It's infant mental health awareness week! This week is all about shining light on the importance of babies' mental health. There is a #babyblindspot when we talk about children's mental health because the conversation is often focused on older children and infants are overlooked. That's why the Parent-Infant Foundation created this campaign. You can learn more about them and their events here.
What is infant mental health?
The Association for Infant Mental Health says that infant mental health "refers to how a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to three in the context of their family, community, and culture. It is the infant’s developing capacity to:
- form close and secure adult and peer relationships
- experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions
- explore the environment and learn."
Find out more on their website, click here.
Why is it important?
A baby's experiences and interactions during the 1001 days following conception lay the foundation for their health, wellbeing, learning and earnings potential throughout their lives. That is why it's so important to focus on babies' mental health, to ensure your children have a good start. The Parent-Infant Foundation created a movement to raise awareness about this crucial development period which you can find out more about by clicking here.
What can you do to help your child?
There are lots and lots of free resources online about how to support your child's mental health. We've curated some for you here:
- Young Minds gives you great detailed advice about where you can find help for specific issues like your child crying excessively or continence issues for children younger than 5. Click here for the link.
- The BBC's Tiny Happy People website has so many resources surrounding parenthood and all things baby. They have advice, explanations on how your child develops, as well as lots of activities to do with your baby to stimulate their development and communication skills according to their age group. They have a different theme each month so their content is updated often! Click here for the link.
- The Association for Infant Mental Health has lots of videos for all stages of development (even before birth!) to get to know your child. These are very helpful to learn how to recognise your baby's cues, likes and sensitivities. Click here for the link.
- The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) also has free informational resources that explain how your child's brain develops (find them here) as well as brain-building tips and activities you can do with them to support healthy brain development (find that here). They even have a newsletter you can sign up to to receive weekly tips straight to your inbox! Find it here.
Tips to support your baby's wellbeing
Dr Dan Siegel talks about the four S's of parenting: children need to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. Here are some tips to support a baby's wellbeing:
- making eye contact, playing, singing with them
- giving them attention
- sticking to routines
- responding to your child's emotion with love and empathy
- taking care of yourself and being kind to yourself (your mental health counts too!)
Being aware of just how much a child's experiences and interactions in their first years of life shapes their long-term wellbeing is crucial to give them the best chance possible in life.
Send this blog to other parents or carers so these resources can be shared!