Babies born any time since September 2019 are likely to behave very differently to babies born prior to then.
"Lockdown Babies" or "Lockdown Baby Syndrome" describes babies who have been born into isolated family life with little exposure to the "normal" things they would have experienced had COVID-19 not shut down most of the world. These babies aren't being visited or taken to see their extended families. They aren't being taken to shops, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants or pubs. They aren't going to baby groups and classes or being left in creches. As a result, they aren't being picked up, held, talked to or played with by the number of people babies born before the pandemic were.
If we think about what these babies are doing instead, we can start to understand why some become so much more clingy, needy and difficult.
- Get up, fed, dressed etc
- Go out to the park / group / shops
- Have lunch at a cafe
- Roll around / play at home for the afternoon
- Get up, fed, maybe dressed etc
- Hang out at home and have lots of cuddles
- Go on one of three local walks (stay at home save lives, essential travel only)
- Go home and roll around / cuddle / play until lunch
- Have lunch at home
- More cuddles and play
- Maybe another walk with mum or dad
By the time most (pre-COVID) babies are 6 months old they have been held by 30 to 60 different people, depending on the size of their family and family's social circle.
Many babies born during or just before the pandemic will only have been held regularly by 3 to 6 people. The rest of the time they are with their parents and most of the time they are at home. When they are out, they are a safe 2 metres from strangers who are hidden behind masks. They may never have met their NCT pals face-to-face!
The good thing about this situation is that most of these babies will have an amazingly strong bond with their main caregiver(s). However, they don't have the chance to form bonds with anyone else, meaning that they become completely emotionally dependent on just one or two people. Because the bond is so strong and these babies are so heavily dependent on and attached to their parents, they can have issues with separation and sleep.
Many "lockdown babies" are spending far more time being carried around by their parents than they would have been had they been born at another time, because there is so little to do, and parents are spending a lot more time sitting at home with their babies. In some ways this is great for the babies because they are getting the eye contact and one-to-one time they need with their parents, but once their parent is out of sight, they feel totally lost and insecure.
And when you try to put them in their own bed to sleep, it can be a devastating experience because they are so used to being in almost constant physical contact with one or other parent.
There's nothing that can be done about the general socialising of these babies, unless the government allows us to create a "baby socialisation bubble", allowing parents to go for a walk with one other family, hold each other's babies and walk off in separate directions with them for a few minutes.
But there is plenty you can do to help your lockdown baby become less clingy and easier to put to bed.
Put them down more. Let them play on their playmat or baby-gym three or four times as much as you currently do.
Don't pick them up the moment they cry. Instead, talk to them and see if they can be comforted by your voice before offering a cuddle.
Take them round the house with you while you do your chores, letting them spend more time in all the rooms in your home, but not in your arms.
If one parent is working, get them to take the baby out for a walk in the sling or carrier once they finish work. This will help to form a stronger bond with the working parent.
Spend at least 2 hours each day playing in your baby's bedroom and in their cot so they build up positive associations with them. And once they get more used to their room, leave them alone in it for brief periods while you pop out to the loo.
It will take time to ease the intensity of some baby's need for constant physical closeness to their parents. It is important to take it slowly and gently, especially if you have been co-sleeping and you no longer want to. So be patient and make sure you listen to your baby. Their cries will tell you a lot. Try not to silence them with constant shushing and bouncing, instead, listen and talk to them. Listen and talk. Listen and talk.
Remember, this is just about easing the intensity of the bond. Not breaking it. Once it has eased a little, things will get easier.
And if you get stuck, give us a call. WE CAN HELP YOU!