The research was published on Tuesday by researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland.
The study ranked “10 parentally reported developmental milestones at 12-month assessment” among more than 300 babies born during the pandemic. The results were compared with the historical records of more than 1,600 infants studied between 2008 and 2011.
The results found that fewer infants born during the pandemic lockdowns had one definite and meaningful word, with 76.6% compared to 89.3% among those studied prior to the pandemic. Fewer 12-month-old children in the study could also point (83.8% vs. 92.8%) or wave goodbye (87.7% vs. 94.4%).
BABIES: Pandemic-associated social isolation may have impacted the social communication skills in babies born during lockdown compared with a historical cohort. ..should improve with re-emergence and social interactionhttps://t.co/Qfpqe5Pm67
— Monica Gandhi MD, MPH (@MonicaGandhi9) October 12, 2022
“Pandemic-associated social isolation may have impacted on the social communication skills in babies born during the pandemic compared with a historical cohort,” the researchers concluded. “Babies are resilient and inquisitive by nature, and it is hoped that with societal re-emergence and increase in social circles, their social communication skills will improve.”
On the positive side, the study also found that a higher percentage of pandemic infants could crawl at 12 months, with 97% crawling compared to 91% from those before the pandemic. Researchers suggest that it’s likely due to parents being at home more with their children during lockdowns and the infants spending less time in strollers and car seats.
The Irish study is not alone in research following the developmental abilities of infants born during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Columbia University study published in January conducted research on 255 infants born between March and December of 2020, noting the children ranked significantly lower on motor skills than infants born in the years before the pandemic.
The Columbia study concluded the lockdown period in 2020 included “differences in neurodevelopment at age 6 months. These early findings support the need for long-term monitoring of children born during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A similar study by Chinese researchers during its nation’s lockdowns also found a higher risk of delay in fine motor skills and communications at one year of age.
While many have noted concerns about the impact of lockdowns on school-age children, the new study regarding infants notes potential issues among those born during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Daily Wire also reported in July that lockdowns and restrictions during the pandemic have led to related health concerns, including approximately 25 million children worldwide missing their routine vaccinations against potentially life-threatening illnesses.
“This is a red alert for child health. We are witnessing the largest sustained drop in childhood immunization in a generation. The consequences will be measured in lives,” Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director, said in the organization’s press release.
“While a pandemic hangover was expected last year as a result of COVID-19 disruptions and lockdowns, what we are seeing now is a continued decline. COVID-19 is not an excuse. We need immunization catch-ups for the missing millions or we will inevitably witness more outbreaks, more sick children and greater pressure on already strained health systems,” she added.