Management of infants born to mothers with COVID-19

Initial guidance for pediatric hospitalists


Clinical question: How should we care for newborns born to mothers with COVID-19?

Krzysztof Maczkowiak/Thinkstock

Background: Around the United States, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is infecting pregnant mothers and causing COVID-19. Current limited data demonstrates that children under the age of 1 year are at risk for severe disease. Clinicians are caring for infants born to mothers with COVID-19 during the pandemic with minimal guidance.

Study design: Clinical practice guidelines.

Synopsis: The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Fetus and Newborn, Section on Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine and Committee of Infectious Diseases developed guidelines of care for infants born to COVID-19 mothers to help clinicians care for newborns using limited data published before March 30, 2020.

  • Neonates should be considered persons under investigation (PUIs) if they are born to mothers with diagnosed COVID-19 or with COVID-19 tests pending at the time of delivery.
  • Neonatal clinicians should attend deliveries based on their center’s policies. If clinicians are required to perform stabilization they should use airborne, droplet, and contact personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes, gown, gloves, eye protection (goggles or face shield), and N95 respirator mask or an air-purifying respirator.
  • Mother and newborn should be separated to minimize the infant’s risk of postnatal infection.
  • Well newborns born at or near term may be admitted to areas physically separated from newborns unaffected by maternal COVID-19. Alternatively, a mother may room-in with her infant with 6 feet of separation between mother and infant. Newborn PUIs should be bathed as soon as possible.
  • Newborns requiring intensive care should be admitted to a single negative-pressure room. Alternatively, COVID-19–exposed infants should be grouped with a minimum of 6 feet of separation, or placed in air temperature-controlled isolettes.
  • Until the newborn PUI’s virologic status is known, clinical staff caring for the infant should use droplet and contact PPE. This includes gown, gloves, eye protection (goggles or face shield), and a standard surgical mask. Airborne, droplet, and contact precautions should be used for infants requiring CPAP or any form of mechanical ventilation.
  • COVID-19–positive mothers who want to breastfeed may feed expressed breast milk using proper breast and hand hygiene or directly breastfeed their infants wearing a mask while practicing proper breast and hand hygiene.
  • If testing is available, newborns should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 using molecular arrays. If testing is unavailable, clinicians may monitor newborns clinically. Infants should be tested if they require prolonged intensive care.
  • Optimal timing and extent of testing is unknown. Tests should be performed around 24 hours of life and 48 hours of life. If discharge is planned for a well appearing infant before 48 hours of life, the clinician may choose not to do the 48-hour test. A single swab should be taken from the throat followed by the nasopharynx to perform the test.
  • Newborns should receive all newborn care, including circumcision if requested.
  • Infants who are asymptomatic with positive or pending SARS-CoV-2 tests may be discharged home with plans for frequent outpatient follow-up through 14 days after birth. Infants with negative SARS-CoV-2 testing should be discharged to the care of a noninfected caregiver. If the mother lives in the same household, she must keep a distance of 6 feet as often as possible. When not possible, the mother should wear a mask and practice hand hygiene. The mother may resume caring for her infant normally when she has been afebrile for more than 72 hours (without antipyretics) and has been asymptomatic for 7 days. Alternatively, the mother may resume care if she has two consecutive negative SARS-CoV-2 nasopharyngeal swabs taken more than 24 hours apart.
  • Visitation to infants requiring intensive care should be limited for mothers with COVID-19 until her fever has resolved for more than 72 hours and has improvement of respiratory symptoms and has had two consecutive negative SARS-CoV-2 nasopharyngeal swabs taken more than 24 hours apart.

Dr. Anika Kumar

Bottom line: Clinicians should protect themselves with contact and droplet PPE at all times until the infant’s viral status is known. Clinicians should use airborne, contact, and droplet PPE when resuscitating the infant and/or when using CPAP/mechanical ventilation. Mothers should be encouraged to feed their infants expressed breast milk while practicing proper hygiene or directly breastfeed while wearing a mask and practicing proper hygiene. Viral testing of every infant born to a mother with COVID-19 should be performed after the infant is 24 hours old. Mothers should resume caring for their infants normally after they have met criteria suggesting they are no longer actively infected.

Article citation: Puopolo KM, Hudak ML, Kimberlin DW, Cummings J. Initial Guidance: Management of Infants born to Mothers with COVID-19. 2020 Apr 2. Accessed Apr 2, 2020.

Dr. Kumar is a pediatric hospitalist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. She is a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and serves as the Pediatrics Editor for The Hospitalist.

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