vaccine. For 12-17 year olds, a vaccine is already authorized and more than 11.1 million adolescents have been vaccinated. This vaccine is a 2-dose series taken 3 weeks apart.

  1. The Vaccine is Effective
  • 90-100% efficacy in clinical trials
  • No severe cases of COVID-19 during clinical trials
  • Vaccines work against Delta and other known variants of concerns

2. Your Child May Experience Side Effects

  • Mostly mild-to-moderate side effects are reported: fever, fatigue, headaches, chills, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain
  • More kids report side effects with the 2nd dose compared to the 1st dose
  • Rare side effects include swollen lymph nodes and skin sensitivity

3. Myocarditis is Rare

  • Myocarditis (heart inflammation) has been linked to mRNA vaccines. It is very rare. We expect 26 cases of myocarditis per 1 million doses administered. It’s more common for young males and more common for the 2nd dose.
  • Symptoms typically arise within 7 days of vaccination.
  • Majority of cases have been hospitalized. No kids have died. Cases fully recover within 34 days.
  • Vaccine-induced myocarditis is much milder compared to COVID-19-induced myocarditis.

4. There is a need.

COVID-19 in kids can range from asymptomatic to severe illness. As of October 2021, over 6.3 million COVID-19 pediatric cases have been reported. Only 43% of kids under 12 years old have natural immunity.

In 23 states, 24,073 pediatric hospitalizations have been reported

  • 30% of hospitalized had no underlying medical condition
  • Hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are higher than for the flu
  • As of October 2021, 5,217 MIS-C cases have been linked to COVID-19

Over 600 pediatric deaths have been reported. Although this seems low compared o adults, COVID-19 is a top 10 cause of death for kids in the US.

5. The vaccine got to us fast – but it was NOT rushed.

Speed does not mean rushed. It meant leveraging a whole lot of people, money, and decades of previous work to get us a vaccine in 9 months. This included:

  • Previous research (mRNA research started in 1961; the first clinical trial was in 2001)
  • Lots of money and resources for scientists around the word
  • Production started before clinical trials were complete because the government financially supported the effort
  • Although vaccine went through Phase I, II, and III, phases were overlapped to remove white space. This is standard practice.
  • High rates of disease in the community (unfortunately) meant we didn’t have to wait for a minimum number of COVID-19 cases during clinical trials
  • Over 150,000 people flooded to participate in the US trials. This couldn’t have been done without each and everyone one of them.

6. mRNA does not change DNA

It’s biologically impossible for the messenger RNA (mRNA) to alter DNA.

  • mRNA cannot enter the cell nucleus where DNA lives.
  • mRNA can’t be converted to DNA.
  • mRNA can’t insert itself into DNA.

7. Long term side effects are highly unlikely

While, we do not know the long term effects of mRNA COVID19 vaccines, based on our knowledge of mRNA and the human body, we do not expect long term side effects:

  • Vaccine ingredients are cleared from the body very quickly. mRNA is very fragile and degrades within 72 hours of injection. Ingredients do not linger in the body.
  • mRNA vaccines are not made of the actual pathogen. This means that they don’t contain weakened, dead, or noninfectious parts of a virus.
  • In the history of vaccines, serious adverse side effects only occur within the first 2 months of rollout. We have more than 12 months of vaccine follow-up data by now.
  • Thousands of people have gotten pregnant after receiving the COVID-19 Vaccines.
  • There are reports that menstrual cycle changes after a COVID-19 Vaccine. The body is mounting an immune response and this is likely a temporary side effect, like a fever.

8. Previously recovered still need the vaccine.

  • Efficacy of “natural” immunity is high, but protection wanes for some
  • Getting a vaccine, even for people who have already recovered from COVID-19, strengthens your immune response (antibody and T-Cell production)
  • The immune response is messier from natural infection. Its not as focused as vaccine immunity, so evidence shows the vaccine better protects against variants of concern.

Source: YLE

Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Child May Need More Support

From American Academy of Pediatrics:

The ongoing stress, fear, grief, and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on children and teens. Many are having a tough time coping emotionally.

More than 140,000 children in the United States have experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver from COVID, for example. Children of racial and ethnic minority families have been hit especially hard. Research shows they’ve had up to 4.5 times the risk of losing a caregiver to COVID, compared to other kids.

Many families have also lost jobs and financial stability during the pandemic. At the same time,vital supports such as school, health care services, and other community programs have been interrupted. And many have experienced or witnessed a rise in racism and xenophobia during the pandemic, particularly toward families of Asian descent.
Pediatricians, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and children’s hospitals have declared a national state of emergency for child and adolescent mental health. Learn more here.

Since the start of the pandemic, hospitals have seen more mental health emergencies among kids. Between March and October 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17. There was also a more than 50% increase in suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits among girls ages 12-17 in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.

Even with the protection of the COVID-19 vaccines now available to children who are old enough for them, pandemic-related stress and traumas may have lasting effects on the developing minds of children and teens. Continue to check in with your child often and watch and listen for signs they are struggling. And remember that your pediatrician is here to help.

How is your child coping?

Invite your child to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, and angry could be normal reactions to stress. However, if these feelings are constant and overwhelming–or if they affect your child’s ability to keep doing what they usually do, such as going to school, doing their work, or having fun–these may be signs they need more support during this difficult time.

Keep in mind that younger children may not know how to talk about these feelings, but may show changes in their development or behavior. Teens and young adults, meanwhile, may try to hide their feelings because they don’t want to bother others.

Recognizing signs of stress in your child

Signs of stress and mental health challenges are not the same for every child or teen, but there are some common symptoms.

Infants, toddlers and young children…

may show backward progress in skills and developmental milestones. They may also have increased problems with:

  • fussiness and irritability, startling and crying more easily, and be more difficult to console.
  • trouble falling asleep and waking up more during the night.
  • feeding issues such as nausea and vomiting, constipation or loose stools, or new complaints of stomach pain.
  • being anxious when they have to separate from their family, clinginess, not wanting to socialize, and fear of going outside.
  • hitting, frustration, biting, and more frequent or intense tantrums.
  • bedwetting after they’re potty trained.
  • aggressive behavior.

Older children and adolescents…

may show signs of distress with symptoms such as:

  • changes in mood that are not usual for your child, such as ongoing irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
  • changes in behavior, such as stepping back from personal relationships. For example, if your outgoing teen stops spending time or texting or video chatting with friends, this may be cause for concern.
  • loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Did your music-loving child suddenly stop wanting to practice guitar, for example? Did your aspiring chef lose all interest in cooking and baking?
  • a hard time falling or staying asleep, or starting to sleep all the time.
  • changes in appetite, weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time.
  • problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
  • less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic effort.
  • changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene.
  • an increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
  • thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it (see “A word about suicide risk,” below).

How your pediatrician can help

Staying in touch with your pediatrician is more important than ever during this pandemic. If you have any concerns, ask us about checking on your child’s social and emotional health. This can be especially important for children facing higher rates of illness or risk from COVID-19, such as children of color, those living in poverty, special health care needs or developmental differences. Children who are refugees and those involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems may also be more at risk.

Our pediatricians can screen for depression and ask about other concerns like anxiety or trouble coping with stress. The doctor may also ask about these symptoms in other family members, as this can impact your child’s health, and whether they know anyone who has become sick with COVID-19. It’s important to offer your teen some time to talk one-on-one with the pediatrician during the visit to ensure they have the chance to speak as openly as possible. Many pediatricians are also offering telehealth visits during the pandemic.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one to COVID-19

Children, adolescents, and families who experienced the loss of a loved family member or friend to COVID-19 are at increased risk for mental health challenges and may need special attention and professional counseling to manage their loss and grief.

Supporting your child

Your pediatrician can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience. Always check in with your child, ask them how they are feeling, and remind them you are there to talk if they want to, when they are ready. Some children or adolescents may need more time and space to express their feelings. Some may do better with gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress. Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities.

A word about suicide risk

Rates of suicide for both adolescents and adults increase during times of high stress. In addition to screening for depression, your pediatrician can screen for suicide risk.

Remember, not everyone who considers suicide will talk about it, and not everyone who talks about suicide will act on their words. However, any talk about suicide should be taken seriously. If you are worried about your child, it is critical to make your home safe by removing weapons and ammunition from the house and securing medications in a locked cabinet.

Seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘TALK’ to 741741. Reserve 911 for situations where self-harming actions are happening or are about to happen. In a non-crisis situation, talk with your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your child’s mental health.

Self-care and setting the tone

Parents set the tone in the household. Expressing extreme doom or fear can affect your children. It can be challenging to stay positive, especially if you’re struggling with your own stress. But try to relay consistent messages that a brighter future lies ahead. It helps to set aside time to take care of yourself when possible, and seek the support you may need for your own mental health. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, yoga or stretching can help the entire family build coping skills. Build in down time for the whole family to connect and relax, enjoying a nap, movie time or simply spending time together.

Remember

Keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help maintain your family’s mental health during this difficult time.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please call your pediatrician. 

As part of Austin Health Partners, we have Behavioral Health Consultants (BHC) that can help children with Behavioral and Mental Health concerns. Please speak to your pediatrician to see if one of our BHC’s is the right fit for your family.

From American Academy of Pediatrics:

The ongoing stress, fear, grief, and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on children and teens. Many are having a tough time coping emotionally.

More than 140,000 children in the United States have experienced the death of a parent or grandparent caregiver from COVID, for example. Children of racial and ethnic minority families have been hit especially hard. Research shows they’ve had up to 4.5 times the risk of losing a caregiver to COVID, compared to other kids.

Many families have also lost jobs and financial stability during the pandemic. At the same time,vital supports such as school, health care services, and other community programs have been interrupted. And many have experienced or witnessed a rise in racism and xenophobia during the pandemic, particularly toward families of Asian descent.
Pediatricians, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and children’s hospitals have declared a national state of emergency for child and adolescent mental health. Learn more here.

Since the start of the pandemic, hospitals have seen more mental health emergencies among kids. Between March and October 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17. There was also a more than 50% increase in suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits among girls ages 12-17 in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.

Even with the protection of the COVID-19 vaccines now available to children who are old enough for them, pandemic-related stress and traumas may have lasting effects on the developing minds of children and teens. Continue to check in with your child often and watch and listen for signs they are struggling. And remember that your pediatrician is here to help.

How is your child coping?

Invite your child to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, and angry could be normal reactions to stress. However, if these feelings are constant and overwhelming–or if they affect your child’s ability to keep doing what they usually do, such as going to school, doing their work, or having fun–these may be signs they need more support during this difficult time.

Keep in mind that younger children may not know how to talk about these feelings, but may show changes in their development or behavior. Teens and young adults, meanwhile, may try to hide their feelings because they don’t want to bother others.

Recognizing signs of stress in your child

Signs of stress and mental health challenges are not the same for every child or teen, but there are some common symptoms.

Infants, toddlers and young children…

may show backward progress in skills and developmental milestones. They may also have increased problems with:

  • fussiness and irritability, startling and crying more easily, and be more difficult to console.
  • trouble falling asleep and waking up more during the night.
  • feeding issues such as nausea and vomiting, constipation or loose stools, or new complaints of stomach pain.
  • being anxious when they have to separate from their family, clinginess, not wanting to socialize, and fear of going outside.
  • hitting, frustration, biting, and more frequent or intense tantrums.
  • bedwetting after they’re potty trained.
  • aggressive behavior.

Older children and adolescents…

may show signs of distress with symptoms such as:

  • changes in mood that are not usual for your child, such as ongoing irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
  • changes in behavior, such as stepping back from personal relationships. For example, if your outgoing teen stops spending time or texting or video chatting with friends, this may be cause for concern.
  • loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Did your music-loving child suddenly stop wanting to practice guitar, for example? Did your aspiring chef lose all interest in cooking and baking?
  • a hard time falling or staying asleep, or starting to sleep all the time.
  • changes in appetite, weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time.
  • problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
  • less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic effort.
  • changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene.
  • an increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol.
  • thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it (see “A word about suicide risk,” below).

How your pediatrician can help

Staying in touch with your pediatrician is more important than ever during this pandemic. If you have any concerns, ask us about checking on your child’s social and emotional health. This can be especially important for children facing higher rates of illness or risk from COVID-19, such as children of color, those living in poverty, special health care needs or developmental differences. Children who are refugees and those involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems may also be more at risk.

Our pediatricians can screen for depression and ask about other concerns like anxiety or trouble coping with stress. The doctor may also ask about these symptoms in other family members, as this can impact your child’s health, and whether they know anyone who has become sick with COVID-19. It’s important to offer your teen some time to talk one-on-one with the pediatrician during the visit to ensure they have the chance to speak as openly as possible. Many pediatricians are also offering telehealth visits during the pandemic.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one to COVID-19

Children, adolescents, and families who experienced the loss of a loved family member or friend to COVID-19 are at increased risk for mental health challenges and may need special attention and professional counseling to manage their loss and grief.

Supporting your child

Your pediatrician can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience. Always check in with your child, ask them how they are feeling, and remind them you are there to talk if they want to, when they are ready. Some children or adolescents may need more time and space to express their feelings. Some may do better with gradual conversations and other activities besides talking, such as painting or drawing to express themselves and manage stress. Others might be more comfortable with direct conversations or activities.

A word about suicide risk

Rates of suicide for both adolescents and adults increase during times of high stress. In addition to screening for depression, your pediatrician can screen for suicide risk.

Remember, not everyone who considers suicide will talk about it, and not everyone who talks about suicide will act on their words. However, any talk about suicide should be taken seriously. If you are worried about your child, it is critical to make your home safe by removing weapons and ammunition from the house and securing medications in a locked cabinet.

Seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘TALK’ to 741741. Reserve 911 for situations where self-harming actions are happening or are about to happen. In a non-crisis situation, talk with your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your child’s mental health.

Self-care and setting the tone

Parents set the tone in the household. Expressing extreme doom or fear can affect your children. It can be challenging to stay positive, especially if you’re struggling with your own stress. But try to relay consistent messages that a brighter future lies ahead. It helps to set aside time to take care of yourself when possible, and seek the support you may need for your own mental health. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, yoga or stretching can help the entire family build coping skills. Build in down time for the whole family to connect and relax, enjoying a nap, movie time or simply spending time together.

Remember

Keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help maintain your family’s mental health during this difficult time.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please call your pediatrician. 

As part of Austin Health Partners, we have Behavioral Health Consultants (BHC) that can help children with Behavioral and Mental Health concerns. Please speak to your pediatrician to see if one of our BHC’s is the right fit for your family.

Halloween & COVID-19: Have Fun While Staying Safe

From American Academy of Pediatrics:

For families fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the risk of being exposed to the virus during Halloween festivities may not be as scary as last year. But as COVID continues to spread, it’s still important to help keep trick-or-treating and other Halloween traditions safe—especially if your kids aren’t eligible for vaccines yet.

Trick-or-treating

Think outside

Try to stick with outdoor trick-or-treating in small groups. The virus is much less likely to spread outside than in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Keeping a safe distance from others outside your household is another good way to reduce risk. Make sure your children know to avoid large groups of kids clustering at doorsteps or anywhere else the goodies are being handed out.

If you give out treats, consider sitting outside and lining up individually prepackaged goodies on a table for children to take. Non-edible treats are a good option, especially for children who suffer from food allergies.

Don’t forget other Halloween safety basics for outdoor trick-or-treating. If your kids will be out after dark, mark their costumes with reflective tape. Remind them to be careful around cars, as drivers may not see them. Also, make sure shoes fit well and costumes are short enough to prevent tripping or contact with flames.

Mask up indoors

If your children do attend an indoor trick-or-treat event or public festivities, be sure everyone wears face masks and observes safe physical distancing. Universal masking indoors continues to be important, since children under 12 years old are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. There may be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated children, teens, and adults at these events, and mask use reduces the risk of transmission of the COVID virus.

When children get home with their haul, remind them to wash their hands before eating any treats.

Costume parties, parades & community events

Again, remember that outdoor parades, parties and attractions are safer than indoor public events. Rather than a haunted house, for example, consider a haunted forest or corn maze. Look for programs focused on safe ways to have fun offered by a park district, arboretum, zoo or other outdoor venues in your area. Pumpkin patches and apple orchards are other good options. Just use hand sanitizer before and after touching what you pick.

For any indoor festivities, including events ​at school, make sure everyone wears face masks. This is important regardless of vaccination status for now.

Making masks part of the costume

Encourage your kids to use their face masks as part of their cos tume (think surgeon or superhero!). However, be wary of painting the masks, since some paints contain toxins. And keep in mind that a costume mask is not a substit ute for a mask that has multiple layers of breathable fabric, or a disposable surgical-style mask, that covers the mouth and nose snugly. Also, do not wear a costume mask over a COVID face mask, because it can make breathing more difficult.

Family fun

Don’t forget that some of the most memorable, and safest Halloween memories can be made at home together as a family. For example:

  • Pumpkin decorating. This is one Halloween tradition that’s as safe and fun as ever. As always, just be careful to avoid pumpkin carving injuries. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting. When the carving is done, consider putting a battery-operated light rather than an open-flame candle inside. Roast the seeds from the pumpkin for a healthy snack!
  • Costumed movie night. Especially if you have young children, considering a movie night dressed as favorite characters. For tips on finding age-appropriate movies for your child, read more here.
  • Halloween-themed treats. Make some fun Halloween treats as a family. Decorate a pizza with toppings in the shape of a jack-o’-lantern, for example, or make tangerine pumpkins (peel the tangerine and stick a thin slice of celery on top to look like a stem). Make sure the treats are not choking hazards if you have children under 3 years old.
  • A scavenger “haunt” (hunt) for Halloween treats in your home or yard can be fun for the whole family. Add a spooky element by turning out the lights and using flashlights to for the hunt.

Remember

More than a year and a half into the pandemic, COVID-19 may seem like a horror movie monster that won’t go away. But as adults continue to get the vaccine, and more children become eligible for them, there’s more hope than ever that communities can return to normal. In the meantime, with some common-sense safety steps, there are still plenty of ways to have some Halloween fun.

Are holiday gatherings OK during the COVID-19 pandemic?

From American Academy of Pediatrics:

For many families, the holidays are about getting together with relatives and friends. But as the COVID-19 pandemic  continues, gatherings with people outside your household continue to be risky this holiday season. Public health experts say that small household gatherings are some of the main ways COVID-19 cases spread so much again this fall.

With some extra planning and lower risk activities, though, your family can create lasting memories while lowering the risk of being exposed to or spreading COVID-19. Here are some tips I’m sharing with families in my practice this year:

  • Celebrate with members of your own household. Limit any in-person celebration to people you live with. Cooking with your children and decorating ​your home are great ways to enjoy each other’s company while protecting your family and others from COVID-19.
  • Find creative ways to share the experience remotely. Prepare a favorite recipe with extended family over video chat. Share what you are grateful for or light candles together virtually at the start of the holiday meal. Set up a group video call to sing songs, play instruments, share stories, open gifts together or count down to the New Year together.
  • Consider a drop-off treat exchange. Another way to share the holiday spirit is to prepare cookies or other special holiday treats for family and neighbors. Instead of exchanging them in person, delight them with a doorstep drop-off.
  • Shop online and help elderly or higher-risk loved ones. Do any grocery or gift shopping online with delivery and curbside pickup options, if possible. Consider holiday food deliveries to elderly relatives. If you need to shop in person, go when stores are not as busy.
Tips for a virtual holiday gathering with grandparentsWith so many families turning to video conferencing platforms for their celebrations this year, the American Speech-Language​-Hearing Association recommends finding different ways to communicate for older adults who may have difficulty hearing. Try using closed captioning or a larger screen, and make sure that they are closer to the computer and speakers to better hear and see facial expressions. Limit side conversations to give everyone a chance to speak and be heard. ​



If you do have an in-person get-together…

Make sure everyone understands that gatherings with people outside your household can be risky. Here are some ways to help make them safer:

  • Keep the gathering small and short. Keep your guest list as small as possible and reduce the amount of time you would usually visit.
  • Wear cloth face coverings and keep your distance. People who live together can sit together, but arrange for those from different households to stay at least 6 feet apart—especially while eating. Remind everyone to wear cloth face coverings when they’re not eating.
  • Open windows and stay outside when possible. Open windows for better ventilation. If weather permits, gather outdoors. Stay a safe distance apart from others and wear cloth face coverings with multiple layers or medical masks, even outside.
  • Safer serving. Avoid buffet or family-style dinners and choose one person do the serving or get individual meals if ordering out. Remind children to wash hands often, and keep hand sanitizer within reach.
  • Take safety steps beforehand. For two weeks before the gathering, remind guests to follow steps that lower the risk of COVID transmission. This includes wearing cloth face coverings, physical distancing, and limiting outings and social gatherings as much as possible. Consider offering your guests a “self-screening” checklist and ask them to join you virtually if they realize they are at higher risk of exposing the group to COVID-19.
  • Safer travels. Guests traveling for the get-together should drive with family members in a private vehicle, if possible, and wear masks at gas stations and rest stops. Anyone who has to fly should be extra careful around groups clustered near security lines and concourses, wear masks in airports and on planes, and hang back until lines have thinned.

Remember

Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still at risk of spreading it to others; has had any symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of the gathering; is waiting for viral test results; could have been exposed to someone in the last 14 days; or is at high risk.

Stay safe this holiday season and your family will be even more grateful for your traditions in the years to come.

Breastfeeding During the COVID-19 Pandemic

From American Academy of Pediatrics:

Breastfeeding can offer many perks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can even breastfeed if you test positive for COVID-19 or are not fully vaccinated, as long as you take extra safety precautions to protect your baby.

Benefits of breastfeeding during a pandemic

  • Breastfeeding is good for babies. It protects them from many infections. It is not proven that breastmilk protects babies from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, several studies have found antibodies that target the virus in human milk. In addition, breastfed infants are generally less likely to have severe respiratory symptoms when they get sick.
  • Breastfeeding is good for moms. Hormones released in the mother’s body during breastfeeding promote wellness and can relieve stress ​and anxiety.
  • Breast milk is readily available. No purchase necessary! This can be important during public health emergencies, when it can be more challenging to buy formula and other feeding supplies.

Do I need to take extra precautions while breastfeeding if I’m vaccinated against COVID?

If you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you do not need to take any special precautions when feeding your baby at the breast or expressing milk. However, if you have symptoms of COVID or have had close contact with someone who has the illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask.

Can I get vaccinated while breastfeeding?

COVID-19 vaccines are considered safe for breastfeeding mothers and babies. Many lactating people have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Recent studies demonstrated COVID-19 mRNA vaccine antibodies in the breastmilk of vaccinated lactating mothers, which can potentially pass along protection to the breastfed infant. More studies are needed to determine how these antibodies protect the baby.
What if I am not fully vaccinated and want to breastfeed my baby?

SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 disease) spreads during close contact between people when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. People without symptoms of or confirmed COVID-19, who have not been in close contact with someone with COVID, do not need to take special precautions. So far infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been found in breastmilk. Breastfeeding has been shown to be safe when a mom has other viral illnesses like influenza.

How can I keep my baby safe while breastfeeding if I have COVID-19?

Yes, babies can still receive breast milk even if you test positive for COVID-19. The breast milk is safe and important for the baby.

  • Direct breastfeeding. Wash your hands with soap and water before holding the baby and wear a face mask while nursing. Holding your baby skin-to-skin helps the baby latch on and helps trigger milk release.
  • Pumping breast milk. Put on a face mask, wash your hands well, and clean any pump parts, bottles, and artificial nipples. Express milk as often as your baby eats, or at least 6 to 8 times per 24 hours. The expressed milk can be fed to your baby by a healthy caregiver. Remind all caregivers to wash their hands well before touching bottles, feeding, or caring for your baby. Remember to clean your breast pump after each use, following CDC guidelines.

If I have COVID-19, can I stay in the same room with my infant?

If you and your family decide to keep your baby in the same room as you, try to keep a reasonable distance away when possible. Wear a face mask and wash your hands whenever you directly care for your baby.

Continue taking these precautions until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without taking any fever medicines (acetaminophen or ibuprofen); at least 10 days have passed since your COVID-19 symptoms first started; and all your symptoms have improved. If you tested positive but have no symptoms, wait until at least 10 days after the positive test result.

How can I maintain my milk supply if I am sick with COVID-19?

Hand pumping and hand expressing breast milk is especially helpful in the first few days after your baby is born to get the milk supply going. Frequent pumping (or breastfeeding if you have chosen to directly breastfeed and are following the strict precautions noted above) should line up with your infant’s feeding demands, about 8-10 times in a 24-hour period.

Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, but always check with your doctor. While this may be a stressful time, try to stay optimistic and practice healthy habits to reduce stress as much as possible. This includes getting enough sleep, eating plenty of healthy foods, and getting regular exercise.

Ask your pediatrician for help with getting your baby to latch on​ again once you can restart breastfeeding. Do not hesitate to ask for help if you have trouble with feeding, nipple pain, low milk supply, or with any other concerns.Your pediatrician is here to help

After leaving the hospital, it is important that your baby’s first follow-up visit happen within 1-2 days in person so your baby can be examined, measured, and weighed. Many doctors are scheduling newborn visits during specific times (such as first thing in the morning) to limit exposure to sick patients. Your pediatrician also can help if you need more breastfeeding support, a lactation consultant, or help from local groups and resources.

Remember

The best way to protect your baby is to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If you aren’t fully vaccinated or test positive for COVID, it is still a good idea to breastfeed your baby if you can. Just be sure to take steps to minimize COVID-19 infection. Talk with your pediatrician about how to keep your baby healthy and what resources might be available in your community to help you.

More Information

Tips for Coping with a New Baby During COVID-19

From American Academy Pediatrics:

All babies cry. Most babies cry a lot from two weeks to two months of age. Some cry more than others, and some cry longer than others. For many new parents, crying is one of the most stressful parts of coping with a newborn.

In some cases, extreme stress and a temporary lapse of emotional control in a caregiver can lead to actions that result in abusive head trauma. In fact, the most common trigger for abusive head trauma is simply a crying baby. As an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement points out, actions that lead to abusive head trauma often happen when caretakers experience stress and get to the end of their rope.

However, there is a bright side: The key to preventing actions that lead to abusive head trauma is to understand how common feelings of frustration, isolation, and exhaustion are during the first few months of an infant’s life.

Helpful tips

Usually, new parents can seek out social supports and external help—but what happens when we are restricted in our movements and our contacts? What happens when grandparents can’t come over to help out, or when neighbors don’t stop by for a cup of coffee? What happens when families face job loss, childcare challenges, and more lingering fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Try all the soothing tricks. Crying babies want to be soothed. You may need to try a few things, over and over, before they calm. Try holding them, feeding them, swaddling them, gently rocking them, singing to them. If these don’t work, put the baby down and take a break. Be sure your baby is in a safe sleep environment (on their back on a firm sleep surface with a tight-fitting sheet, away from soft blankets, toys, pillows, and other bedding materials). While some babies cry for a long time, many parents are surprised at how rapidly babies will cry themselves to sleep.
  • Pay attention to your own needs. The challenges of new mothers can certainly feel overwhelming sometimes. Rest as much as you can—try sleeping when the baby does. Find time for yourself when your partner or other caring adult watches the baby. Put on your headphones, give a friend or relative a call, have a cup of tea, or just relax.
  • Connect with others. Social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak can be isolating. Try video chats or social media to stay in touch. If you’re a friend or relative on the receiving end of these calls, listen first before offering suggestions. Imagine you are with the young parent, they are crying on your shoulder, and you are offering reassurance without any words. Keeping this image in mind can help you provide the social support that all new parents need.
  • Use your “helpers.” Engage older siblings as much as you can by encouraging them to be your special helpers, so they can help out in developmentally appropriate ways.
  • Seek help. Depression is the most common mental illness in the United States. If you had a history of depression before your baby was born, you may be at higher risk for postpartum depression. Speak with your provider sooner rather than later to help foresee this potential condition. Many doctors, nurses, and mental health providers are now set up for telehealth visits and may be able to help you by video or phone.
  • Reach out. If you are a friend, relative, or neighbor to a family with a newborn, this is the time to reach out. Think about ways you can help. In addition to social support, can you buy diapers or other baby supplies? Can you drop off food or treats for the siblings or adults? Can you safely supervise older children outdoors? Maybe they could come along with you when you walk your dog!
  • Help a co-worker out. If you are a co-worker of a parent returning to work (especially during social distancing) after parental leave, be kind and supportive. If you see or hear the baby on the call, say Hi!
  • Find a forum. New mothers may find it helpful to discuss their experiences with other new mothers. In addition to seeking help from friends, relatives, neighbors, and medical professionals, look for discussion forums and communities of moms dedicated to sharing problems, stories, and tips with each other online (see the list of resources below).
  • Your pediatrician is here to help. Never hesitate to call for advice. Your pediatricians is an excellent resource for understanding your baby and your own needs, including those related to postpartum depression.
  • Resources. Here are a few key resources that may be helpful to you at home: