Masks could be delaying development among babies

Becoming a parent is life-changing. With it comes so much joy but at the same time challenges, especially during a pandemic.
"It has been a roller coaster," says Daniele Erichsen a first-time mom.

Erichsen gave birth to her daughter Peyton in November 2020. Her baby has not seen many faces.

In fact, the only people she has seen without a mask have been her mommy and daddy.
"Between trying to keep her safe and the people that we allow around her and them having to wear mask, it honestly is upsetting that she can’t look at their faces. She doesn’t even know what her grandparents really look like," said Erichsen.
It is a sad reality that Daniele and other moms are facing. The question many parents now have is, what effects if any will this have on a baby’s social and emotional development?

Nava Silton, professor of psychology at Mary Mount College, says there are three ways that masks can impair development in infants and young children.
"Their speech recognition and ability may be impacted. Because we do a lot of lip reading," Silton says.  "Number 2, you have the issue of emotional recognition, we use our mouth as part of our way of showing emotion and so they are missing out on that type of recognition for social interaction. And the third is just difficulty recognizing other people because you are not seeing the full structure of their face."

Dr. Cathy Ward, a pediatrician at Big Apple Pediatrics, says children are resilient.

However, she says a lot of what they learn is from facial expression. Certainly, eye contact tells a lot but babies are always looking at our mouths.

 "It is concerning to me if this goes on too much longer and certain development ages they are not getting the interactions that they should," Ward says. 

She says it’s not just the social and emotional milestones she's concerned about but also the child’s speech and language development.

Ward says parents should keep their masks off at home and encourages outdoor activities.

"A child under the age of 18, the risk of dying of COVID is one in 3 million," Ward says.