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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.

 

 


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.


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

  How can you support your baby’s infant’s mental health?

  What does it look like when you nurture your baby socially and emotionally?

  A baby’s mental health is reflected through her behavior

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.

  Newborns have social and emotional needs from their primary caregivers

 Relationship building is a vital part of building your child’s social skills. 

 Connect with your baby in everyday interactions

 Showing affection and cuddling is linked to her long-term happiness and success.

  Babies learn friendship skills from the relationship they have with their parents

  Teaching Empathy starts early

Emotional development starts unfolding at birth!

  This podcast summarizes your role in building your baby’s social and emotional skills

 Infant Emotional Development Stages and Tips refers to needs in the first year of life

  Enhance emotional development in the first year
  Manage the terrible twos while you support your child’s newfound independence  

  Check out tips on how to help your kid calm down and techniques for self-control in preschool-aged children

What if you are frequently seeing some negative behaviors?  

 Separation anxiety and difficulty in transitions are part of normal development.

  Rather than saying “stop crying”, provide support and empathy.

  Know the difference between aggression and anxiety because they can look the same!

  Feeling overwhelmed is normal- use these tips to manage stressful situations.

 

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.

  Strengthen your child’s cognitive development simply through play

  Be your baby’s first playmate

  Learn about how brains develop through the first three years of life

  Look out for developmental warning signs in young babies

  Check out this article for more information on developmental delays

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.

  Your child’s communication skills grow dramatically during the first years of life

  Provide support in communication every step of the way.  

  Learn about how a baby’s physical ability related to reading readiness

  What does it mean to read the right books at the right time?

  Bilingual? Dual Language Development: Double the Benefit explains the merits


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.  

  10-20% of mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD) and/or anxiety.

 Postpartum Depression Explained provides symptoms, causes, myths and facts.  

  Learn about 8 warning signs of PPD.  

 The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression (in Plain Mama English)

  For more information, refer to the “Do I have PPD?” checklist

  *Learn about Postpartum Depression in Men and some of the signs, causes, & treatments

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.

  What it means to be a good enough parent

  Unresolved feelings from past experiences impact your beliefs and attitudes about parenthood

  Your past experiences unconsciously manifest in how you parent your child.  

 Self-care should be part of your routine

  Ways to include self-care in your life  

 The One Conversation that New Parents Need to Stay Connected is a resource for couples!

 What Kids Learn from your Marriage is based on how you interact with your spouse!


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.

 


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