[Update: March, 28: The first U.S. infant death associated with COVID-19 occurred in Illinois and health officials are investigating, urging people to follow physical distancing practices.]

As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, parents were relived by the CDC's assurance that "based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults."

But new research is emerging that shows while children with COVID-19 usually don't get as sick as adults, the youngest age groups—infants and preschoolers—see more severe cases than older kids do. According to a new study posted online pre-publication by the journal Pediatrics, babies and preschoolers can become severely ill if they get COVID-19.


The journal took the step of posting the study online before publication as a means to expedite the spread of this information. The scientists want us to know that little kids are not immune to this. They don't want us to panic (just like with the previous studies, this one found that more than 90% of kids experience mild or moderate cases) but they do want us to be proactive.

It's time to cancel 1st birthdays, playdates and meet-ups with mom friends, because for about 6% of children, COVID-19 becomes a severe or critical illness, and the risks go up for younger kids. This recent study (which was looking at data from China) only 4% of kids between 6 and 15 developed severe cases, but in kids under 5 it was 7% and for kids under 1 it was nearly 11%. In adults, it's over 18%.

In the United States, researchers say more work needs to be done on this topic because understanding why children (in general) are less impacted than adults is necessary to stop the spread of this disease and make sure babies are protected.

Steven L. Zeichner, MD, PhD, the head of University of Virginia's Health's Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Andrea T. Cruz, MD, MPH, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine, co-authored a commentary that appears alongside the Chinese research in Pediatrics.

"First, while children are less likely to become severely ill than older adults, there are subpopulations of children with an increased risk for more significant illness," Zeichner and Cruz write.

They continue: "Another study in hospitalized Norwegian children detected [non-COVID-19] coronaviruses in 10% of hospitalized children with respiratory tract infections. Younger age, underlying pulmonary pathology, and immunocompromising conditions have been associated with more severe outcomes with non-COVID-19 coronavirus infections in children."

Bottom line: Kids aren't immune, and babies are at risk if people don't follow the recommendations. Keep your distance, keep up with your friends and family through phone calls, FaceTime and text and make sure everyone in your household is practicing good hand hygiene.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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