700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Mask Safety 101: Why You Shouldn’t Mask a Baby

Apr 06, 2020
making a face mask

As the coronavirus pandemic evolves, so do the recommendations. One of the most recent recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to wear “cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” However, it is extremely important to note that the CDC specifically states that “cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

Even before this recommendation, homemade masks were being produced by talented and creative people worldwide to help with the pandemic and shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). These skills are appreciated, but should not be marketed for babies and infants to wear. These products (infant masks, masks attached to pacifiers, etc.) may pose more harm than benefit in terms of safety for children under the age of 2 years old.

Why Are Cloth Masks Being Recommended?

To help slow the spread of the virus in public settings.Some people do not have any symptoms but can still transmit the virus to others.

What Are the Different Kinds of Masks?

  • Cloth masks can be made at home from common materials; they may help prevent spread of infection by acting as a barrier for when the wearer sneezes, coughs or speaks.
  • Surgical, or loop masks, also may help prevent infection; you may see these being provided by health care organizations for employees or visitors in order to protect against large droplets or bodily fluids.
  • N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare workers. These masks protect the wearer against small particles that are considered airborne. Many healthcare professionals are required to have special testing and training to ensure these fit properly for optimal protection.

Why Shouldn’t My Infant Use a Mask?

  • Baby’s airways are smaller, so breathing through a mask is even harder on them.
  • Using a mask on an infant may increase the risk of suffocation. Masks are harder to breathe through. A snug fit will give them less access to air, and a loose fit will not provide much protection.
  • If they are having are hard time breathing, infants are unable to take the mask off themselves and could suffocate.
  • Older infants or young toddlers are not likely to keep the mask on and will likely try to remove it, as well as touch their face more.
  • There are no N95 masks approved for young children.

How Can I Protect My Infant?

  • Limit exposure and avoid unnecessary public contact.
  • If going out is essential, cover the infant carrier (NOT THE INFANT) with a blanket, which helps protect the baby, but still gives them the ability to breathe comfortably. Do not leave the blanket on the carrier in the car or at any time when the baby and carrier are not in direct view.
  • Keep hands clean. Frequent hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds is optimal, but hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol is the next best substitute.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, light switches and electronics often.
  • Teach older children to avoid touching their faces.
  • If a parent cannot leave the young infant at home and is pressed to go into the public, keep the outing short and always follow the 6 feet distancing rule.
  • Remember to always wash your hands (and any siblings hands) as soon as you return home.

The world as we once knew it may have changed, but safe sleep guidelines have not. Remember, infants should be placed alone, on their back, in an empty crib in a non-smoking home. Pacifiers have been shown to have a protective effect on the incidence of SIDS, but ONLY the pacifier with no attachments like bands or animals, and especially not masks.

If you are breastfeeding and have symptoms of illness, you can continue to breastfeed but in order to decrease the chance of spreading the illness to your infant:

  • Make sure you wash your hands before touching your baby.
  • Wear a mask when holding and/or breastfeeding your baby.
  • If you are pumping, wash your hands before touching the pump or bottle parts and then clean all parts after use by washing parts that are washable with hot soapy water or using disinfectant wipes on parts that are not washable.

For coronavirus information and updates, please visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.