Pregnant women who are giving birth in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic not only worry about their health, but they also fear for their newborns, who are more susceptible to the disease. Some parents will do anything to ensure their baby’s safety, even crafting face shields that will fit their newborn’s face. But according to a group of pediatricians, the use of any form of facial protective covering for newborns is not recommended.
In a joint statement released by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Philippine Society of Newborn Medicine (PSNbM), facial protective coverings like face shields or face masks are prohibited for newborn use because “of the high risk of suffocation, leading to lack of oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide retention.” Should the protective coverings be displaced, it can also cause strangulation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Lastly, because removing and putting on the face shields can be cumbersome, it can discourage moms from breastfeeding and decrease the frequency of feeding.
According to PPS and PSNbM, newborns will have a harder time breathing through a face shield because of their smaller airways. Likewise, using a mask on a baby can increase the risk of suffocation and strangulation. If they have a hard time breathing, newborns will be unable to take the mask off themselves and will be unable to express themselves. (SmartParenting.com.ph has verified the joint statement’s authenticity through our network of pediatricians.)
Recently, a Thailand hospital was featured in the news for providing face shields for newborns. They later clarified in a Facebook post that the face shields were only crafted for “the babies’ journey home from the hospital and are not usually given to all newborn babies in the hospital,” according to a report by Time. “Because safety is what we care about the highest,” the hospital's post read in Thai.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) previously stated that “face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.” The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines also do not mention the use of face shields for newborns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How to protect your newborn during the COVID-19 pandemic
The thought of not using face shields for protection can make parents feel vulnerable, but the PPS and PSNbM provide guidelines on how to ensure the safety of your little ones during this trying time:
- Limit exposure of the newborn by avoiding unnecessary public contact
- If going out is essential, cover the baby carrier or seater (not the newborn) with a blanket, which helps protect the baby, but still gives them the ability to breathe comfortably. Do not leave the blanket on the carrier in the car or at any time when the newborn and carrier are not in [your] direct view.
- Keep hands clean before every breastfeeding [session]. Frequent handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds is optimal, but hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is the next best substitute.
- Clean frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, light switches, and electronics often.
- Remember to always the hands (of the caregiver and any sibling) before touching the baby.
- Newborns should be placed supine (on their back) in an empty crib in a non-smoking home.
- Mothers or caregivers should instead wear a face mask with or without a face shield or use a cloth sling when holding and/or breastfeeding the newborn.
Giving birth soon or recently gave birth? Click here for everything you need to know about protecting your newborn from COVID-19.