Pedopsychiatrist Pedro Caldeira da Silva warns that babies and children who spend, on average, 10 to 12 hours in daycare centers and gardens if childhood are subject to chronic stress that can cause diseases in adults such as hypertension or cancer.
Portugal has “a very sad record, it is one of the European Union countries where our babies work the most hours a day, they are between 10 and 12 hours, on average, in a group situation, to be cared for by others in daycare centers”, says in an interview with the Lusa agency the director of pedopsychiatry at Hospital Dona Estefânia.
The same is true for children over three years old who “have 10 to 12 hour work days”, stresses Caldeira da Silva, recalling the data released at the end of last year in the report “Estado da Educação 2018”, of the National Council of Education.
For the pediatrician, it is necessary to think about this situation in terms of chronic ‘stress’: “A baby who is in a group situation for so many hours, every day, has a high level of stress” repeatedly ”.
There are studies related to chronic ‘stress’ that show that “this exposure to ‘stress’ is toxic to the brain and that it is later associated with a set of diseases of adults”, which “are of great concern” such as hypertension, strokes (Stroke), cancer, diabetes, says the team leader of the Early Childhood Unit of Hospital D. Estefânia, which is part of the Centro Hospitalar Universitário Lisboa Central.
“These diseases are linked to ‘stressful’ childhood events. It is something that is already known, although one does not want to know it “, laments the doctor, who founded the consultation of” Irritable Babies “and the consultation of” Silent Babies “, resources to support families and promote early diagnosis in health early childhood mental health.
At the Hospital D. Estefânia there are some cases in which “what goes wrong with children has directly to do with length of stay in daycare centers”, but what is known “is that this has a long-term effect, manifested if later ”.
For Pedro Caldeira, “very young children have no need to be kept in a group, but they can handle it”. However, they should not be in this situation for many hours because they have fewer opportunities for “one-to-one interaction” and have to adapt “to a set of environmental situations other than those for which babies are programmed”.
Regarding the ideal age at which children should attend day care, he argues that, in general, they do not need to go before 3 years.
“Of course, there are children who go to the daycare center and have opportunities for stimulation that sometimes families cannot provide, but in the abstract and in general, daycare centers are not a necessity for children, they are a necessity for adults, because they have to work” , stresses.
Pedro Caldeira Silva stresses that small children and young people, in general, have a “remarkable inner strength” that makes them “endure this and much more”, but warns that adults must “begin to have consideration for the well- being and situations of chronic ‘stress’, because the evidence begins to appear that this is important for a good adult life ”.
In his view, it is “very important” to distinguish what is the child’s experience from what are the ideas of adults.
“The child’s individual experience does not often correspond to what adults imagine and, therefore, it is always very good to look at the child and see what is really happening with the children”, defends the sub-commissioner of Health for the National Health System Early Childhood Intervention of the Regional Health Administration of Lisbon and Tagus Valley.