How to survive the COVID-19 lockdown with a newborn baby

baby mom

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stéphanie Thomson, Writer,

The 10-mile trip from our home in Brooklyn to our daughter’s ophthalmologist on the Upper East Side normally takes 90 minutes by car. Two weeks ago, it took us less than half that, as we breezed along near-empty streets.

The night before, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered most public places − bars, restaurants, cinemas, gyms − to close. One of America’s most densely populated areas was at risk of becoming the new hotspot for COVID-19, which, up until that point, had killed 6,000 and infected another 10,000 around the world. And so, the city that never sleeps was put to bed.


If we were among only a handful of people out and about at what would normally be rush hour, it was because we had no choice. Our daughter was born three months before her due date. For 53 of the 81 days she spent in a neonatal intensive care unit, she was on oxygen support, her lungs too undeveloped to work unassisted. The oxygen saved her life but it meant she was susceptible to retinopathy of prematurity, a disease that, left untreated, causes blindness. So, outfitted in masks and gloves, my husband and I ordered an Uber and made our way into Manhattan for her appointment.

Some people complained about the city shutdown; others brazenly flouted the rules. As soon as our daughter had the all-clear from the doctor − her eyes were going to be just fine, he assured us − we headed straight home. We haven’t left since.

A socially isolating experience

I know that being able to hunker down for however long is needed, ordering takeout and having groceries delivered, is a sign of our privilege. But while leaving your house with a baby during a pandemic is fraught with challenges, having to stay there can be too.

“For many people, having a newborn is socially isolating anyway,” explains Jesse Pournaras, a doula in New York City. That might sound counterintuitive − how can a new addition make you feel lonelier? − but it’s in line with a 2018 survey from the British Red Cross, which found that 82% of mums under 30 have felt this way. It’s times like these, Pournaras says, that we need a support network to fall back on. “It’s useful to be able to refer to your mother, aunts, sisters and friends to ask why your body is doing what it is doing, why you feel the way you do, or what is it your baby wants when they won’t stop crying.”

Having a newborn can be a socially isolating experience outside of a lockdown
Having a newborn can be a socially isolating experience outside of a lockdown
Image: Coop and British Red Cross

When you’re forced to isolate yourself from anyone outside of your household, you lose that support system. Sure, you can ask questions over Skype − that’s something mental health experts recommend all new parents find the time to do. “People thrive with connection and social support,” says Andrea Schneider, a psychotherapist who specializes in maternal wellness. “So get teletherapy with a trained perinatal practitioner, join an online support group and stay in touch with your family virtually.”

But messaging apps are useless when what you really need is someone to hold your baby so that you can shower. “Learning how to parent can be a really tough experience,” says Pournaras. “I know many people who were relying on their families or a hired professional like a postpartum doula to help alleviate the workload and now they’re struggling to cope with it on their own.”

That’s the position in which Kim Flores and her husband Juan have found themselves. Their son, Nico, was born prematurely at the start of March and has been in hospital ever since. “Juan’s mother was supposed to be coming to stay with us for a few months to help out,” she tells me. “That won’t be happening now, because she lives in Colombia and the government has closed the borders. I’m sure my husband and I will manage, but it is nerve-wracking.”

Falling between the cracks

As well as stripping mothers of their practical and mental support systems, being in lockdown limits their access to a medical one. Does the benefit of taking your baby for their first vaccines outweigh the risk of exposing yourself and your newborn to a potentially deadly virus? It was calculations like these that led to a spike in maternal mortality rates in countries affected by the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, according to researchers at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Sierra Leone, for example, saw a 34% increase in its maternal mortality ratio.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

“We found that there was a 22% decrease in postnatal attendance,” explains Somla Gopalakrishnan, one of the academics behind the research. “Mothers were often too scared to access medical facilities, in case they got infected. Sometimes they were even told to stay away to avoid putting extra strain on an already stretched healthcare system.”

Adequate postnatal care is one of the most important ways of protecting the health of mothers and babies, the World Health Organization has found. But when women and their newborns are forced to self-isolate, they can fall between the cracks, with sometimes disastrous consequences.

Silver linings

Having to go on lockdown as a new parent can trigger a sense of grief. While I’m grateful that technologies like high-speed internet and free long-distance video calls mean my parents in the UK still get to see their first granddaughter, I can’t help but feel I’ve been robbed of once-in-a-lifetime experiences I’d hoped to share with my loved ones.

But as with almost anything negative, there are a few bright spots. Here in the US, a country where many people get no paid family leave, the lockdown has created opportunities for parents to spend more time with their newborns − even if juggling both work and childcare is quite the balancing act.

Should parents talk to their kids about COVID-19?
Should parents talk to their kids about COVID-19?
Image: Statista

“My husband has a really demanding job that requires him to travel quite a bit,” says Linara Davidson, who gave birth to her first baby, Ronald Anthony, this past November. “It’s great to have him home spending so much time with our son when we initially thought he would be away.”

Rather than focusing on the hard parts of isolation, Davidson recommends new parents make the most of this enforced hiatus to spend quality time with their baby, time they might otherwise not have had. “Be grateful you get to revel in each moment almost uninterrupted for a bit. We will get to the other side of this, and you will have a story to tell your lil’ one.”


the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Vaccines: from miracle to possible danger

On Youth Education: “Just a normal day in the life of a medical student”

Juncker’s Investment Plan in desperate need for trust and funds from public and private investors

Mandela, ‘true symbol of human greatness’, celebrated on centenary of his birth

The time for cities to get smart is now

COP21 Breaking News: “We must accelerate the process”, Laurent Fabius cries out from Paris

UN food aid to Yemen will fully resume after two-month break, as Houthis ‘guarantee’ delivery

Europe can be at the heart of tech with purpose

From Kenya to China, here’s why countries should start working together on AI

MWC 2016 LIVE: Getty chief says one in four new images from phones

The EU threatens to occupy Libya militarily; is another colonial war brewing?

Poorer countries set to be ‘increasingly dependent’ on food imports, says UN food agency report

The next EU President will first have to drink his tea at Downing Street

Here’s how tech is revolutionising transport for low-income communities in urban Africa

Posting of workers: final vote on equal pay and working conditions

The world’s e-waste is a huge problem. It’s also a golden opportunity

Youth leaders share positive visions of the future, as Guterres launches UN75 in New York

EU-wide rules for safety of drones approved by European Parliament

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

Government internet ban leaves parts of Myanmar ‘in a blackout’, UN expert calls for immediate lifting

Malta: MEPs conclude fact-finding visit to assess Caruana Galizia murder inquiry

This research can help organizations plan for different COVID-19 scenarios

Suicide Prevention: Using Graduation as a Transformative Tool

EU budget: Commission helps prepare new Cohesion programmes with Regional Competitiveness Index and Eurobarometer

JADE Team at the European Business Summit 2017

EU future at stake: MEPs broadly welcome Commission’s recovery package proposals

FROM THE FIELD: Enslaved Guatemalan indigenous women wait for reparations

UN’s Grandi slams ‘toxic language of politics’ aimed at refugees, migrants

FROM THE FIELD: Sailing a traditional and sustainable path in Fiji’s tropical waters

‘Free state aid’ for imprudent banks

Reforms in a few countries drive a decline in average OECD labour taxes

Switzerland fast-tracks emergency aid for small businesses weathering COVID-19

Protection of workers from biological agents: how to classify COVID-19

Commission reinforces tools to ensure Europe’s interests in international trade

At Arab League Summit, Guterres reaffirms strong link between UN and people of Arab world

Brexit update: Will the EU grant extention to Britain preventing economic chaos?

Climate action: 4 shifts the UN chief encourages Governments to make

‘Emulate his example’ urges UN chief as world celebrates Nelson Mandela: a ‘global advocate for dignity and equality’

Austerity lovers and ‘relaxationists’ fight over the EU budget

Google succumbs unconditionally to EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling

Volkswagen getting away with it in Europe

Fed, ECB take positions to face the next global financial crisis; the Brits uncovered

On European immigration: Europe’s Missing Citizens

Female African coders ‘on the front-line of the battle’ to change gender power relations: UN chief

Commission steps up fight against money laundering and terrorist financing

France fails again the exams. Kindly requested to sit in on Commission’s class

When is necessary understand the cultural marks in health-disease process

EU Budget 2019 deal: EP boosts support for researchers and the young

G20 LIVE: World Leaders in Turkey for G20 Summit. Global Economy will be discussed in Antalya

Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe

3 technologies that could define the next decade of cybersecurity

Brexit deal approved by the European Parliament

Teenagers’ career expectations narrowing to limited range of jobs, OECD PISA report finds

Women’s rights: MEPs call for action to fight backlash against gender equality

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s speech from World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions

Ecocraft: take gaming to another level by greening Minecraft

Heat-resistant crops, ‘green’ infrastructure, can prepare Near East and North Africa to better tackle droughts – UN agency

Speeches of Vice Premier LIU He and Vice President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen at the Press Conference of the Seventh China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue

UN General Assembly urges greater protection for Palestinians, deplores Israel’s ‘excessive’ use of force

Capital markets selloff: The financial moguls send messages to monetary authorities

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s