What is Infant Mental Health?
“Infant Mental Health” refers to an infant’s ability to experience emotions, develop relationships and learn. An infant’s world is usually pretty small. Infants grow up among family, friends and community. They learn about themselves and the world around them through the relationships they have with the people in their lives. Babies who feel loved and cherished learn that they are lovable. They then grow up feeling good about themselves and develop friendships more easily.
What do we mean by “emotional development?”
In the first few years of life, babies grow and change very quickly. As they grow, their feelings and relationships become more complex. Babies need parents and other important people in their lives to help them manage their feelings. For example, a baby who is scared, angry, or hurt needs help from an adult to understand, calm down, and be comforted. Parents naturally help their infants to relax by holding them, speaking softly, reassuring them or gently rocking them. When families create safe and loving homes, their children have an easier time learning to manage their feelings. Adults’ emotional health, level of stress, and life circumstances can affect their ability to create those environments or their relationships with babies. If you are dealing with a great deal of stress or difficulty or know a parent or other adult in such circumstances, it can be extremely helpful to seek help from a mental health professional.
How can I nurture my baby’s mental health?
By helping your baby feel loved and protected you help to nurture your baby’s mental health. You can help your baby feel protected by creating a stable and predictable environment. You can do this by providing daily routines for your baby and responding to their needs and requests in consistent ways.
For more information on infant mental health, download our brochure, What Is Infant Mental Health, and Why Is It Important?