Impact of lockdown on babies
Impact of lockdown on babies
In my first nannying role I used to care for a little girl called Scarlett, who I’m still in touch with, and she has just become a mum – a baby girl called Arabella! That’s made me think about all the babies that have been born during lockdown and the new families that have been formed or families that have grown during this difficult time. Scarlett has helped me write this blog about the impact of COVID on babies and also, the next blog on how it’s affected new mums.
We’re used to babies meeting family members, especially grandparents, and to being passed around; health visitors coming to our homes to check that mum and baby are doing well both physically and mentally; and when ready, new mums might start to go to baby groups to socialise their little one and meet other parents who are feeling a similar way. Many of these experiences have not been able to happen so how can we help our one-year-olds as the world starts to open up this year?
COVID impact on newborn babies
As I said, babies have just not socialised in the same way as they might do under normal circumstances and unless you have a nanny who’s still been coming to work, they may have just been interacting with parents and siblings. This is a lovely start in life really, as your baby will feel stable and secure at home where the routine and faces are familiar.
If you have been showing your baby to other family via a screen, then you’ll be like thousands of families up and down the country. Babies do recognise family members this way but when you come to meet in person, don’t assume that baby will toddle straight into their arms! As we know ourselves, seeing people on screen is very different to in the flesh and that is no different for babies. If you like, grandparents could send a scarf or jumper that smells of them for you to give to your baby when they’re on screen so that they can associate faces and smells easily when they do meet for the first time.
As we have had fewer lifestyle demands, new parents may have been able to dedicate more time to their baby and although working from home with a new baby is going to have its challenges, both parents should have been able to witness key milestones. Scarlett agrees,
‘I have been able to have a much longer maternity leave than I thought able to, due to lockdowns so I have loved being able to spend this time with Arabella.’
But on a more serious note, health visitors in some areas have been deployed to other areas of the NHS or have focussed on vulnerable families which may mean that you and your baby haven’t had the same post-natal check-ups or milestone visits (at one year for example). There are stories of parents weighing babies on kitchen scales which is a good work-around but it’s what to do if you have any concerns about your child’s health (weight, sleep, sickness etc) or development (mobility, hearing, vision for example).
I would always recommend that you phone the NHS line 111 or your GP if you’re worried and can’t get through to a health visitor. If, after a consultation, your baby is fine, it will help you to stop worrying but if you have identified something important, then, you can start to remedy it.
How to help your baby after lockdown
As we emerge from lockdown, excited to be able to meet with friends and family, don’t be surprised if your baby isn’t their smiling self when they first come face to face with someone ‘in real life’. This is someone completely new and they don’t have any past experience to refer to as to how to behave! Expect some tears as friends ‘coochie-coo’ to your baby and pull funny faces to amuse them.
Meeting important people in the flesh for the first time, like grandparents, might have a lot of meaning attached to it. It may feel momentous and you’ll want to savour it as much as possible but even though your baby may be acquainted with relatives over Zoom, they may still not revel in the attention.
Parents are babies’ first role-models, though, and it’s important that you bear this in mind. If they see you being sociable, relaxed, chatting and smiling when you meet new people, they are more likely to behave in a similar way. Being relaxed is possibly the most important – if they can sense your anxiety about going shopping or being amongst more people, or that you want the first meet with your parents to be perfect, then that could lead to crying and grumpiness, which in turn may make your anxiety worse.
Get out and about as much as possible and as much as you feel comfortable doing so as the fresh air will help your mental health, but it will also help your baby to meet people from the comfort & security of their buggy, if they’re old enough. (Babies lying in prams are still learning even in that position and seeing how you interact with others will influence their behaviour as they grow too.) Attend baby classes if you’re happy to but as with everything else, don’t expect your baby to love it straightaway. The wider world will be noisy, colourful and buzzing with energy to a baby and may be a little overwhelming. Babies may become overtired and grizzly very quickly. Scarlett has concerns about baby classes too:
‘I haven’t been able to socialise at all yet. I am going to my first baby and mum group on the 16th of April – so excited to meet some mums and for Arabella to meet some friends. I’m a little worried though as I’m unsure how everything will be and find it a shame that masks will be something my daughter will grow up to think is normal.’
When it comes to the health of your baby, speak to your GP surgery about getting health visitor appointments back on track and ask whether there will be a ‘catch-all’ developmental meeting to check that your child is hitting the relevant milestones. Don’t panic if health visitor resources are not available, there’s useful information here but as I said before, if you’re worried, please do contact a healthcare professional.
You are your baby’s parent, teacher and guide through their early years which can feel like a real responsibility at any time but after lockdown, it might feel even bigger. Do not worry – there is always help at hand if you need it but just being the best mum you can be, will be a great start.
If you feel as though you would benefit from a break, East Green Child Care Services does have part-time nannies and night nannies if you just need a good night’s sleep to help you get back on track. Give me a call to discuss and I’d love to help.