Babies – like all humans – can have good mental health, poor mental health or anything in between.
The first 1000 days of a child’s life is crucial to their mental health later in life. All babies need to feel safe and looked after – it’s what sets up their expectations of what a loving relationship feels like.
If the baby is not fed when they are hungry, held when distressed or spoken to regularly, they quickly learn to expect not to be looked after.
A baby’s emotional state is strongly linked with what’s going on for their parent and what’s going on around them. Babies can feel if their caregiver is very stressed or frightened. They might not understand the words being shouted – but they’ll fear the loud scary noises they can hear.
However, if baby’s caregiver is having fun playing, talking and smiling with them, then baby (presuming they aren’t hungry, sick, tired or have a dirty nappy) is likely to be happy also and form a positive attachment with them.
Sadly, some babies experience poor mental health before they can speak or crawl – especially those that end up in out-of-home care. The good news is that with attuned and responsive care, any adult looking after them (including kinship or foster carers) can dramatically improve the outcomes for these infants.
Berry Street’s Take Two program has expertise in working with babies. In this video interview, Jen Willis interviews Catherine McQueen, one of the Take Two’s Infant Mental Health Consultants. Catherine explains why she’s passionate about the emotional state of the littlest people in our community.
For more tips on how parents and caregivers can support an infant’s mental health read this previous blog post: Why a baby’s mental health really matters
Berry Street’s Take Two program is a Victoria-wide therapeutic service helping to address the impact on children of the trauma they have experienced from abuse, neglect or adverse experiences.
Take Two can provide specialist clinical consultancy services to other organisations. Contact us for more information.