Sledge H, Lawler M, Hourihane J, Franklin R, Boland F, Dunne S, McCallion N, O’Mahony L, Byrne S.
Objective: The COVID-19 pandemic caused long periods of lockdown, social isolation and intense challenges for parents. This study examines parenting in an infant cohort born at the pandemic onset.
Methods: The CORAL study is a prospective longitudinal observational study looking at allergy, immune function and neurodevelopmental outcome in babies born between March and May 2020. Demographic information was collected, babies were reviewed at 6-monthly intervals, and serology for COVID-19 infection was recorded. When babies were 12 months old, parents were asked for 3-5 words to describe raising a baby during the pandemic. Frequency of word usage was compared between first time parents and parents with other children, and parents of babies with and without a diagnosis of COVID-19 infection.
Results: 354 babies were recruited to CORAL study. Social circles were small. At 6 months the median number of people (including parents) who had kissed the baby was 3, and by 12 months one-quarter of babies had never met another child of similar age. 304 parents completed the word choice. Commonly reported words were lonely (44.4%), isolating (31.9%) and strong bond (15.8%). 12 of those 304 babies had COVID-19 in their first year of life and there was no significant difference in reported negative or positive word number compared with parents of babies without a COVID-19 infection, or by first time parents or those who already had children.
Conclusion: The lockdowns and social restrictions made raising an infant challenging for all parents in Ireland. It is important parents know this was a shared experience.