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A recent study published in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics is good news for women who give birth while positive for COVID-19. Having your baby in the room with you after birth is called rooming-in. There are lots of good reasons for rooming-in, both for you and for your baby.
Research shows that rooming-in is the best way to prepare you and your baby for going home. It improves the success of breastfeeding. It reduces stress for you and your baby. It gives you more time for important skin to skin contact. Your baby becomes tuned-in to your voice, smell, and heartbeat. This helps you and your baby bond, sleep, and relax. Rooming-in has even been found to reduce post-partum depression.
But what about mothers diagnosed with COVID-19? Neonatal specialists have been struggling with this question, and debating the safety of rooming-in for babies since the beginning of COVID-19. In China, babies and mothers were separated. In other countries, some were separated and some allowed to room-in with precautions. COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, so wearing a mask and washing hands before holding the baby has been advised during rooming-in. As with other respiratory infections like the flu, breastfeeding has not been shown to spread COVID-19 from mother to baby.
The new study supports rooming in for women with mild COVID-19 as long as respiratory precautions are maintained. Sixty-one mothers and 62 babies were enrolled in the study. One mom had twins. Ninety-five percent of the mothers breastfed their babies. All the moms were COVID-19 positive but had no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Mothers with serious symptoms were excluded.
Of the 62 infants, only one tested positive for COVID-19 within 3 weeks of the rooming-in period. This baby had mild symptoms and recovered normally. All the other babies were COVID-19 tested and did not become infected. The researchers conclude that the benefits of rooming-in outweigh the risks and that rooming in and breastfeeding should be encouraged for women with mild COVID-19.