An online survey of 5,474 expectant mothers, new parents and parents of toddlers, undertaken during the pandemic, reveals almost seven in 10 found their ability to cope with their pregnancy or baby had been impacted as a result of COVID-19.
One quarter (25%) of parents reported concern about their relationship with their baby and one third (35%) said they’d like to get help with this.
During lockdown here in Newcastle, NEWPIP , Children North East’s specialist parent-infant relationship team working with families, has seen pregnant women suffering heightened anxiety as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Charity collective Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK and the Parent-Infant Foundation commissioned the online survey which highlights the chronic under-resourcing of services for families, the inequalities in babies’ early experiences and its worsening forecast due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three charities – who all work to improve outcomes for parents and children with a focus on the early years – warn that many families with lower incomes, young parents and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, will have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
The results highlight a range of issues facing parents, revealing the devastating impact on babies as well as their parents, from increased mental health concerns and difficult birthing experiences, to dads and other co-parents being excluded from the pregnancy journey and digital health appointments reported as leaving some women feeling exposed and humiliated. The ramifications of the lockdown have been detrimental, and could cast a long shadow going forward for parents and babies alike.
Evidence shows that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life, from pregnancy to age two lay the foundations for a happy and healthy life. The support and wellbeing of babies during this time is strongly linked to better outcomes later in life, including educational achievement, progress at work, physical and mental health. Around 2,000 babies are born in the UK every day which means over 200,000 babies were born between March 23 and July 4 – the most intense period of lockdown.
Babies ‘more clingy’
According to the survey, almost seven in 10 parents (68%) felt the changes brought about by COVID-19 were affecting their unborn baby, baby or young child – reporting an increase in babies crying, having tantrums and becoming more clingy during this time. The survey results indicated that a change in baby behaviour was twice as likely to be reported amongst those on the lowest incomes, with under-25s particularly affected, with over half (59%) noticing their babies becoming more clingy during lockdown.
One quarter (25%) of parents reported concern about their relationship with their baby and one third (35%) of these would like to get help with this. In Newcastle, NEWPIP, has been working with families during lockdown to support the relationship between parents and their babies.
The three organisations have come together to share their findings, following the recent report by the Children’s Commissioner, and the Government’s vow to undertake a new review into Early Years Health (led by Andrea Leadsom MP). And to urge the Government to act now to avoid a ‘post-COVID-19 lottery’ of British babies who do not get the support they need for a strong start in life. The three fiscal measures being asked for involve significant and ring-fenced funding to support the first 1,001 days, including:
- A one-off Baby Boost to enable local services to support families who have had a baby during or close to lockdown.
- A new Parent-Infant Premium providing new funding for local commissioners, targeted at improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children.
- Significant and sustained investment in core funding to support families from conception to age two and above, including statutory services, charities and community groups.