What is Infant Mental Health?

Mental health in early childhood is about BEING and BECOMING mentally healthy. 
As parents and carers we can support the wellbeing and social, emotional and behavioural development of our children from pregnancy and beyond by helping them to:

  • Be content, at ease and feel safe
  • Experience sensitive and responsive care
  • Explore and play in a way that is appropriate to their level of development

Top tips to connect with your baby:

  • Take time to get to know their likes, needs & expressions
  • Don’t try to be perfect, you’ll learn together
  • Be gentle & predictable
  • Look after yourself so you can look after them
  • Their brain thrives on love, responsive attention & calmness

The power of early connections

Just like a house, a child’s brain needs building, and it is built through experience, primarily the experience of relationships with their caregivers. The foundations need to be well-built to ensure that what is built on top is robust and resilient.​

The relationships babies form with their parents or other caregivers are the foundation on which all future development is based.  ​

How does a baby develop good mental health?

Children develop within an environment of relationships that begins in the family but also involves other adults who play important roles in their lives. These relationships affect virtually all aspects of development—intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and behavioural—and their quality and stability in the early years lay the foundation that supports a wide range of later outcomes.  

These early relationships start in the womb. Bonding begins between the parent/s and the unborn baby during pregnancy.​ 

For instance, we begin to feel love towards our baby, begin to nurture our baby by trying to eat well and take care of ourselves.  Alongside this we begin to think about what our baby might be like and what they might be experiencing in the womb. 

Bonding with your bump can help parents and carers with the mental preparation of transitioning to parenthood. ​

​Post birth, a nurturing sensitive relationship forms the basis of building positive infant mental healthIt is what babies need to feel safe and secure in order to be able to explore and interact with the world and learn how to manage their feelings.  

If your baby could speak they might be saying:

  • Take time to get to know me – my likes, my needs, my expressions, my little ways…
  • I don’t need you to be perfect, we are both new at this - just to keep trying, we’ll learn together
  • I feel safe when you are gentle and predictable
  • Please look after yourself… this will help you to look after me
  • My brain thrives on love, responsive attention and calmness.

Check out our #HomeStartTipsForParents page on helping your baby’s brain to build.

Look after yourself

It’s important to look after yourself during the early days of parenthood. Becoming a new parent is one of the most wonderful but also incredibly challenging experiences of our lives. No one gets it right all of the time and sometimes the bravest thing you can do is reach out for help if you are struggling. 

Check out our #HomeStartTipsForParents page on taking care of you when you've had a baby.  

Home-Start supports parent-baby connection.

Watch our video to find out more about Home-Start support during the perinatal period.

    If you need further support: 

      More Home-Start Tips For Parents