Study Suggests Long Terms Health of Babies Affected by Covid 19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on many people in a variety of ways, even babies. For babies born during the Covid19  pandemic, a JAMA study suggests, the log-term health problems has the potential to be lifelong.

The first three years of life are crucial for brain development in humans. But it’s not just the health of babies that it affected, but the interactions between babies, parents and other would be caregivers. Babies need to be touched, spoken to, swaddled, smiled at, played with, stimulated and loved. As they respond to those interactions, neural connections are constructed in the brain. Without those interactions, an infant's brain doesn’t develop and grow as it should.

A stressed out or depressed parent or caregiver may find it hard to find the time and energy required to give the child's brain the love, stimulation and attention it needs to develop. There are many studies showing that poverty, maternal depression and other factors can change the development of a child's brain forever.

 

Methodology

As part of an ongoing study of babies and their mothers, researchers from Columbia University studied the development of three groups of 6-month-old infants. Two of the groups were born during the COVID-19 pandemic; the mothers of one group had COVID-19, while the mothers of the other did not. The third group was a historical cohort (a group of babies who were born before the pandemic).

Mothers participating in the study used an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) to record their babies’ development and evolution. The researchers noted no difference in the development of the two groups of babies born during the pandemic, suggesting that prenatal exposure to COVID-19 doesn’t affect development, which is good news. But babies born during the pandemic scored lower in gross motor, fine motor, and social-emotional development than the babies born before the pandemic. Examples of developmental tasks for babies in this age group are rolling from back to tummy (gross motor), reaching for or grasping a toy with both hands (fine motor), and acting differently to strangers than to parents or familiar people (social-emotional development).

 

Infant Development during COVID

It’s just one study, and we need to do more research to better understand this, but the findings are not really surprising given what we know about infant development. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of stress — emotional, financial, and otherwise — for so many families. It has also markedly affected the number and kind of interactions we have with other people. Babies are on average interacting with fewer people (and seeing fewer faces because of masking) than they did before the pandemic.

Even though we need to do more research, this study should serve as a warning for us as a society. The children of this pandemic will carry scars forever if we don’t intervene now. We’ve already seen the emotional and educational effects on children, and we need to be aware of the developmental effects on babies too. The stakes are too high to ignore the research.

 

What Can be Done?

We need to find ways to financially and emotionally support families with young children. We need to be diligent, energetic and creative, and work every angle available. And even if our government can't help out enough and play a role, our communities and individuals must take up the slack.

And parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers need to know about this research — and ask for help. It’s understandable and natural for parents to think that babies are too small and unaware to be affected by the pandemic. But they are affected, in ways that could be long-lasting. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help yourself, your family, and your baby’s future.

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Pregnancy Beauty Basics

When you’re pregnant, it’s not uncommon to want to make up for swollen ankles and other less desirable symptoms with a fresh face of make up and a new hair ‘do. But keep in mind that the ingredients in your beauty products, if absorbed into the skin, may reach the placenta and could pose a risk for your new baby. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on looking glam until post-birth. Just be sure to steer clear of the below, and, if in doubt of a product’s safety, ask your doctor.

Skip it: Hair dye Expecting new moms should try to avoid dying or chemically straightening their hair when pregnant, as the ammonia fumes could harm a new baby during the first three months of pregnancy. If you must change your color or touch up your roots, do so after the first trimester in a well ventilated space, and ask the stylist to avoid touching your scalp with the chemicals.

Skip it: Nail polish

The phthalates in nail polish have been linked to birth defects, so it’s best to wait until after the first trimester to get a manicure or pedicure, when the risk to your new baby is much lower. Acrylic nails should also be avoided when expecting. Need some color before then? Reach for a phthalate-free nail polish instead.

Skip it: Hairspray

Hairspray also contains phthalates, and considering you spray it by your face, it’s very easy to breathe it in. Instead, keep your hair in place with a mousse or gel during your pregnancy.

Skip it: Acne creams

Expecting new moms should avoid prescription acne medications, as they can increase the risk of birth defects. If pimples pop up during your pregnancy, try to use a gentle face wash and switch to oil-free makeup. If that doesn’t work, ask your doctor about what acne face washes may be safe for your new baby.

Skip it: Teeth whitening products

The jury is still our on whether the peroxide, the active ingredient in teeth whiteners, is safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to skip this one. If your pearly whites aren’t looking so, well, white, use a brightening toothpaste instead. And don’t forget to floss and brush regularly during pregnancy. Good dental hygiene is good for your smile and for your new baby’s health.

It’s not always easy for new moms-to-be to give up go-to beauty routines, but keep in mind that sporting your natural hair color or not-so-perfectly-white teeth is best for your new baby. For now, skip the scary stuff and wear your pregnancy glow instead.

Baby Items to Keep Your Baby Happy at Each Stage

Before my son was born, my husband and I made the prenatal pilgrimage to register at a big box baby store for all the baby stuff we thought we’d need. We were excited, overwhelmed, and just a little bit skeptical. Would we have room in our apartment for tricked out swings and bouncers? How could there be so many variations on the pacifier? Did our little guy really need all this baby stuff? Turns out, he was indifferent to some items, like the ubiquitous lovey blanket, and totally tickled by others.

Here, the go-to baby items that kept our baby -- and his first-time parents -- happy throughout his first year.

0-3 Months

Pacifier My reluctance to introduce the pacifier -- for fear my son would be screaming for this addictive baby item at age three -- quickly subsided when our pediatrician endorsed it as a great way to soothe a fussy baby and help him to sleep. Pacifiers may also help reduce the risk of SIDS, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. So now we keep a few in the diaper bag and by his crib.

Activity Mat Now that our son has conquered that baby development milestone of walking (or more like running) around the house, it’s hard to remember that our baby ever hung out exclusively on a round piece of fabric in the family room. For the first three to four months he happily played beneath the soft, padded arches of his activity mat, swatting at colorful, dangling toys, or strengthening his back muscles during tummy time.

Car Seat-Stroller Combo Baby items come with a lot of straps. It may seem like you’re constantly clicking and unclicking, locking, and unlocking. Enter the detachable car seat and stroller in-one, which lets you transfer your tike -- from the car to the stroller and back again -- while he’s still happily nestled in his car seat (so you’ll never have to disturb him from his nap).

4-6 Months

Swing In the early days, my son was mostly unfazed by this particular baby item. He couldn’t focus on the mobile swirling above him, and even the lowest setting was a bit too fast. But as he packed on the pounds, he found his swing sweet spot. The rocking motion and music helped soothe, entertain, and coax him to sleep whenever he refused to nap in his crib. Plus, it gave me a few precious, hands-free moments.

Toys to grasp Once your little one finds his fingers (one of the cutest baby milestones!), between four and seven months, he’ll be reaching for the remote, your earrings…you get the idea. My son was crazy for a lightweight ball we found that had plenty of large holes his fingers could grip. He also loved to hang onto colorful linked rings that doubled as teethers and pliable plastic rattles.

Floor Seat When I first put my son in his floor seat, which helps your baby into a seated position, his eyes lit up. This was a baby item he could get on board with. Propped up in this new pose, he also had a fascinating fresh perspective on life. Look for baby seats that have straps, detachable toys, and that can double as a booster seat for meals on the go.

7-12 Months

Exercise Gym In the months before he developed his walking skills, my son’s activity gym was one of the baby items at the center of his universe. He loved to pull up to a standing position and explore the keyboard, mirror, and other toys, which made pleasant clicking and clacking sounds. Our gym came with a detachable seat, which rotated around the table. My little one loved to propel himself in circles, and I loved that he could get his legs working without leaving the room.

Stuffed Animal My son’s stuffed monkey is practically a member of the family -- he dines with us on occasion, gets kisses at night, and travels with us on family vacations. While it’s important to keep stuffed toys and other objects out of the crib during the first year (to reduce the risk of SIDS), Monkey’s always been game to demonstrate how to brush one’s teeth, play peekaboo and lay perfectly still for a diaper change. He’s a comfort and constant companion -- in other words, perfect as far as baby items go.

Photo by kids&me Germany on Unsplash

Activities for Your 3-Month-Old

You're greeted with a happy infant when your 3-month-old wakes in the morning, and you find that your baby is playing more than ever. She is interacting with you all the time, cooing, gurgling, and smiling when she sees your face and hears your voice. Here are some ways to make playtime together even more fun.

Floor time
You're still working on tummy time, so she should be spending a lot of time on the floor working her muscles. Place colorful toys in front of her -- while she can't grab for them yet, she enjoys looking at the bold, bright colors. Toys with music and lights are entertaining, too, but be careful not to overstimulate your baby. She's still very young, so introduce things slowly to her and watch for her reaction.

Check her out
Your baby loves to look at faces, and she may start to be intrigued by mirrors, too. Attach an unbreakable mirror to your baby's crib so she can look at her own face. As the two of you are looking into the mirror, talk to her about her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and point to them, too.

Sing and move
Clap her hands together and recite nursery rhymes or sing. Your voice is the most important sound to your baby, and whatever you sing is music to her ears.

Reading rules
If you haven't started reading to her yet, now’s the time. She'll love brightly colored books like the ones that feature babies just like her.

Track the toy
A great activity to help your baby focus her eyes is to lay her on the floor and hold a toy about 10 inches above her head. Move it from side to side and let her follow it with her eyes.

As you and your baby are enjoying the fun and games, she is reaching milestones and accomplishing so much already. Go, baby, go!

Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Tips for Baby’s First Words

Few baby milestones are as thrilling as your child’s first words. They sound just plain adorable, for one thing. The fact that your little one can talk to you, and that you can better understand his wants and needs, is a huge accomplishment for both of you.  

While every child will learn to speak at his own pace, your baby might babble his first “mama” or “dada” around 6 to 8 months, and by age 1 he may have added a few other words to his list. While your child probably won’t be able to have a full conversation until his second year, it’s not too early to start encouraging language development. These tips will help get your baby talking.

Baby talking rule number 1: Get chatty.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the first year of life, children are drawn to their parents’ voices and faces. So simply talking to your baby teaches him new vocabulary and encourages first words. Talk aloud to your little one, even when it seems silly (e.g., “Mommy’s folding the blue socks right now!”). Provide constant narration too when you are out and about in a new environment to introduce him to new words (e.g., “Look at those pretty flowers in the park!”).

Baby talking rule number 2: Talk back.

Aim to respond to whatever your new baby is looking at. Follow your child’s interests and let him be your guide when deciding what to talk about. For example, if your child is staring at a dog and babbling, make this the topic of conversation and repeat the word “dog” over and over while pointing at the pup.

Baby talking rule number 3: Focus on routines and repetition.

Daily activities such as bath time, mealtime, and changing time are ideal opportunities to have the same conversations with your baby each day. During these times, he will begin to pick up on key words and phrases and associate them with the activity.

Baby talking rule number 4: Model speech for your baby.

To help your baby build language skills, speak in slow, short sentences about whatever your child is focusing on and wait for him to try to repeat the word back if he’s ready. Help him recognize objects and words through play ("Here's your ball. Let's hide the ball").

Your baby will be on a roll with his words before you know it! Just remember that some children start talking a little earlier, and others take their time to utter their first words.

Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash