New report: what lockdown stress is doing to babies and toddlers

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Mom juggling work and looking after her kids. (Photo: Getty/Gallo Images)
Mom juggling work and looking after her kids. (Photo: Getty/Gallo Images)

If lockdown is hard for adults just imagine what it’s like for children, especially babies and young toddlers.

Seven in 10 new parents surveyed as part of a new study said that their children’s development has suffered because of the global pandemic.

The Babies in Lockdown report, commissioned by three leading children and parent groups in the UK, showed that some babies were not interacting as usual, were becoming increasingly clingy and were crying more than usual.

The study also gained valuable insight into how toddlers – who are believed to benefit greatly from social interaction – were really being affected by such a seismic change to their everyday routines.

Commissioned by Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK and the Parent-Infant Foundation, the research was based on surveys of 5 000 new and expectant parents in the UK.

Almost half of the parents surveyed (47 %) said their baby had become clingier and a third (34 %) said their interactions had changed during lockdown. Meanwhile, one quarter (26 %) said their children were crying more than usual.

A 28-year-old mother from Scotland who was surveyed said, “I have been crying for hours on end, having anxiety and panic attacks which are all out of the ordinary for me. This has affected my nine-month-old son who has seen me experience this and has been more tearful and clingy with me.

Mom and her baby
Mom and her baby. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Another parent reported her two-year-old has become “violent and upset quite a lot of the time” due to only having had contact with two people.

“I fear for the effects this lockdown will have on him later in life,” she said.

One woman described her struggle with postnatal depression and feeling “detached” from her baby and many revealed they were struggling to access mental health support.

“The evidence is unequivocal that the first 1 001 days of a child’s life, from pregnancy to age two, lay the foundations for a happy and healthy life,” the report says.

“The support and wellbeing of babies during this time is strongly linked to better outcomes later in life, including educational achievement, progress at work and physical and mental health.

“Our survey suggests that the impact of Covid-19 on these babies could be severe and may be long-lasting.

“The pandemic will cast a long shadow, both in the increased stressors on caregiving relationships and in the secondary impacts on parents and babies themselves.”

Wondering how you can help yourself and your baby adjust to the new normal of lockdown? The experts weigh in...
  • Phase in contact with family and friends Although screen time should be kept to a minimum Harriet Shearsmith, founder of parenting website TobyandRoo, insists that it can help you keep your tot connected to friends and family. “I would be encouraging lots of FaceTime and voice calls with friends and family to allow my child to hear other voices, and once we felt it was safe to do so, we would start meeting up for socially distanced walks and introducing our baby back into this new world.”
  • Set aside time to bond British paediatrician Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani suggests reserving specific times of the day for bonding with your little one. “It can be hard to juggle household chores, working from home and childcare at the same time and we often try to do everything simultaneously. Children will benefit from dedicated playtime where they can interact with their parents and have their full attention.” For older children, Niedermaier-Patramani suggests spending that time time interacting and playing. “A lot of nurseries and schools give recommendations for activities at home. These include singing, arts and crafts or turning your flat into an obstacle course. Try to offer them a variety so you can stimulate all skill sets.”
  • Don’t forget to make time for yourself “Minding your own mental health is so important,” Niedermaier-Patramani says. “Where possible try to carve out a little time each day (even thirty minutes) to do something for yourself; a bubble bath; meditation; a video call with a friend. There is no denying that this situation is hugely challenging, so try to be kind to yourself.”





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