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Babies born during pandemic show slight developmental delays, studies find – Parents shouldn’t worry

by on 08/03/2022 2383

The first few years of life are crucial to children’s brain development, and little ones need to be exposed to meaningful experiences and relationships for optimal health and development down the road. However, in 2020, the pandemic hit. With childcare centres closed and everyone forced to stay at home, babies had very limited contact with the outside world except their parents. This affects the way this cohort of babies moves, plays, acts, learns and speaks. Two different studies revealed that these infants had slight developmental delays in social-emotional and motor skills, compared to those born before the pandemic.

Image credit: Little dreamers childcare centre

A new study by Dr Dumitriu, published in JAMA Pediatrics, indicated that babies born between March and December 2020 scored lower in their developmental screening test than their pre-pandemic peers. Both fine and gross motor skills, as well as social-emotional development, showed the biggest decline. This was regardless of whether the mothers had COVID-19 or not during pregnancy. 

“The pandemic’s effect on a pregnant person’s stress levels could help explain the lags,” says Dr Dumitriu, the lead researcher of this study.

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Researchers from a Brown University study concurred in the findings that babies born during 2020 and 2021 scored lower in their fine and gross motor skills, and verbal and cognitive development vs. the preceding decade, 2011 to 2019.

The lead researcher, Sean Deoni, explains why babies’ early foundational skills are affected: “When you think about it, it all adds up. Everyone’s avoiding large gatherings, playgroups, and babies also had no relatives visiting them and wanting to play with them.”

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But before you get all worried about your child, these studies were only conducted based on a very small group of women and babies in the United States. More importantly, “children are resilient,” says Dr Samantha Rodman Whiten, a clinical psychologist. “The best approach would be to increase the amount of enriching, active things to do with your baby.”

Bolster your kids’ confidence with these 5 steps to resilience.

What you can do to help your child hit developmental milestones?

Here are some fun and great ways to help your baby, or now toddler, catch up:

  • Babies and young children are very curious about everything they see and hear at these early stages. Talk to them during everyday activities like during mealtimes. Help develop their language by adding to words they start. For example, if your toddler says “nana”, you can respond, “Ya, that’s a ba-na-na.”
  • Read simple books to them, and play music and sing to them. They love nursery rhymes and games at this age. Try Humpty Dumpty or Old McDonald had a farm, or playing different games like sock puppets.
  • “Oh hey, let’s play!” Encourage them to explore and try new things. Have a go at simple learning activities that are designed to boost their skills, while keeping them entertained, such as pretending to make phone calls, make music with spoons and pots, pour and scoop with water or sand, find and fetch objects, play dress up, sensory play, and the list goes on.    

If you are concerned that your child’s development is delayed or if there is an identified disability, schedule a screening appointment with one of our recommended professionals.

Looking to ensure that your child is receiving the very best care possible to achieve their milestones, click here.