The importance of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week
It’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week!
Here, at the beginning of life, our little ones’ brains are exquisitely mouldable – as parents, we hope to set up neural templates for healthy stress response settings and secure psychological attachment styles in our babies, life-long. Not that we want to be simplistic about this! Babies cry. The factors that shape emotional well-being are complex and often out of our control. And we will always be less than perfect parents, that’s normal! But as parents we do our best anyhow to respond to our baby’s needs.
This is hard right now in a health system that both recognises the importance of getting in sync with our baby, but also promotes outdated advice which actually creates communication confusion between parents and babies. I don’t just mean sleep training advice, which so often confuses our capacity to experiment with responses to the baby and worsens sleep. I also mean advice that mistakenly medicalises our baby’s communications - which happens so much at the moment with breastfeeding advice and advice for babies who cry a lot. I gave a talk to midwives once about this accidental health system promotion of communication confusion between parent and babies, and its distressing effects, available here: https://possumsonline.com/
In Infant Mental Health Week, I’d like to remind you that you are the expert on your baby, and that experimenting with what feels right to you, what is easy, what brings delight into your life with baby, is the best way to protect your baby’s mental health (not to mention your own!). Also, please consider getting active in supporting our movement for health system change in some small way, even just by spreading the word, or by a small donation – we really need your help if we are to help our society best protect our babies’ mental health life-long!