Covid-19 rules 'harming parents' bond with newborn babies in hospital care'

21 May 2021, 15:42 | Updated: 21 May 2021, 15:45

Finlay was born nine weeks premature in the height of lockdown
Finlay was born nine weeks premature in the height of lockdown. Picture: Cody Blake
Josh Giltrap

By Josh Giltrap

Parents may find in harder to bond with babies being cared for in hospital as a result of Covid restrictions, according to research from a UK premature baby charity.

The report from Bliss found that parents are 70 per cent more likely to find it difficult to bond with their baby if the neonatal unit had time limits in place, as part of Covid-19 parent access restrictions.

It also found that neonatal units have had to restrict access for parents of babies in their care, with measures such as enforced mask-wearing and limits on visitor numbers also in place to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“Parents feel that this has had a considerable impact on their ability to be involved in their baby’s care, to bond with their baby and as a family, and has had a detrimental impact on their mental health,” said the report said.

“Although 24-hour access is now granted to parents individually in many units, the fact that parents are often unable to be together at the cot-side means parents are frequently alone without support, wearing a mask and other PPE.”

Cody Blake, a single mum of two who lives in Warwickshire, described the difficulties of having a baby in lockdown after her second son Finlay was born nine weeks premature two months ago.

Cody with her son Finlay
Cody with her son Finlay. Picture: Cody Blake

“Your first cuddles with your baby should be mask free,” she told LBC.

Her older son, three-year-old Logan, was unable to meet his baby brother because of the restrictions the hospital had in place.

She said: “Normally siblings could come in, but because of covid restrictions Logan couldn’t come and meet his baby brother until Finlay was just over a month old and came home, which was very hard to explain to Logan that he has a baby brother, and why mummy wasn’t home.”

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There are also worries about the impacts on babies born during lockdown.

“What happens in the first 1001 days when babies are very tiny really matters, and the environment around them really matters,” said Becky Saunders, a child psychologist at charity Home Start.

Many neonatal units have restrictions in place to limit the spread of Covid-19
Many neonatal units have restrictions in place to limit the spread of Covid-19. Picture: Getty

Ms Blake believes that the restrictions have affected Finlay.

“He might only be two months old, but all he’s seen, and knows, is hospitals and face masks.

“Because he’s so vulnerable anyway something like covid could have a real detrimental effect on him… he’s not had any ‘baby’ experiences that he would have had in normal times, and I feel that he’s been cut off from the world really.”

Bliss is now calling on national governments and NHS bodies across the UK to take action to return parents to neonatal units, so that mums like Cody can have one fewer thing to worry about.

In the conclusion, the report stated: “It is important to babies’ outcomes that their parents are involved in their care, and the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that parents are not able to be there as much as they want and need to be… now, national governments and NHS bodies across the UK must take action to return parents to neonatal units and give local health services the tools they need to return to usual practice.

“Learning from the pandemic must also be used to inform any future response to similar events to prevent the avoidable harms of separation occurring.”