According to a recent Irish study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, infants born during the first COVID-19 shutdown are not reaching as many developmental milestones as those born prior to the epidemic.
Due to their social isolation, kids seem to develop social communication skills—such as pronouncing their first word, pointing, or waving goodbye—more slowly.
According to Susan Byrne, a paediatric neurologist at the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in Ireland and one of the study’s authors, “The Irish lockdown, in particular, was an extremely strict lockdown.”
According to her, “on average, just four additional people outside the family unit were in contact with the families [we studied] throughout the first six months.” By the age of 12 months, one in four infants had never interacted with a child their own age.
Byrne and associates examined the variations between 1,629 infants born between 2008 and 2011 and the 309 infants born at the start of the epidemic. Parents of the 309 infants born between March and May 2020 were asked to rate their children’s ability to reach 10 developmental milestones, including being able to stand unassisted, pick up small objects with their thumb and index finger, stack bricks, finger feed, know their own name, point at things, wave goodbye, and express at least one specific and meaningful word.
The study team discovered that babies’ language and communication abilities at their first birthday were somewhat but noticeably impacted by the pandemic lockdown. Babies after the pandemic were less likely to be able to point at people or things (84% vs. 93%), wave farewell (88% vs. 94%), or have one distinct and meaningful word (77% vs. 89% pre-pandemic).
At the same time, more pandemic infants (97% vs. 91%) were able to crawl, maybe because they spent more time at home on the ground rather than in strollers or car seats. The other developmental benchmarks were comparable between the two groups.
There wouldn’t have been anyone for the newborns to say goodbye to because many of them were at home and didn’t see many people depart, according to Byrne. Babies also frequently point when they encounter novel objects that they desire, yet if they hadn’t been going outside, they would have been familiar with everything around them.
According to Byrne, the gaps were little, and parents can assist their toddlers close them in the next year by reading to them, conversing with them, and engaging in social activities.
Inquisitive and resilient by nature, babies are likely to have better social communication abilities when society begins to reemerge and the number of social circles grows, according to Byrne. To make sure that this is the case, this cohort and others must be followed up until they reach school age.