Managing the mental health of infants
The importance of health and wellbeing starts when one is in the mother’s womb, according to Beyond Blue.
In a new post on its site, national mental health advocacy group Beyond Blue said nurturing one’s mental health doesn’t start once a person starts talking, walking or learning to read and write.
“When it comes to infant mental health, repetition is key. Creating nurturing moments regularly,” the group surmised.
More and more research is being done into the importance of the first thousand days of a child’s development, the group wrote, with the findings reinforcing two pertinent facts: that infants do indeed have mental health and that this mental health needs nurturing.
“Think of a child’s development like a scale, tipping towards either positive or negative development outcomes. Positive factors such as supportive relationships and healthy learning opportunities are stacked on one side, and negative factors like abuse, neglect and lack of resources are piled on the other,” Beyond Blue said.
“A study by The Royal Children’s Hospital found that, ‘When children do not feel safe, calm or protected, the child’s brain places an emphasis on developing neuronal pathways that are associated with survival, before those that are essential to future learning and growth’.”
One should consider the analogy of a plant, the group posited: a plant will grow when the soil has nutrients from water and sunlight, with the roots coming first, followed by the stems and leaves.
“Similarly, a baby needs a healthy environment from which to develop,” it said.
There are simple everyday things that parents and caregivers can do to nurture the mental health and wellbeing of babies, Beyond Blue advocated the following:
Talk with your child constantly
“From the first day they enter the world, talk calmly and positively with your child. They will model their expressions from you, so set a good example from day one.”
Create a healthy environment
“Your child is fully dependent on you when it comes to feeding them,” Beyond Blue said.
“Make the effort to opt for healthy options. Don’t smoke around your child and avoid alcohol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.”
Ensure your child feels heard
Whether a baby is crying, babbling or laughing, responsive caregiving is vital, the group said.
“Letting your baby cry for an extended period without anyone appearing to notice can prolong stress and have long-term effects. Make eye contact and demonstrate that you are fully attentive to their needs.”
Play time is vital
“Playing games like peek-a-boo, counting fingers and toes, singing songs together, building sandcastles… the opportunities for play time are endless.”
“These experiences not only build your relationship with your little one but can also be considered a form of brain training. And they’re fun!”
Expose them to new settings and people
While it’s important your child feels safe, this doesn’t mean holding them back from new learning opportunities, Beyond Blue suggested.
“Whether it be play dates with other children or letting them crawl by themselves around the park (while remaining in eyeshot), these new experiences build their confidence to cope with new experiences as they grow older, such as starting kinder.”
“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain