21 April 2020

Are young babies invisible victims of the Coronavirus crisis? Or is it the other way around: does the current situation provide parents the opportunity to offer better care than usual? Psychobiologist Carolina de Weerth received a grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to get the answers.

The first months of a human life are important for further development. To prevent mental and physical disease later on, Dutch parents are advised to provide routine immunizations, exclusive breastfeeding, and nightly room-sharing in the first 6 months after delivery. However, a large number of babies do not receive this recommended care. For example, 39% of Dutch infants receive exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Potentially, parents’ busy lives and short parental leaves partly explain this non-adherence to the recommended care.

Professor De Weerth will try to find out whether the COVID-19 crisis, as a ‘natural experiment’, may hinder or facilitate parental adherence to care advice. On the one hand, the crisis may worsen care. This might be the case because parents postpone immunizations to prevent contagion, or because they are (financially) stressed. On the other hand, the crisis may improve care, because parents are at home and have the time to provide extensive breastfeeding and nightly room-sharing.

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