The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on so many people in so many ways. For babies born during this pandemic, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that the damage has potential to be lifelong.
The first three years of life are crucial for brain development. And it’s not just the health of babies that matters, but the interactions between babies and their caregivers. Babies need to be touched, held, spoken to, smiled at, played with. As they receive and respond to those interactions, in a “serve and return” kind of way, neural connections are built in the brain. When babies don’t have those interactions, or enough of them, their brains don’t develop as they should — and can even be literally smaller.
When you are a stressed or depressed parent or caregiver, it can be hard to find the time, let alone the energy or interest, to talk to and play with your infant. There are multiple studies showing that maternal depression, poverty, and other family stressors can change the development of a child forever.
This is an excerpt from an article that appears on the Harvard Health Publishing website.
Claire McCarthy is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition, she is senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing.