On average, there are 1,688 babies born in England each day. Since the beginning of lockdown in the UK on the 23rd May, around 243,072 babies have been born in England, which means that many new mums and dads have been going it alone during social isolation, and there are thousands of babies out there who are yet to get a real glimpse of the big wide world.
For new parents, lockdown has been a surreal time. On one hand, many parents have been able to work from home or have been furloughed, allowing them more time than ever to focus on their precious new arrival. On the other hand, however, the pandemic has brought with it many uncertainties and unexpected worries for new parents.
As well as feeling concerned about the normal elements of parenthood and going through major changes in your body, such as postpartum bleeding, there is now a whole new set of worries occupying new parents’ minds. These worries vary from health concerns to social isolation and the fear that their baby’s development might be affected by the lockdown.
With these concerns in mind, let’s find out exactly what new mums and dads are stressed about and how people have faced the countless challenges of becoming a new parent in lockdown.
Can my baby contract Covid-19?
For parents of babies and young children alike, there is a sense of uncertainty surrounding getting back to ‘normal’. While people rush to make the most of the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme and soak up the sun in beer gardens, new parents are likely to feel much more cautious.
Although the risks of a baby contracting Covid-19 are relatively low, it is natural that new parents will feel anxious about caring for their little one during this period. According to NHS advice, it is important that you keep your baby away from anyone with a cough, fever or other viral symptoms. In many cases, babies will not show signs of illness and are likely to recover fully, but if your baby has a cough, fever or feels unusually hot or cold, be sure to call the NHS on 111.
With this in mind, it’s advisable to avoid busy places and too much socialising. However, there’s no harm in reuniting with family members and friends if you follow government guidelines and do what is comfortable for you.
Will my baby’s development be affected?
Many parents are also concerned about their child’s development and whether the period of isolation will negatively affect their new-born. One new mum, Chloe from Richmond, expressed her concern that her baby boy Henry “might become super clingy and dependent on us” going on to say that, “I always wanted him to be confident and happy to see other people.”
Thankfully, child development experts agree that the lack of contact that babies have had during lockdown is not likely to have a negative impact. One paediatrician, Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, said that new-born babies “gain a sense of security and resilience from their closest caregivers, so there is no need to worry about the absence of wider family and friends.”
Because most children only tend to introduce other kids into their play around the age of three, there is little worry that babies and younger children will feel any major social absence during lockdown. Even those who are older than three will quickly adapt; Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani went on to explain that, “the wonderful thing about children’s brains is that they adapt easily to these challenging times, and will replace peers with parents of older siblings to train their social skills. Once lockdown is loosened, they will catch up quickly.”
What impact might the lockdown have had on my mental health?
Another serious matter to consider is that of parents’ mental health. Although having a baby is a blessing for most, it is an extraordinary challenge, and one that can often only be eased by supportive friends and family offering to lend a helping hand.
During lockdown, many parents have felt isolated and somewhat helpless. Writing in Wired Magazine, new mum Sophie Hines explains that, “Like many parents, I’ve had an occasional pang of wondering whether a lack of interesting new humans and stimulating environments will affect my daughter’s development. But to be honest, I’ve more often felt sorry for myself. My situation is privileged in many ways, but it’s hard being housebound with a baby.”
When there is often so much reliance on a family’s close-knit support bubble, isolation has harmed many new mums’ and dads’ mental health, and this issue won’t just disappear now that the possibility of socialising has returned. Deep-set issues such as postnatal depression and paternal postpartum depression need to be talked about and worked through with support as lockdown lifts. It is essential that you contact a health professional if you have experienced any depression-related symptoms.
What’s more, it’s also completely natural to feel a sense of loss as we progressively come out of lockdown. For many families, this time has been precious and a true blessing—coming out of your close family bubble and re-entering ‘normality’ is a difficult feat that should not be underestimated.
Am I entitled to additional maternity leave?
Finally, there has been much debate around the matter of maternity leave, which many mums have felt robbed of. Even though most new mums have been able to enjoy some quality time with their new-borns, parents across the country have expressed concern that the lockdown has halted many typical maternity leave activities (such as mother and baby classes) that they’re worried their baby will not get to benefit from.
Because of this, many new mums, such as Bethan Jones, have petitioned online for a three-month extension to maternity pay. Talking to Sky News, Bethan expressed her concerns: “I was completely isolated from any other new mums that could have helped me and build a bond with [and] lockdown took away social contact, not only for me but also for my son.” For mums like Bethan, who consider mother and baby classes essential for both their child’s development and their own mental health, government action concerning additional maternity leave would come as an enormous relief.
It’s most certainly a challenging time for new parents, but as lockdown eases, there is a great amount of hope on the horizon. Being reconnected with friends and family who are most likely desperate to meet the new arrival is a happy reward for everything parents have accomplished over these past few months.