Can Babies Get COVID-19?

Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2022
According to the CDC, it's not common for newborns to be diagnosed with COVID-19. But there have been a few cases of newborns testing positive for the virus.
According to the CDC, it's not common for newborns to be diagnosed with COVID-19. But there have been a few cases of newborns testing positive for the virus.

Parenting a baby during COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can be stressful. As more people over 12 receive vaccines, many parents are left wondering how COVID-19 affects young children who can't yet be vaccinated.

Most cases of COVID-19 have been noted in adults and older children. Young children seem to have a lower risk of serious illness or death than older people, but they can be infected. Newborns and infants can get COVID-19.

Can newborns get COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's not common for newborns to be diagnosed with COVID-19. But there have been a few cases of newborns testing positive for the virus. Researchers don't know if these babies caught COVID-19 before, during, or after birth.

Most of the newborns who test positive for COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms. There are a few reports of babies who did develop serious symptoms.

So far, research has indicated that COVID-19 is not spread to newborns through breast milk.

The CDC recommends the following precautions for breastfeeding mothers who test positive for COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask when feeding or expressing milk for your baby.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before feeding or expressing milk.

Can older babies and young children get COVID-19?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been nearly 4.2 million cases of the novel coronavirus in children since the beginning of the pandemic. But the rates of hospitalization or death are significantly lower for children than adults.

Although most cases in children and infants are mild -- they may show no symptoms at all -- some cases have been very serious. There have been some documented deaths of infants from COVID-19 in the U.S. and worldwide.

If your infant or young child has an underlying medical condition, they may be more likely to have severe symptoms. Babies with asthma, diabetes, or who are otherwise immunocompromised may be at increased risk for dangerous symptoms or death from COVID-19.


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Do vaccinated mothers protect newborns through breast milk?

Though research is ongoing, two recent studies in Israel suggest that antibodies pass from a vaccinated mother to her newborn baby through breast milk. The studies examined the number of COVID-19 antibodies in the mothers' breast milk for the first 6 weeks of their babies' lives. Both studies suggest that there are significant amounts of antibodies that are transferred to newborns. These antibodies may help protect them from COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 in babies?

Doctors have observed that COVID-19 has the same incubation period in infants as in adults -- on average, 6-10 days. After that symptom-free period, babies and young children may begin to show the following symptoms of COVID-19:

Other symptoms of COVID-19 infections may be present in infants. They can be harder to notice because babies aren't able to explain what they are feeling. Researchers believe that babies with COVID-19 may also experience headaches, loss of taste or smell, abdominal pain, or sore throats.

How can you protect your baby from COVID-19?

Babies and young children can't yet receive vaccinations against COVID-19. The CDC also recommends that children under 2 not wear masks or face shields. There are a few reasons you shouldn't put a mask on your baby:

Babies have smaller airways than older children or adults. Breathing through a fabric layer is much more difficult for their small systems.

Babies can suffocate. Masks work best when they're tight-fitting, but that can increase your baby's risk of suffocation.

Babies can't communicate. If your baby is having a hard time breathing, they can't tell you.

Babies will try to remove the mask. In the process of trying to take their mask off, your baby may touch their face even more than usual, which may increase their risk of infection from COVID-19.

But there are a few easy ways to keep your baby safe and help prevent exposure to COVID-19:

  • Limit exposure to unvaccinated people or crowded indoor spaces.
  • Keep babies at least 6 feet away from people who don't live in the same household.
  • Minimize your own risk of getting COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before holding or feeding your baby.
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  • Keep surfaces in your home clean, especially doorknobs, countertops, remotes, and cell phones.

What to do if you think your baby has COVID-19

If you believe that your baby has COVID-19, contact your child's doctor. They will likely ask about your child's symptoms, exposure to anyone who has tested positive, and make a recommendation on getting your baby tested for COVID-19.

If your infant has any of the following symptoms, call 911 or seek immediate care at an emergency room:

  • Difficulty breathing or catching their breath
  • Inability to keep liquids down
  • Confusion
  • Inability to waken
  • Blue-colored lips

These symptoms and signs can indicate a medical emergency.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2022
American Academy of Pediatrics. "Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report," "Why type of coronavirus test should my child get?"

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. "Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers," "Newborns of COVID-vaccinated moms may be protected from infection."

Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Coronavirus in Babies and Kids: Symptoms and Prevention."

Nationwide Children's. "Mask Safety 101: Why You Shouldn't Mask a Baby."

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Breastfeeding and Caring for Newborns."