Researchers looked at 255 children born between March 2020 and December 2020 and found that exposure to SARS-CoV-2 infection did not affect any of their Ages & Stages Questionnaire responses at 6 months, and this did not depend on the timing of the infection or severity. The team DID find, however, that there was a slight lag in developmental growth with gross motor skills in those children.

Believing that the extra stress on caregivers during the pandemic may have affected the environments and growth of the babies, the team found that whether their moms had COVID-19 during pregnancy or not, gross and fine motor skills as well as social skills of the babies born during this time period slightly lagged when compared to those scores of babies born pre-pandemic.

Dr. Dani Dumitriu is an assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Columbia University and the lead investigator of the study. Dr. Dumitriu suggested that stress felt by the pregnant mothers may have been a factor in the lag.

“The developmental trajectory of an infant begins before birth. With potentially millions of infants who may have been exposed to COVID in utero, and even more mothers just living through the stress of the pandemic, there is a critical need to understand the neurodevelopmental effects of the pandemic on future generations,” said Dumitriu.
Dr. Dumitriu and a team of pediatric researchers found last year that mothers didn't pass the COVID-19 virus to their babies in utero, but that being in a mother's womb during the pandemic was associated with slightly lower scores in social and motor skills.

And while of course it makes sense that a stressed mother may carry and affect her baby differently--science already supports that--we would venture to say that the fact that the pandemic affected everything from gathering with other babies for gym classes/playdates/socialization and even basic interaction and could be a factor too.

The study found that moms who were pregnant and in their first trimester during the hight of the pandemic had babies with the lowest neurodevelopmental scores. Still, it's important to show that while stress can play a factor, it's not the only factor and Dr. Dumitriu put emphasis on the fact that the scores were not huge gaps, but small shifts in averages. It is something to pay attention to,as they can play into public health, but to remember that this is a small sample size and the good news is that babies didn't seem to be different on their Ages & Stages Questionnaire.

Takeaway? Spend time ensuring your little gets lots of sensory interaction, tummy time and socialization as you can. Those are doctor's recommendations we love to see!