It's crazy how much our lives have changed in the past few months. As the spread of coronavirus begins to show some signs of slowing up, Britons are still having to stay at home in isolation until the Govenerment advises otherswise.
There have been some small changes to the rules. For example, households with only one adult living there (including single-parent families) are now allowed to have a support bubble, meaning you can choose one household to visit (they must also only choose you), without having to socially distance yourselves.
From June 15th non essential shops can open as long as they implement social distancing rules. Other establishments such as salons, restaurants and bars have been given the date of July 4th to reopen, but as we've seen before, these dates can often be pushed back.
For those of us with young families or mums-to-be expecting a new arrival in the coming months, the “Keep Calm & Carry On” approach is still not so easy, with fears of a second wave.
With so much information being pumped at us on TV every hour, and with different countries taking different approaches to the crisis, it can be hard to know exactly how best to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Here is all the latest advice for parents, families, children and expectant parents to keep you in the know.
Your top 8 questions about family safety during coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis
Former Midwife Rachel Fitz-Desorgher has offered her expert advice to answer your top 12 COVID-19 questions…
1. I’m pregnant! Can I pass the virus to my unborn baby?
The good news is that, according to the latest advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, there is currently no evidence that the virus can pass to your baby during pregnancy. Also, infected pregnant women do not appear to be at a higher risk of miscarriage or to become more poorly than the general population.
2. How can I protect myself from catching the virus whilst I am pregnant?
Pregnant women are more vulnerable to catching infections because we naturally become more immune-suppressed in order to stop our bodies “rejecting” what is, in reality, only 50% our DNA. So, even without the worry of Covid-19, all pregnant women should practice really good hand hygiene. Every time you come home after being out and, of course, every time you go to the loo, wash your hands with hot water and soap for 20 seconds.
3. Are newborns more susceptible to coronavirus?
There is currently no evidence that Covid-19 causes serious problems in young babies. In any event, if your baby seems unwell and has a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more, you should get them checked by your GP.
4. My child already has a compromised immune system? What extra precautions should I be taking to protect them.
Be scrupulous in insisting that everyone coming into contact with your child washes their hands properly and often, and to stay away if they are at all unwell.
Ensure everyone uses a tissue or a sleeve to cough or sneeze into and then immediately bins it before re-washing hands.
Encourage your child to avoid touching their eyes, mouth and nose with their hands, no matter how clean they are.
5. Is it safe to breastfeed? If I’m unwell, how do I protect my baby during breastfeeding?
Whenever a bug is doing the rounds in our neighbourhood, we start making antibodies to that bug and these pass into our milk and, therefore, into our baby. There is no evidence that the Covid-19 virus can pass into our milk and, as breast milk is likely to give your baby added antibody protection against Covid-19 as well as all the other bugs that are common at this time of year, the Royal College of Midwives recommend that you carry on breastfeeding.
If you have the virus yourself, the benefits of breastfeeding still outweigh the risk of you passing the virus on by coughing or sneezing, but you should wash your hands before and after feeding your baby or handling a breast pump and bottles, wear a face mask during feeding, follow the recommendations for cleaning which came with your pump and consider asking someone who is well to give your expressed milk to your baby with a bottle or specialist baby-feeding cup.
6. My child has mild cold/flu symptoms: When should I call the GP?
Because GP surgeries are already so busy at this time of year, the advice is that you should not call your GP at all if you suspect someone in your household has Covid-19. Instead, use this online NHS 111 questionnaire which will guide you as to whether or not your child needs specialist attention.
7. What are the Covid-19 symptoms?
The most common symptoms are a cough, high temperature and shortness of breath.
8. What extra hygiene precautions can me and my family be taking?
The single most important factor in keeping ourselves and others well is regular, good hand-washing. Soap strips the bad bacteria without harming our own good bacteria whilst hand-gel kills good and bad alike. So, wherever possible, use soap and water and save gel for when you can’t find a sink. Encourage the children to choose a 20-second song to sing (they can use this great site to create their own hand-washing poster) and ensure you support their good habits by having soap, water and towels easy to reach and use. Teach your family to sneeze into a tissue and then bin it or, if there is no tissue handy, to sneeze and cough into their elbow sleeve.
Things you need to know about coronavirus if you're pregnant
It’s understandably a very worrying time for most people around the world with the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
If you’re pregnant, your anxiety levels are bound to be heightened as your concerns grow for the welfare of you and your baby, so it’s important you know the facts and try not to focus too much on the scary news reports. There is still no evidence that pregnant women are more at risk of contracting the virus. There is also no evidence that coronavirus increases the chances of miscarriage.
While scientists are still trying to find out more about the virus and how it affects us, the experts suggest that pregnant women don’t have an increased chance of contracting coronavirus. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, ‘pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of infection with COVID-19 than the general population.’
In terms of changes to your day-to-day life, it’s important to follow the guidelines suggested to us all by avoiding places with large groups, public transport and work from home if you can, taking the precautions to keep yourself and your family safe.
What if I catch Coronavirus while I’m pregnant?
There is still very little known about Coronavirus in pregnancy. There has been a small study by Frontiers in Pediatrics where four pregnant women in Wuhan, China, who had all tested positive for COVID-19 were followed, and three gave consent for their babies to be tested for the virus. Of the three, none of the babies tested positive and all four babies were healthy and well when they left the hospital and did not have any symptoms of the fever.
You may have heard about one case where a new born tested positive for coronavirus (mum also had coronavirus), but there are suggestions that this could have perhaps been contracted after birth as the baby wasn’t tested until 36 hours after being born.
In addition to this, coronavirus hasn't been found in umbilical cords, breastmilk or amniotic fluid, so currently, there isn’t anything to say that your baby can contract coronavirus from you if you have coronavirus while pregnant.
As for giving your baby breastmilk, there is no evidence that the Covid-19 virus can pass into our milk and, as breast milk is likely to give your baby added antibody protection against Covid-19 as well as all the other bugs that are common at this time of year. Even if you have the virus yourself, the benefits of breastfeeding still outweigh the risk of you passing the virus on by coughing or sneezing say the Royal College of Midwives. If you do have the virus and are breastfeeding, it is obviously important to try and keep pumps, bottles and your breast area very clean and try and wear a facemask if you can get your hands on one.
Should I be worried about catching coronavirus in the hospital?
Although hospitals are very clean places, it's understandable that you might feel concerned about catching coronavirus while you're there.
If you're due to give birth in the coming months in a hospital and are worried about possibly contracting the virus there, you should talk with your midwife or doctor about any concerns you may have. It might be worth having a think about other back up options if the prospect of a hospital is causing you anxiety.
IVF clinics are now open. Health minister Matt Hancock said, "Now that we are past the peak, I am delighted to announce the restoration of fertility services. People who are relying on fertility treatment have been worried during these unprecedented times not knowing when they could continue their journey to start a family. We wanted to open these clinics as soon as it was safe to do so and our strict guidelines will ensure staff and patients remain safe as we continue to tackle this virus."
Sally Cheshire, spokesperson for The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said, "Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to consider how treatment could resume quickly and safely for as many patients as possible and our clear plan sets out how clinics can treat and care for patients safely during the continuing Covid-19 pandemic."
How parents are dealing with coronavirus (COVID-19)
How do we as parents cope with a lockdown and what can we do to ensure the home stays as happy and peaceful as possible in these difficult times?
Mumfluencer and Mother&Baby collumnist Louise Pentland shared some wise words in her most recent collumn in the magazine.
'Take the pressure off - nobody is expecting you to be a Super Mum. You don't have to have a gourmet meal on the hob while you home school the older children and lay out Pinterest-worthy sensory play for the baby. If you try to achieve all this you'll burn out.'
Maintain some structure
Although you don't have to be out the door by a certain time, it's important to maintain a routine for your day. So while it might be tempting to stay in your pyjamas all morning, try to wake up at your usual time, get dressed, get the family dressed and have a productive day.
If you have time, make a fun timetable for the family. It doesn't have to be strict, it can just be a list of jobs or ideas to do that day and can be a good resolution to the constant 'i'm bored' moaning you'll be hearing.
Having that little yay dance inside is very important for both you and your children and while you might usually get that feeling of achievement from work and they might feel it at school, it's important to maintain having those little feelings of accomplishment.
Both you and your children can mimic these feelings at home. Whether they have a really good clear out of their bedrooms or you FINALLY clean out the oven! Try and do something each day that will give you that feeling.
Alisa Adams says: "I highly recommend the calm app for a moment out if you are feeling really anxious and I sometimes do it with my children, we all lay on the floor and deep breathe listening"
Andie Langridge: "I'm really struggling to get basic medicine for my toddler because panic buyers are grabbing it all. My daughter has a nasty cold and is also teething and finding Calpol in shops has been a struggle so i'm using honey and lemon to soothe her."
Kelly MacDonald: "We are just carrying on as normal for now. My husband is a training instructor for the fire service. The building alongside his has been shut down so they are working from home but my husband is currently just still going into work until they know anything further about working from home. He’s also an on call crew manager firefighter so won’t have much choice about attending calls since it’s part of the emergency services. We have six children and I have asthma. I have sent my children to school as normal since I feel that's the safest anyway at the moment. My worry is school closing and as my husband has to go to work anyway attending vulnerable people that we are more likely to get it being isolated..."
Tiffany Fitzpatrick: "I’m worried about my two nans! Both have loads of underlying conditions and both in their 80s. My mum is her mum's carer, but even mum's 60 with health issues herself! And quite a few people look after my dad's mum, again all over 70!"
Celia Stanworth: "I’m a Church bellringer and the big national competition has just been cancelled (eliminators next weekend, final in June). However the thing that's hitting us hardest is our local groups are shutting down, as has the local mental health café. We aren’t self isolating, but we’re feeling isolated."
Emma Dart: "For now we’re carrying on as normal but being extra vigilant with hygiene...trying to make sure the kids do the same - wiping down the high chairs in our local coffee shop etc. For now our baby groups are still running and we’re starting a drop off point at the local school for supplies to distribute to the elderly and vulnerable. I do find people stock piling incredibly selfish as there are many families who can’t afford to do this and live day-to-day. A month ago people were spreading the hashtag #bekind because a celebrity had taken their own life and the sentiment seems to have been quickly forgotten by many."
Neha Lau: "Having to carry on as normal, I work for the NHS so have no choice. Worried if schools and nursery close as they are my childcare, and we have been told it would be unpaid careers leave if we have to stay at home to look after them! Plus with an 18 month old I don't think I will able to get any work done at home. Will have to work something out with the hubby. It's crazy seeing the shelves empty. I had to try several big supermarkets before I could get nappies. Feel so sorry for the people struggling to get basic medication like paracetamol or baby formula. It's crazy!
Alexandra Bufton: "I've made the decision to take my daughters out of school and nursery. My 8-year-old is asthmatic and and I have 6-month-old who was premature and born with respiratory distress syndrome and had breathing support. I’m not willing to test her lungs and immune system just yet. My husband is self employed but luckily he works alone 90% of the time and we can’t afford my daughter bringing it home and stopping him working until necessary."
Here’s everything you need to know about the latest news:
All children in England should be back to school by September.
Schools remain open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Children in year one and year six classes are now allowed to return to school but this is up to parents.
Parents will be "strongly encouraged" to send their children to school but attendance fines won't be issued.
Classes will be taught in groups of around 15, with assemblies, breaktimes and drop off/pick up times staggered to reduce contact.
Childminders and nannies who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to work, as long as their employer can implement goverment safety measures.
If only one parent is a key worker, the other parent will be expected to take care of their child at home.
Exams in England and Wales will not go ahead. It’s still not clear what will replace them.
With many children missing up to six-months of school in total during the isolation period, the Government have announced a £1bn fund for tutoring and catch-up lessons so that these pupils don't fall behind.
Although many of the details of the scheme haven't been confirmed, teachers will be able to choose which pupils need some extra support and lessons to catch-up with their class mates.
If you have older children and you are relying on the internet for them to access online learning tools, it's likely that your broadband connection will struggle to support the grown-ups working from home and the little ones learning from home. If this is the case in your household, the Government have reassured parents that they are working closely with broadband providers in the UK to improve connections and ensure UK homes have a good connection to the internet. You can read more about the resources and tools provided by the government to support home schooling here.
"Try TedEd – we have found this brilliant. They’re small, educational Ted Talks for kids that they can watch while you work. You can create your own lessons too – perfect for parents now home-schooling. Check them out here."
"Reading Eggs is also great for home-schooling. Children just work through it themselves, learning to read with games, songs and little motivational rewards to let them know they’re achieving. It alleviates any parental screen-time guilt too. That being said, I don’t feel guilty that they are on their screens more – we’re all just doing our best."
"It's also good to get creative, we’ve actually found boredom to be healthy. Kids are so rarely bored these days, and this their time to be as creative as they want. Coming up with their own games, using their imaginations and having fun with it. You can still incorporate this into their learning time and really enjoy the time with them," says Anna.
Best buys for homeschooling
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Save on paper when trying to explain that maths problem with this helful whiteboard. They'll not only come in very handy over the next few months while home schooling but they're great for revision sessions further down the line.
Ideal for little ones who are just learning to count to 100 or older children when they need some visual help with fractions, patterns and sorting. This pack of 100 colourful blocks are great for the more tactile learners during home maths lessons.
Learning timestables can be tough (we can still remember the fear of forgetting our seven times tables in class). If you're finding your child is losing concentration, these useful flashcards might help when boredom strikes.
Get your weeks organised with this handy planner. Colour coded to each member of your family, this timetable helps reduce the stress and remind you what needs to be done each day, whether it's a report you need to write or a worksheet your little ones need to prepare.
It's still important to congratulate your child if they do well as they would be at school. These stickers are great to give out when your child impresses you and work as insentives for them to work hard.
Try to keep to a proper timetable and speed up the time it takes your children to complete a task with this handy timer. Set it to the time your children have to finish that piece of work and place somewhere they can see it to remind them how much time they have left to complete the worksheet
How to work from home while looking after children
You’ve got a house full, the youngest is crying, your toddler is bored and you and your partner have a heap of work to get on with.
Working from home can be a real challenge, especially with coronavirus forcing the whole family to stay at home for the time being.
If you can’t get a babysitter and if grandparents are worried about their own health and won’t take over, there are ways to make working from home with children work for you and your family.
Have a schedule
If you live with your partner who can also be at home, you are in an easier position to split your time fairly between working and looking after your children.
In the current coronavirus crisis, employers are aware that childcare isn’t going to be an option and that they might have to be a little more flexible when it comes to their employee’s who have children.
It might be a good idea for one of you to start working at 6am until 2pm and one to start working 11am until 7pm (as long as it is okay with your employer) with a break spent together for lunch. That way, your kids will only have to entertain themselves for a few hours in the day. You can also schedule meetings and phone calls into the time when you know you won’t be disturbed by your new little colleagues.
During this time, you can set bigger kids up with school tasks, sit them down with a film, get them to complete chores, have nap time, play-time and even arts and crafts if you’re feeling brave.
Making it work on your own
If you are on your own, try to take as many breaks throughout the day as you can to make sure your children are okay and give them your undivided attention even, if it’s just five minutes here and five minutes there. Taking some time to make sure your little ones have something to keep themselves occupied will make it easier for you to focus your mind on work when you are at your desk.
Get up earlier
It sounds obvious but the earlier you wake up before your babies the more undisturbed work time you can get in. It’s a good idea to use these undisturbed hours for those tasks that take a little more brain power and leave the easier tasks for the time when you are likely to be more distracted by your children.
Involve your children
If you have a desk space where you are working and your toddlers just won’t settle, try to involve them with your work. Set up their own workstations near you and set some simple tasks for them to complete while you’re working.
There’s no guaranteeing how long this will keep them occupied for, but pretending they’re one of your colleagues in the office will certainly keep them entertained long enough for you to catch up with emails!
Remember, these are strange and testing times for everyone so give yourself a break if everything seems a little overwhelming. If you don’t finish all the work you planned to, that’s okay.
The most important thing is that you and your family remain healthy and happy throughout this period of uncertainty and things will get better.
Our expert says: Working from home with children is challenging as they want your attention
We spoke to Angela J Spencer, author of Babyopathy who says:
"If your children are old enough to understand your schedule, that sometimes you will be working and that they have to entertain themselves, then that’s great. If not, you may have to schedule taking turns with your partner to work or make the most of nap times!"
"Make sure you schedule some times to do things together. This is a great opportunity to teach them gardening, cooking, painting and other crafts - you could send some masterpieces to brighten an elderly neighbour’s home for example!"
"It is important to keep a routine for the children or they may find it difficult to focus. Although it’s easy to rely on the TV, ideally this should only be for a maximum of two hours across the whole day so maybe save it for when you need to make important phone calls!"
"Making sure the children get enough exercise - fresh air will help to keep their sleep patterns from being disrupted and eating fresh fruit and vegetables where possible helps to boost their immune system too."
"It’s a great opportunity for the whole family to take up mindfulness or meditation as relationships are going to be tested and being able to remain calm is going to be a welcome string to every parents bow!”
Parents are being advised not to ask grandparents to take care of children because of their vulnerability to the virus. This means many parents will be forced to miss work days or try and work flexibly around childcare. Ask your employer their advice during these strange circumstances before figuring out how you can make childcare and your job work for you.
Many schools have set up helpful homework packs, online tutoring and also, many teachers are planning to run their classes online over video. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re clear on what your child’s teacher has planned before their last day.
Lockdown: What we can and can't do
Although our routines will be changing for a while, it's important for us to stay positive and remember that this is not forever. We also have to make sure we're clued up on what we can and can’t do during this period for the sake of our NHS.
The speech made clear that we shouldn’t be leaving the house unless it’s absolutely necessary for a small number of reasons listed below:
Shopping for basic necessities like food and medicine "as infrequently as possible" and use food delivery services "where you can"
Any medical need, to give care or to help a vulnerable person
Travelling to and from work, but only if this is "absolutely necessary" and cannot be done from home
If you are a key worker, working in the critical sector such as the NHS, you are still able to leave the house to take your children to school.
Other things to remember
If you're doing some exercise outside of the home or getting any fresh air, you should remain at least two metres away from anyone outside your household when walking or exercising out and about.
You can now see friends and family that don't live in your home as long as you remain two meters away from them.
The below have all been forced to close until further notice:
Shops selling clothing and electronics
Hair, beauty and nail salons
Libraries, community centres and youth centres
Playgrounds, outdoor gyms and sports courts
Places of worship
Outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets
Bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities
Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use. This excludes permanent residents and key workers
These temporary measures are enforceable by the police who have the power to fine those who aren’t following the new guidelines.
The Prime Minister also said that these restrictions are being kept under constant review and should remain in place for at least the next few weeks until being reassessed. The government will then assess whether it is safe enough to relax the rules.
Exercise: Rules on exercise are easing up with places such as golf courses and tennis courts now open. You can of course also go for a cycle, walk or run on a route where you’re unlikely to bump into many others.
Fresh air: It’s finally starting to feel like summer so if you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space or garden, it’s important to spend plenty of time out there. If not, head to your local park with a picnic.
Socialising: You’re bound to be missing your family during this difficult period, but it’s more important than ever to use clever technology to communicate with our loved ones over video call, audio call and messages.
Food: If you can, book a supermarket delivery slot as soon as you can to avoid going out to the shops. Alternatively, you should try to minimise any supermarket visits where possible so if it’s only a few bits you need, it might be worth asking a neighbour when they’re next visiting the shops.
Community: Spare a thought for those who are vulnerable and lonely over the next few months and make sure you try and be there for them as much as possible by offering to shop for them, walk their dog or even just a quick phonecall every evening to check-in with them. Use the hashtag #CommunityMatters and tag @motherandbaby to let us know how you're supporting your community over on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
While we all do our best to get through these strange times together, it's okay if you feel like you might need some extra help and support right now and there's plenty of suport available to you in the link below.
Have something you want to ask that we haven’t answered here? We want to know what you’re going through, what your experience is, what your concerns are - post now in mumtribe where we, or one of our thousands of mum members, will be able to help! You are not alone! We are #onemum. We are #mumtribe.
Lorna is the digital executive and regular contributor for Mother&Baby. After running the Yours magazine website which specialises in content about caring for kids and grandchildren, she has now brought her expertise to the UK's #1 leading pregnancy and parenting magazine. Lorna specialises on a range of topics from potty training and nutrition, to everything and anything that will keep your tot occupied!
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