Study Shows Babies Born During Pandemic Have Slight Developmental Delays — Here’s When You Should Be Concerned

Here’s what parents need to know

By: Amanda Mushro


Photo by: Catherine Delahaye

Catherine Delahaye

A new study has been making headlines and has parents of toddlers worried. This study is centered around the babies who were born during the beginning of the global pandemic and may shed some light on how their development is shaping up after living through unprecedented times. While the findings can seem alarming, we’re breaking down what parents need to know, need to keep an eye on, and how they can help their toddlers.

According to research from the National Institute of Health, babies born between March and December 2020 are developing slower than babies born before the pandemic. While the news isn’t surprising to some– babies born during this time spent much of their life in quarantine instead of interacting with other children or having a typical schedule– it can be hard to hear for parents and has them wondering what they can do to help their little ones catch up.

First, doctors want parents to know the study only looked at 255 babies–which is a small sample, and that these findings do not suggest babies born at this time will have long term delays.

"It's a very small sample, taken from a very specific health system in New York City, taken during a very limited time period," Mollie Wood, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina School of Global Public Health, told NBC News. "Not that we can't learn from things that way, but it does speak to a very small slice of the pandemic among pregnant people."

Here’s what you can do to help support your toddler’s development:

  • Break out the books: Reading to your toddler is one of the best ways to help their language development and build those early pre-reading skills.
  • Narrate your day: While you are making breakfast, getting ready in the morning, or out on a walk, narrate every detail to expose your kids to new words, sounds, and situations. It may make you feel a little silly but is an effective way to help your toddler’s development.
  • Play! Get down on their level and join in on playtime. Kids learn through play and when you play with them, you increase their creativity, language, and ideas.
  • Get Out: Take your kids on walks, to new playgrounds, and on different adventures to expose them to more situations that may be new to them.
  • Limit Screentime: If your toddler is a fan of playing on your phone or tablet–let’s be honest who could blame them- make sure they are using educational apps instead of just watching videos. Limit their time with any screen–including TV– or watch with them and narrate what they are watching. Ask questions and interact with them as you watch together.
  • Think About Their Toys: With so many toys available to your kids, make sure the toys they play with are helping with their development. Offer up educational toys, games and books that help develop language, bilingual toys, and toys that are designed to help with your child’s development.
  • Talk to Your Doctor: If you have concerns about your toddler’s development, talk to your pediatrician right away to discuss your concerns and find out what options and supports are available if needed.


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