Having a baby is hard work at any time. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the anxiety and stress that many new parents experience and prevented parents from having people come into their homes to provide critical support. As a result, perinatal mood and anxiety disorder rates, including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum periods increased. Simply put: Raising a newborn during the pandemic was more challenging than ever.
With many people now fully vaccinated, life is becoming easier for new parents who are now able to safely gather with grandparents and other loved ones. Yet, new parents are still wary in this phase of the pandemic because little is known about how COVID can impact the short and long-term health of newborns.
Here are some ways you can support a new family during this time that are safe and will be appreciated, brought to you by Rachel Kradin, MSW, Emerson’s mother/baby and pediatric social worker:
- Acknowledge and validate that new parents today experienced their pregnancies, births and postpartum in a state of heightened anxiety and uncertainty with the pandemic. Research tells us that this prolonged period of stress has left many experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress and grief over missing out on the pregnancy or postpartum experience they always imagined they would have.
- Respect the new parents’ rules for health and safety. If they are not ready to welcome visitors, even those who are fully vaccinated, offer to have a virtual meet-up instead, or stay in regular contact through calls and texts.
- Make it clear to the new parents that you are ready to meet the baby whenever, wherever, and however it makes them feel comfortable. If you are offered a socially-distanced, outdoor masked visit without an offer to hold the baby — take it! It is likely that the gradual exposure over time will help new parents feel that they are in control and recognize safe situations.
- Send a gift card for a meal or food to the new parents. However, make it clear that you do not expect it will include a visit with the parents or baby.
- Tell a new mom or dad to leave laundry on their front stoop so that you can pick it up, do the laundry, and deliver it back to their front stoop.
- Offer to organize a contactless meal train for new parents. Free websites like www.mealtrain.com make creating a schedule, noting dietary and delivery preferences, and sharing the link to different social networks easy. These sites also enable you to include family and friends from out of town who can sign up for a date and order delivery from the new parents’ favorite restaurant.
- Stock the pantry or fridge. Ask the parents for a grocery list and do the shop yourself or cover the cost of an Instacart delivery.
- If one parent is returning to work prior to the other, mark that date on your calendar. The transition for new parents of being home together with a new baby to solo parenting (even when parents work from home) can be emotional. Drop-off some pre-made, healthy grab-and- go snacks and check in with them regularly.
- Give the gift of a house cleaning service. With their permission, have the parents’ home cleaned for them. A clean house is a true gift.
- Surprise a new parent (and especially those with other children) with a certificate to have their car detailed. Some car detailing services travel to your home. Any parent of a toddler will tell you that cleaning out Cheerios stuck behind the seats is something they would love to turf to someone else.
- Take the family pet or pay for pet-sitting or pet-walking services.
There are support groups for new parents, including a virtual new moms’ group facilitated by Emerson’s Mother/Baby Family Support Team. For information, email email@example.com. To learn about a new dads’ group facilitated by First Connections, visit: www.jri.org/firstconnections.
As more people become vaccinated and the pandemic eases, it is likely new parents will feel more comfortable having visitors and going out in public with their baby. The best advice is to take the parents’ lead and stick to what they are comfortable with.
Do you have a friend or loved one who had a baby during the pandemic? What did they find most useful to support them? Let us know by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emerson Podcast: Labor and Delivery During the Pandemic
Avery Fisher, certified nurse midwife, discusses labor and delivery in the time of COVID-19.
Subscribe to the Health Works Here Podcast on Apple Podcasts
, Google Podcasts
, and wherever podcasts can be heard.