I’m having a baby in February and my unvaccinated family wants to come visit when the baby is born. I’m worried about my newborn baby’s health. What should I do?

One of the challenges for new parents is deciding what the “rules” are for your family and your new baby. Newborns and young infants are particularly vulnerable to infection, so you do need to take special precautions to keep them safe. In general, we recommend limiting visitors and travel during the first 6-8 weeks of your baby’s life.

As new parents, you get to decide who is important to welcome into your home to see the baby and what precautions they should take while they are there. No one who is having any illness symptoms should come until they are well. You have the right to ask everyone to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before touching or holding the baby. You can ask people not to kiss or touch the baby’s face and to wear a mask. All of these measures will help decrease the risk of infection to your newborn. We do want you to feel loved and supported during this big transition. Having family there to help can be really important!

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more challenging. You are right that having unvaccinated family members visit is riskier than visits from vaccinated family members. Testing before travel can help reduce (but not eliminate) the risk. You should decide whether that’s a risk you are willing to take. Will you benefit from the support and presence of your family? Or will it increase your anxiety level too much, knowing the risks you are taking?

We encourage you and everyone who will be caring for your newborn to be vaccinated against COVID-19, influenza and pertussis (or whooping cough). You can best protect the baby by protecting yourselves. If you decide that family members aren’t welcome to visit until they are vaccinated, that may be the motivation needed to get the COVID-19 vaccine! We also encourage you to consider breastfeeding. Babies who are breastfed receive antibodies in the breastmilk which helps prevent illness. Studies are ongoing, but we believe that babies who are breastfeeding receive protective antibodies against COVID-19 if their mother has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Best wishes to you and your new baby!

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Cara Biddle Cara Biddle, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital. She serves as the associate division chief of General Pediatrics and Community Health and as medical director of the Children's Health Center.

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