Babies born during the pandemic may have delayed communication skills

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Babies born in covid– Lockdowns took longer to reach certain developmental milestones than babies born before the pandemic, study finds.

Before COVID hits, Parents children commonly seen pointing at objects around the age of nine months. By the age of one, many babies are speaking their first words.

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But the new studypublished on Tuesday by researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, found that Irish infants born from March to May 2020 had more difficulty communicating at the age of one than those born between 2008 and 2011 in same age.

The study found that about 89% of infants born between 2008 and 2011 could articulate a complete word such as “bowl” or “cup” at 12 months, compared to only about 77% of infants born in the first months of life. pandemic.

The proportion of infants able to point to objects increased from 93% to 84%, and those who could say goodbye increased from 94% to 88%.

According to a study, babies born in COVID-related lockdowns took longer to reach certain developmental stages than babies born before the pandemic. Credit: Lauren Bates/Getty Images

The findings were based on a questionnaire given to parents of 309 babies in Ireland during the pandemic.

Around each child’s first birthday, their parents were asked if the baby could perform 10 different tasks such as standing up or stacking bricks.

The researchers then compared these results with a longitudinal study who assessed the same 10 skills between 2008 and 2011. Both sets of parents were asked to complete the questionnaires as close to their child’s birthday as possible.

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For most of the time between March 2020 and April 2021, Ireland had a strict lockdown that forced people to stay home except for essential activities. People who could work from home had to, and those who broke the rules could be fined.

Study author Dr Susan Byrne, a pediatric neurologist at the Royal College of Surgeons, said a quarter of the babies in her study had never met another child his age by their first birthday.

When the babies were six months old, their families saw an average of only four other people outside the home, and each baby had only been hugged by three adults, including their parents.

Byrne said it was therefore not surprising that the babies’ communication skills were delayed.

“If no one comes to your house to leave, you’re not going to learn to say ‘bye, bye,'” she said.

Byrne said some of the babies probably didn’t hear or see as many people talking, while the pointing difficulty could stem from the babies not being introduced to many new stimuli beyond this. which was inside their house.

“Kids are pointing because something has fallen and they want to find it, or they’re interested in a new thing and they want to see it,” Byrne said. “Obviously, if you’ve been in your lovely house the whole time, you know everything. Nothing new.

The findings build on previous research that similarly suggested the pandemic was hampering babies’ development.

Researchers in China have found that the first months of the pandemic could have delayed development of fine motor skills, such as picking up Cheerios with the thumb and forefinger, in one-year-olds. The results also highlighted delayed communication skills in firstborns who turned one in 2020.

In January, researchers at Columbia University found babies born in New York from March to December 2020 had less developed motor and social skills six months than babies born between November 2017 and January 2020.

These researchers speculated that a contributing factor could have been the emotional state of the mother during pregnancy, since other studies have noted that loneliness or stress during pregnancy can affect a child’s health brain or behavioral development after their birth. Some parents may also have found it harder to engage with their newborns if they felt socially isolated or depressed.

“It could be a double-edged sword, where an unfavorable postnatal environment — so not being able to engage in the social world — compounds these effects,” said Lauren Shuffrey, author of that earlier study and research associate at Medical Center of Columbia University.

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Shuffrey said the number of social interactions a baby has probably has less of an effect on communication skills in their first year than the quality of those interactions.

“Having someone who is socially engaged with this baby, whether it’s one or two people, is the most important thing,” she said.

Neither Byrne nor Shuffrey expect these delays to be permanent.

“I don’t think these small differences very early in development mean that these children are on a life course of having developmental delays,” Shuffrey said. “These are very small differences and we know that the brains of infants and young children are extremely malleable.”

Shuffrey said her own daughter was born during the pandemic and went from social isolation to attending preschool and going on dates. These new experiences will shape her daughter’s social development, she says, although there is some catching up to do.

Contrary to other trends observed, the Irish researchers found that 97% of pandemic babies were able to crawl at one year, compared to 91% of babies born earlier. Byrne said it’s likely because babies spent more time at home during lockdown and less time in strollers or car seats.

His team will continue to observe the same babies to see how their communication skills change at age two or even beyond.

“I think the two-year data is going to be really informative,” Byrne said. “At two years old, you are better able to examine all stages of development. You can get a better assessment of what children are able to do because they can do more things.

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