Resources for Those Pregnant and Parenting During COVID-19

Last revised on September 8 2020.

Helping Children Cope During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Being apart from friends and family can be challenging for everyone. For children and teens, it can be even more difficult. It is important that everyone practice physical distancing, but this idea can be hard for children to understand. Knowing the most up to date information is the first step to helping your family stay safe.  Learn more on the Framework for Reopening our Province: Stage 3. 

Here are some things parents can do to help their children cope with this situation. 

  • Reassure them that they are safe 

  • Encourage them to ask questions, and to talk about how they feel 

  • Be understanding – they may have problems sleeping, be upset, and need extra care and attention 

  • Remember that kids look to their parents to feel safe and to know how to respond – reassure them and let them know you’ll tackle this together 

  • Try to keep to normal routines and schedules – allow them to get outside and have supervised play. This is not a play date, so while out, remind them to keep 2 metres or 6 feet from those not part of their social circle 

  • Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends or other kids their age through supervised video chats or phone calls 

Physical Distancing for Parents, Teens and Children

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people with whom you and your family come into close contact. This is critical to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. Though being apart from friends and family can be challenging even for adults, it can feel more like the end of the world for children and teens. 

The concept of physical distancing applies outside your home. Household contacts (people you live with) and those within your social circle do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled within the past 14 days. Physical distance and emotional distance are not the same. These recommendations are meant to keep physical space from other households, while staying emotionally connected!  

Parents are the role models. You also set boundaries, enforce household rules, and guide your children to make the right decisions. Physical distancing can be an opportunity for your family. You can become closer, get to know each other again, create new memories and experiences, and learn new skills together! Ottawa Public Health (OPH) encourages you to go about your daily activities while continuing to protect yourself and others. Together, let’s teach our children about social responsibility! 

Some quick examples of what physical distancing can look like for a family: 

  • Staying connected with family or friends through the use of technology such as video chatting and texting 

  • Trying out new hobbies 

  • Learning new skills such as cooking, carpentry, baking, sewing, computer programming, etc. 

  • Spending time together indoors doing activities such as puzzles, board games, video games, watching movies 

  • Spending time outside together going for a walk, bike ride, hike or a visit to the park – make sure to stay 2 metres (or 6 feet) from others while in common outdoor spaces. Where you cannot stay physically distant, it is recommended to wear a mask. 

  • Reading, reorganizing, or decorating 

  • Having the children help with the cooking and household chores 

As the city reopens and  more services open such as restaurant patios, malls, and playgrounds, these places still pose a risk. Remember to keep 2 metres (or 6 feet) from others at all times, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly, avoid touching your face, and follow the rules on the use of masks. 

Hand Hygiene for Children

Keeping children's hands clean is the best way to keep them from getting sick and spreading germs. Babies and young children often put their hands in their mouths, making it more likely to spread germs that cause illness. 

Useful links: 

Physical Activity 

Physical activity and fresh air support a healthy body and a healthy mind. This is important to be able to fight a virus. Anyone who is not showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and is not on self-isolation under the Quarantine Act, should try to get outside for fresh air and exercise to maintain their health during these difficult times. Going for a walk, a bike ride, or a hike all while maintaining physical distancing of 2 metres or 6 feet can help your family feel less isolated. Why not go geocaching, feed the birds, or discover a new walking trail? Go to the beach, work in the garden, or mow a neighbour’s lawn. 

Useful links: 

Back to School and/or Learning at Home 

Parents, please refer to your school board for their school reopening plans which includes online programming and resources: 

Learning at Home 

While it may not be delivering the curriculum or incorporating evaluations, there are things you can do to bring a sense of normalcy and stability for you and your children. A routine brings some comfort to children in these stressful times. Sit down with your children and ask them what they think the new routine should be.  

Please see below for some tips to help your child continue to learn virtually: 

  • Stay in touch with your child’s school. 

  • Review online assignments, and help your child plan their week to complete the work. You may need to help your child with turning on devices, reading instructions, and typing answers. 

  • Connect with your school about challenges. If you face technology or connectivity issues, or if your child is having a hard time finishing assignments, let the school know. 

  • Create a schedule and routine for learning at home but stay flexible. 

  • Have the same bedtimes and get up at the same time, Monday through Friday. 

  • Structure the day for learning, free time, healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity. 

  • Allow flexibility in the schedule — it’s okay to change the schedule based on your day. 

  • Think about your child’s needs and the need to adapt the activities or lessons to their age group 

  • Talk to your child about what you expect. 

  • Think about ways your child can stay connected with their friends without being at school. 

  • Look for ways to make learning fun. 

  • Have hands-on activities, like puzzles, painting, drawing, and making things. 

  • Free play can also be used in place of structured learning. Encourage children to build a fort from sheets or practice counting by stacking blocks. 

  • Practice handwriting and grammar by writing letters to family members or the local retirement residence. This is a great way to connect and limit face-to-face contact. 

  • Start a journal with your child to document this time and discuss the experience. 

  • Use audiobooks or see if your local library is hosting virtual or live-streamed reading events. 

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Babies (FAQs)

Pregnancy and COVID-19

1. Are pregnant people more likely to get COVID-19?

New information is being learned about COVID-19 all the time. Right now, pregnant people do not seem more likely to get COVID-19 then others. There is also no evidence that suggests pregnant women are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, nor that a developing child could be negatively affected by COVID-19.

2. Are pregnant people more at risk with COVID-19?

Right now, there are not a lot of studies on the effects of COVID-19 in pregnant women. However, it is known that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects. Because of this it is always important that pregnant people protect themselves from illness. Generally, based on knowledge of other respiratory illnesses in pregnancy, issues are usually because of changes to blood volume and breathing during pregnancy and any pre-existing respiratory issues.

3. How can you protect yourself from COVID-19 when pregnant? 

Throughout pregnancy, women experience changes in their bodies that may increase the risk of other illnesses, such as viral respiratory infections. This is why it is important for pregnant women, especially those at high risk of developing severe complications, to take the following precautions to protect against the possibility of becoming sick:

  • Stay home as much as possible, except for important medical appointments.
  • Talk to your doctor, obstetrician, or midwife about the possibility of telephone or videoconference appointments.
  • Avoid unnecessary visitors to your home.

Pregnant women must also do the same things as the general public to avoid infection and help stop the spread of COVID-19

4. Can a birthing person with COVID-19 pass the virus to the fetus?

A lot is still being learned about COVID-19 but right now there are no reports of transmission of COVID-19 from a birthing parent to baby before delivery nor has the virus been detected in samples of amniotic fluid. As more is learned, we will update this information.

5. For pregnant health care providers

Each person’s circumstance is different. Their pregnancy history, risk of exposure in their workplace, and health status will all influence their level of risk. If you are a health care professional who is pregnant, consult your health care provider and the occupational health and safety department in your workplace to determine how you can best protect yourself. Personal protective equipment and good overall hygiene practice remain the foundation for maintaining good health. Additional measures may be advisable on a case-by-case basis. 

6. Should I still go to my prenatal or post-partum appointments?

As the COVID19 situation continues to evolve, it is best to connect with your primary health care provider to discuss your appointments. Some health care providers are screening all clients prior to seeing them at the clinic, while many are having phone appointments. Each situation is unique, so it is best to call your health care professional for the most up-to date information.

For information about pregnancy and post-partum resources, see the link below.

*Note: due to COVID-19 many sites have changed their services. Please call or check online before heading out.

7. Childbirth 

If you plan to give birth in a hospital or a birthing centre, learn about the policies in place. Most hospitals and birthing centres have reduced visitors or a no-visitor policy. In most cases, only one support person may be permitted. Your support person is not considered a visitor, as they stay with you throughout your hospital stay.

If you plan to give birth at home, talk to your midwife about whether homebirths are still an option in your area during the pandemic, and what precautions to take to ensure your home environment is safe.

If you have COVID-19, talk to your health care provider about the plans for your birth. Birth plans will be based on your preferences, the safety of the care provider, as well as obstetric recommendations. Your health care provider may consult perinatal (around birth), neonatal (for the baby), infectious disease and intensive care specialists, as required.

For more information visit Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns: Advice for mothers (COVID-19).
Breastfeeding and Chestfeeding

1. Can I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Human milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the infant, even while the breastfeeding parent is ill. Plus, there is no evidence, right now, that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, meaning the benefits of human milk outweigh the risks of spreading COVID-19 through human milk. Parents with COVID-19 should wash their hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item that the baby will touch and anytime they sneeze or cough on their hands. They should also wear a face mask, if possible, when feeding or handling the baby.
2. Can I express (this includes pumping manually or with a pump) human milk if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Human milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the infant, even while the expressing parent is ill. Plus, there is no evidence, right now, that the virus can be spread through human milk. We recommend washing your hands before expressing human milk and/or before touching any pump or bottle parts as well as wearing a face mask and making sure to store expressed human milk safely. Also wash well all parts that come into contact with human milk.

3. Can COVID-19 pass through human milk?
COViD-19 spreads through respiratory droplets. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in human milk; however, we still don’t know for sure if breast/chestfeeding parents with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via human milk. Parents can feed or continue to feed their babies human milk for the antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the baby, even while the breastfeeding parent is ill. 
4. What if I feel too sick to breastfeed my baby?

If a parent is too sick to feed their baby at the breast or chest and another healthy caregiver is caring for the baby, the breastfeeding parent can be encouraged and helped to express their milk to maintain their milk supply and so that the infant continues to receive it. Any sudden stop to breastfeeding can cause mastitis. Before expressing human milk, make sure to wash hands well with soap and water and, if using a pump, follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning. 

5. What can I do to protect my baby while bottle feeding?

Before feeding your baby make sure to wash hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item used for feeding. No matter how you feed your baby it is a special time and an opportunity to cuddle close. Consider limiting the number of people who bottle feed baby and wear a mask if you are coughing or feeling ill, to help to protect your baby.

For more information visit the World Health Organization's Q&A on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

 1. How can I protect my baby if I have COVID-19?
Parents with COVID-19 should be careful to avoid spreading it to their baby because babies are at higher risk when sick. Parents with COVID-19 should wash their hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item that the baby will touch (including during feeding) and anytime they sneeze or cough on their hands. They should also wear a face mask, if possible, when feeding or handling the baby.
2. What can I do to protect my baby while bottle feeding?
Before feeding your baby make sure to wash hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item used for feeding. No matter how you feed your baby it is a special time and an opportunity to cuddle close. Consider limiting the number of people who bottle feed baby and wear a mask if you are coughing or feeling ill, to help to protect your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can children get COVID-19?
Yes, children can get COVID-19. Generally, their symptoms will be mild. If you think  your child has COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, use the Ontario Government self-assessment tool to help determine how to seek further care. 
2. Can my child be tested for COVID-19?

Children over 6 months can be tested at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and children under 6 months at CHEO. See Ottawa Public Health’s website for details on testing.

3. How can I talk to my kids about COVID-19? 
Start by informing yourself. You can find up-to-date information on our novel coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage. Reassure them that they are safe and encourage them to talk about how they feel and to ask questions. From the information you read, you may need to explain or simplify the information depending on your child’s age. Remind them of all the things they have control over to stay healthy: hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette, keeping their hands away from their faces, staying healthy.

Visit these useful links:

4. How can I help my children cope with the stress and worry about COVID-19?
Many children will look to their parents for information and reassurance. Being away from school, away from their friends and cancelling gatherings can be hard on kids. While some kids will adapt more easily, others may struggle.  As a parent, be calm, provide reliable information and answer their questions.  Reassure them that you are there to help them and that life will return to “normal”.

For children who may need additional support, please contact:

Useful links:

5. How can I help my youth tackle the blues during COVID-19 and physical distancing?

Social or physical distancing – a new term that has become a common household phrase– can make youth feel confused, scared, frustrated, worried, guilty, sad, and lonely. Youth are being asked to change their routines: school and work are different, and they can’t socialize in the ways that they are used to. For youth who were already feeling sad, depressed, or lonely, having to distance themselves from others (or for some, to self-isolate), can make the symptoms of depression—like feeling irritable or hopeless—even worse. 

Visit this useful link for more information: 

6. My child has an autism spectrum disorder and is struggling. What can I do?

Children and teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder often like routines and rituals and don’t like to change. Changes at school and cancelled activities can be very disruptive for them. This can be a challenge not only for the individuals, but also for their families. 

Visit these useful links for more information: 

7. How can I address increased substance use with my youth during COVID-19?

While COVID-19 is less likely to cause serious symptoms in younger people, it could be a more serious health threat if combined with vaping or smoking cigarettes or cannabis.

Useful link:

8. Can my children play outside during COVID-19?

Anyone who is not showing signs of illness and is not on self-isolation under the Quarantine Act should try to get outside for fresh air and exercise to maintain their health during these difficult times.  When you or your children are outside, remember to practice physical distancing. That means staying 2 meters or 6 feet away from anyone you see. Passing someone on a sidewalk is not considered a high-risk activity for infection with COVID-19.   

Useful link: 

9. Can children use play structures in parks when playing outside?

Learn more on the Framework for Reopening our Province: Stage 3

Park and play equipment also encourage multiple users. More importantly, the surfaces are not being cleaned and could potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. 

Learn more on the new guidelines for the use of City parks.

10. How do I explain to my kids that they can’t play with other kids?
Being away from friends and family can be difficult for kids. When people who are infected with the virus stay home, they can’t pass it to anyone else. This way, we are protecting our friends, our family members and our community. If your child is healthy, then enforce how important it is for friends to stay home to protect them. Talk about your family as a circle: each person you come into contact with makes your circle bigger. The bigger the circle, the more the risk of getting sick. Your friend brings everyone they have come into contact with into your circle when you play together! If you so choose, create a social circle for your family to help feel more connected.  
11. I need to work from home, but I also have kids in the house. What can I do?

Needing to work from home with kids around can be challenging and stressful. Kids may not be used to having their parent at home, but not able to spend much time with them. Talk to your kids about your responsibilities. Make a schedule for the day. Set some time where you will be able to do an activity with them. Talk to your employer about possible accommodations for work hours that work with your family. Be patient with yourself, and make sure to take time for yourself.

Useful links:

12. I’m feeling overwhelmed. What can I do?
It's normal for situations like COVID-19 to affect your mental health. Everyone will experience these events in their own way. It is completely natural to feel stress and concern. Practicing positive coping strategies will help you cope, and will show your children how they too, can cope. Visit our Mental Health and COVID_19 page for resources that are available to you.

Useful link:

13. What if I get sick or need to self-isolate? How can I take care of my children?
If you are self-isolating, experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, you should avoid contact with other people, including your children. Make alternate arrangements with family members, friends, or neighbours.

If this is unrealistic for you, here are a few tips to minimize the risk:

  • Minimize the amount of time your children are in shared spaces with you, such as the kitchen or the living room.
  • Keep the shared spaces well ventilated.
  • If possible, use a different bedroom and washroom from others.
  • Wash your hands often, cover your cough with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Wash touched surfaces frequently.
  • If you need to be in a room with other people, wear a mask. If you cannot wear one, have others wear one.
  • Keep a 2 metre (6 feet) distance from others.
  • Have your kids wash their hands often.

Current evidence suggests that children who contract the virus have a lower risk of having serious symptoms.

14. If my child is sick, what do I do?
Generally, children who have COVID-19 get mild symptoms. Follow the Guide for caregivers, household members, and close contacts if you are caring for someone who has the virus.
15. How can I talk to my child about having to work outside the home?   
Children may get anxious when one of their parents works outside the home, particularly in health care. Frontline Resilience has resources and info sheets for children of frontline workers.
16. What if my child needs medical attention unrelated to COVID-19?

Even during a pandemic, other health issues may arise. Many clinics are doing phone appointments. The best way to know what to do is to call your health care provider, and get information on how they are handling medical issues not related to COVID-19. 

Your child may need medical attention that is unrelated to COVID-19.  If that is the case, call your health care provider.  If they are unavailable, and you require urgent care, please visit the CHEO Emergency Department.

17. Can my toddler wear a mask?

Never place a mask on young children under age two.  Small children may have difficulty breathing when their mouth or nose are covered.

Learn more on masks and children.


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