Parenting

The pandemic has been hugely isolating for new mums – but babies are unlikely to be affected long-term


Having a new baby can be difficult enough – but throw a pandemic into the mix and there are whole new levels of isolation.

Lots of new mums turn to family and friends for support after they’ve just had a baby – not only for practical childcare needs but also for emotional support.

However, lockdown has meant that the experience is even more alienating than it was before.

What would typically just be a few initial weeks of being at home with a newborn, has turned into months and months of prolonged isolation – with no friends or family who can visit. Not to mention the fact that socialising with fellow new parents has been virtually impossible – unless you count standing in the park, often in the freezing cold.

The pandemic has robbed new mums of so many essentials – baby classes, healthcare home visits and the opportunity for babies to interact with other little ones.

All of this together can create a cocktail of anxiety – particularly with first-time mums – as parents worry about how these losses, and the pandemic in general, might impact their child.

So, how have each of these things affected mums who have given birth in the past year and what will the repercussions be for their babies?

Restrictions at pregnancy scans and birth

Women who have been pregnant in the past year have faced restrictions on hospital appointments and even at the birth itself.

Rhiannon, who had her second baby in October 2020, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘When I went for my 12-week scan – which must have been the end of March 2020 – it was already no partners allowed, so my partner couldn’t come to anything. 

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‘Going to that on your own  – especially if it’s your first one (and sometimes you can get bad news at that scan) – was a bit rubbish. 

‘It was the little things like I was really stressed about where to park and going somewhere I’d never been before, as they weren’t doing it at the hospital, so that was a bit daunting.’

First-time mum Ashley explains that she would have loved her partner to stay with her after the birth of her son.

She says: ‘I gave birth to my son during the first lockdown and, with him being my first baby, I didn’t quite know what to expect. 

‘Pre-natal support from the NHS was great, but my time in the post-natal ward was a bit difficult as partners weren’t allowed in. Right after birth, it would have been helpful to have my partner help me out.’

The impact on first-time mums 

When you’re responsible for looking after a teeny tiny new human being for the first time ever, it’s only natural to have anxious flurries constantly circulating in your head. 

Is baby poo supposed to be that colour? Are they eating enough? Is this much crying normal?

As a first-time mum all this newness can be incredibly overwhelming. With the closure of baby groups, many new mums have lost out on having a close network of individuals also going through the same thing as them.

Whereas a quick WhatsApp text to an NCT group would have provided some reassurance before, this community simply hasn’t existed for many new mums throughout the pandemic. 

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There’s also the fact that childcare services have been significantly cut back during the past year – which means no home visits and check-ups. So first-time mums have been forced to navigate the experience all on their own.

Felicity, who welcomed her first baby last year, said: ‘At the start of his life new ways of working had yet to be established, so I felt a little lost at sea without the usual support of a health visitor or midwife visiting us. 

‘Zoom support was available later, but as a new mum I really could have used that in-person support.’

Limited social contact

Lots of babies have only really been held by those in their households (Picture: Getty Images)

Family and friends, along with baby groups, can be a lifeline for women who have had a baby, as they offer support in so many ways – from physically taking a baby off your hands for a few hours to emotional comfort.

Rhiannon adds: ‘Having a C-section and also having a toddler, the fact that my mum couldn’t come round (because she’s vulnerable) meant that we were basically on our own from day one – which is pretty tough when you’ve basically been cut in half.’

She explains that with her first baby two years ago, her maternity leave was mostly spent out of the house. Despite trying to get out as much as possible this time around, the cold weather has presented its own challenges.

‘I didn’t stay in the house very much with my first born because it was so boring. I mostly just sat in a cafe with friends of girls from my NCT group and we did lots of walks, cafes, lots of cake, coffee, going around to my mum’s house – those social interactions. Whereas now, especially having had a winter baby, you’re basically standing somewhere freezing cold having a coffee,’ she adds.

‘I have been out a lot for my daily walks – but you’re always getting rained on, or worrying that the baby is a bit cold.

‘I’m lucky that I didn’t, but a lot of people have a completely destroyed pelvic floor and need to pee a lot after the birth – so then you can’t really go out because there’s nowhere to pee and there’s also nowhere to change the baby.’

This is something Ashley feels she’s also missed out on with her first baby.

She said: ‘I worry about my son not socialising very much in his first year. He’s spent almost all of his time with me or his dad and hasn’t had much of a chance to get to know anyone else.

‘Children are resilient, but I wonder if the lack of social contact will impact him. I do feel like I’ve missed out on the opportunity to get to know other young families in the area, especially as we moved to a new part of London just before he was born.’

Missed milestones

Coronavirus has robbed grandparents of the opportunity to be able to hold their newborn grandchildren, or be there in person as they grow during their first formative months.

This loss has a huge psychological impact on new mums as well.

Felicity says: ‘I have really missed seeing friends and family, and for them to meet my son. I know people often comment that my baby won’t remember. But I will. 

‘I will remember that no one really got to see me become a mum and that all of our photos and memories so far have been us in the house, or out on walks.

All of our photos and memories so far have been us in the house, or out on walks.

Rhiannon agrees that this is one of the biggest things she’s noticed between her first and second baby.

She adds: ‘I guess the massive difference was that the family couldn’t come to see us in the hospital. I suppose it took some of the joy away really.

‘People will never see him as a cute little, tiny newborn. I did feel a bit sad because of that.’

For those who only want one child or are unable to have any more children, these missed milestones must be incredibly difficult to come to terms with. 

How will this isolation impact babies in the long-term?

It’s only natural for women to be worried the restrictive nature of pandemic is going to have an impact on their little ones.

Felicity says: ‘I worry a little about the long term repercussions. At first, I didn’t – he was so young he didn’t know any different.

‘Now he is older and more aware. I worry greatly that he might have to start nursery having never interacted with other children, or anyone for that matter. I also worry about being able to leave him with my parents, for example. We have never been able to do it and now he is older I worry it will be harder to leave him – for both for him and I.

‘He is a very happy, content baby, and another blessing of being at home a lot has meant he has a fantastic routine and he sleeps wonderfully. But I do worry that he will be a little frightened or unsure how to interact with people once the world opens up.’

But paediatrician Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani explains that new parents shouldn’t be too worried – mainly because of how adaptable babies are. 

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Babies under one enjoy growing up with a daily routine and a safe and caring environment. Therefore lockdown will not have had a major impact on their development.

Lockdown will not have had a major impact on their development.

Dr Sophie adds that separation anxiety tends to come down to a baby’s personality – so lockdown shouldn’t have too much of an impact. In fact, she says parents might be the ones who find it more difficult. 

She says: ‘Every baby will go through a phase when they appear to be more clingy – for some it can be more extreme than others, but this is generally a personality thing. Separation anxiety happens around the age of 9 to 12 months and is a normal part of their social skill development. 

‘I think the bigger impact will be on the main caregiver. It is common to feel lonely during the first few months after a baby’s birth and lockdown will increase this feeling of isolation.

‘It is really important that parents stay connected with family and friends during this time, minding the caregiver’s mental health will have a positive effect on babies.’

It’s also important not to dwell on the negatives.

Dr Sophie adds: ‘Rather than focus on the unavoidable challenges of lockdown, I would look on the brighter side of things  – lockdown can be a great opportunity to strengthen the bond between family members. Strong families create strong, resilient  children, helping them to adapt more easily to stressful situations later in life.’

So despite it being an incredibly tough year for anyone who has welcomed a baby – there are some positives which may come out of it, like closer bonds, more family time and resilience.



The Year That Changed Us

The past year has been… weird, to put it lightly.

12 months of living with Covid-19, from the restrictions on our old way of life, to going in and out of lockdown, to being confronted by the reality of death and illness, is bound to have radically changed us.

We may never go back to the way we were before.

Our series, The Year That Changed Us explores all the ways we’ve been impacted by the pandemic and how these effects will stick with us long-term, from our friendships to the nation’s mental health.

You can read the full series here.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.


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