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COVID-19 pandemic has cut parents’ access to hospitalized children

Pediatricians have long endorsed the idea that babies and children in hospitals should not be separated from their families – a practice that in many facilities was restricted or discontinued to limit COVID-19 infections, according to new research.

From mid-May through early July, researchers collected survey responses from 96 pediatric care units in 22 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The results – mostly from intensive care units for newborns – showed that before the pandemic, 87% of units welcomed families and 92% encouraged skin-to-skin care, according to a report published in Journal of Perinatology.

After the onset of the pandemic, more than 83% of the hospital units restricted family presence, with additional restrictions placed on parental participation in their infant’s care, said study coauthor Ita Litmanovitz of Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel. Hospitals’ decisions to limit family access did not depend on their previous rules, the availability of single-family rooms, or the virus infection rate in the hospital’s geographical area.

“Restrictions during the pandemic increased separation between the infant and family,” the researchers found. These restrictions, Litmanovitz added, “go against psychological and neuroscientific evidence in support of unrestricted parental presence and ability to care for their hospitalized infants.”

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