Do you ever wonder what goes on in your baby’s mind? Are you worried about being a good parent to your young child? During the early years of life, babies are forging their first relationships and developing emotionally, socially, and cognitively, which serve as the foundation for the rest of their lives. Through these pivotal years, how can you make sure your child grows to become the best version of herself? This toolkit addresses Infant Mental Health, an integral component of raising a healthy child, and provides readings and practical tips for you to better understand your child, foster a positive parent-child relationship, and exercise personal self-care.

  • What is Infant Mental Health (IMH?)
  • Why IMH Matters
  • Social and Emotional Development- What is your baby feeling?
  • Cognitive Development- What is your baby thinking?
  • Maternal Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
  • Self Care & Parental Relationships

What is Infant Mental Health (IMH)? Did you know that a baby’s brain makes new connections 700 times per second? 

Note: It is important to note that although IMH refers to children ages 0-3, many of the recommendations can be applied to ages 4-6, also known as Early Childhood.  

 


Why Infant Mental Health Matters:
The first relationships your baby develops will become the blueprint for how she feels about herself, and the way she assesses future relationships. 

Secure attachment bonds are vital for your child to have good mental health 

Secure attachment builds trust between you and your child

Ongoing stress in babies can cause mental health issues (anxiety, fear, insecurity).

 


Social and Emotional Development – Babies and young children need more than just feeding, changing, burping, and bathing.

Emotional development starts unfolding at birth!

What if you are frequently seeing some negative behaviors?  

It is every parent’s wish to raise a positive and successful human being.  It is important to not just focus on modifying a child’s negative behavior but to also keep your eye on the bigger picture.  Refer to 10 Habits to Shape a Kind, Well Adjusted Child for more information.

 


Cognitive Development – Your primary goal as a parent is to see your children learn, grow, and excel.

Communication, or how your baby exchanges ideas and feelings through verbal and non-verbal ways, is another component of cognitive development in addition to exploration and play.


Maternal Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Having a new baby brings about so many changes in a mother’s life- in her routine, body, moods, relationships, and more.  

PPD makes it harder for a mother to be emotionally available and aware of her child’s needs, which can impact her child’s development, social and emotional capacity, and future mental health.  


Self Care & Parental Relationships: It is important to know that there is no such thing as being the perfect parent–your child only needs you to be a good enough parent.


Additional Resources
Resource  Web Address Description
Center for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/index.html The CDC provides access to materials like positive parenting tips, free educational materials, children’s mental health resources, and more.
Zero to Three https://www.zerotothree.org/ Zero to Three works to ensure that babies and toddlers benefit from the connections that are critical to their health, well being, and development. They do this by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers.
Ages & Stages Questionnaire https://agesandstages.com/ Ages to Stages provides accurate, reliable, developmental and social-emotional screening for children between birth and 6 years of age.
Pathways https://pathways.org/ Provides resources for tracking milestones in their child’s development, including the motor skills, senses, communication and more. Their sensory toolkit includes materials that help with earlier identification and therapy for children’s sensory issues, which can help children reach their fullest potential.
Postpartum Support International (PSI) http://www.postpartum.net/ Provides PSI Support Coordinators and area resources such as free telephone support, groups, reliable services, local events, trainings, and more.
Brazelton presentation – 4th trimester https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZisX_F6HAfE Dr. T. Berry Brazelton discusses newborns and the impact their environment has on their behavior.

This toolkit was authored by Saara Patel, LLMSW & Infant Mental Health Specialist, Bessma Haider, BA, and Nushrat Rahman, BA with support from Madiha Tahseen, PhD, Carol Oleksiak, LMSW, IMH-E®, Sameera Ahmed, PhD, and Sarrah AbuLughod, MA.


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