Dr Tessa Grigg and Bindy Cummings
Have you noticed your baby’s reactions to face masks? Masks significantly reduce the non-verbal communication babies would otherwise receive, which has had a measurable impact on the very young. While this and other public health measures have been necessary, there are important factors parents need to consider when nurturing a pandemic baby. This article explores some of these.
At the height of the lockdowns, delivery suites and birth experiences were altered. Birthing was more controlled, and in most cases, mothers were being discharged from hospitals very quickly. Also, because of infection risk, more babies than usual were separated and isolated from mothers and fathers at birth, reducing the amount of those all-important early ‘touch’ experiences received. These, and other pandemic circumstances, meant that additional stressors were experienced. At GymbaROO-KindyROO we know that stress and babies is not an ideal mix 1.
However, on a more positive note, there was a reduction in the number of premature babies 2 3. In Ireland, this reduction was as high as 90% when compared to the same four-month period over the last two decades. Researchers believe that this could be attributed to; lessened exposure to work stressors (such as commuting); fewer exposures to infection; better sleep and nutrition; better hygiene; social distancing and a reduction in air pollution 2.
While Green et al.’s 3 research focuses on some of the positive aspects, other researchers have found information that warrants careful consideration. Their research indicates that babies born during the pandemic, when significant public health measures were in place, were impacted by multiple stressors. Shuffery et al.,4 found that while COVID-19 infections did not decrease motor and cognitive skills in six month old infants, being born during the pandemic showed some concerning differences. Combine these with the added stress of parents and mask wearing, where the most effective non-verbal communication has been drastically reduced, and it would appear that the stress of the pandemic has resulted in measurable skill delays.
This may sound alarming, but there are some important factors to focus on. A child’s brain has high levels of plasticity, meaning that there is vast potential to change 5, 6. Parents who know what ‘feeds the brain’, are likely to encounter fewer issues. Helping parents understand how the young brain learns and what activities to do to promote healthy brain and body development is one of our highest priorities at GymbaROO-KindyROO. We teach parents easy techniques to provide their babies and young children with the richest of environments in which to thrive. While your baby may have encountered significant stress during their early months, the remedies are simple and effective. Come and join the fun and learning!
Dr Tessa Grigg (PhD, Dip Tch ECE and Primary) is the Research and Education Manager for GymbaROO-KindyROO. She has a wide range of experience teaching young children and adult students.
Bindy Cummings (B.Ed hons) is a teacher, a GymbaROO early childhood neuro-developmental consultant and the co-creator of GymbaROO’s Active Babies Smart Kids series. She has been writing articles for GymbaROO’s First Steps magazine, digital platforms and media for over ten years
- Russell, B.S., et al., Initial challenges of caregiving during COVID‑19: Caregiver burden, mental health, and the parent–child relationship. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 2020. 51(5): p. 671-682.
- Philip, R., et al., Reduction in preterm births during the COVID-19 lockdown in Ireland: a natural experiment allowing analysis of data from the prior two decades. medRxiv, 2020: p. 2020.06.03.20121442.
- Green, J., et al., Part 2: COVID-19 and knowledge for midwifery practice—impact and care of the baby. British Journal of Midwifery, 2021. 29(5): p. 286-293.
- Shuffrey, L.C., et al., Association of birth during the COVID-19 pandemic with neurodevelopmental status at 6 months in infants with and without in utero exposure to maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection. JAMA Pediatrics, 2022. 176.
- Doidge, N., Hypnosis, neuroplasticity, and the plastic paradox. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 2015. 57(3): p. 349-354.
- Fox, S.E., P. Levitt, and C.A. Nelson Iii, How the timing and quality of early experiences influence the development of brain architecture. Child Development, 2010. 81(1): p. 28-40.