Removing the Baby Blind-spot is Everyone’s Responsibility

Removing the Baby Blind-spot is Everyone’s Responsibility

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week is a global event this June 7th-13th. 2021’s theme is Including infants in children and young people’s mental health.

The theme encourages everyone working in children and young people’s mental health policies, strategies, and services to think about and includes babies.

The mental health of babies and toddlers is very different from that of older children. Babies rely on adults to organise their feelings. Babies are developing more quickly yet they are completely dependent on parents and carers. They cannot talk to us; however, they communicate their needs and their distress in different ways.

Parental anxiety, stress, and depression affect bonding and responsive care. Babies need a unique service response, as do parents and carers with babies. Children and young people’s mental health should always refer to the mental health of babies and children 0-18.

Do we have a ‘Baby Blind-spot?’

This Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, we ask you all to consider these questions:

  • “Do we have a ‘Baby Blind-spot’? and
  • What are some creative ways we can keep babies and their critical relationships in the spotlight?”

Research has determined that a child’s first three years are the most critical in brain development. During this time babies’ growing brains are shaped by their experiences, particularly the interactions they have with their parents and other caregivers. During this critical time, the brain develops rapidly to build the foundational cognitive and character skills necessary for success in school, health, career and life.

Chair of the Australian Association For Infant Mental Health and Chair of the Tweddle Foundation, Dr Nicole Milburn, said that health professionals, parents, and policymakers needed to take collective responsibility when it came to infant mental health. “The mental health of babies needs to be seen as a social problem. Keeping an eye on the health of those parent-infant relationships around us in the community is vital for us as a collective; parents, professionals and policymakers.”

Parents, Professionals, and Policymakers need a shared language

Dr Milburn explained that relationships are crucial for the development of good infant mental health because it is within relationships that babies exist and communicate. “Fortunately, there are many ways we can help set a baby on a better path towards good mental health and development, but taking responsibility for this as a collective will create real change.”

She recommended that communities develop a shared language from the start. “We need to place babies at the forefront of the mental-health ecosystem. Babies experience anxiety, stress, worry and depression. But we can help babies get off to a great start in life by observing the health of the relationships around them and their environments.” Dr Milburn acknowledged that this had been additionally challenging because of COVID. “There have however been some creative solutions.” she added. “Outside meetings with parents and bubs, and walking/talking sessions have shown to be beneficial.”

What is Infant Mental Health?

Join the Infant Mental Health Movement

The Tweddle Foundation invites parents, carers, policymakers and health professionals to become part of the Infant Mental Health movement by using the #IMHAW21 and #IncludingInfants hashtags during IMHAW.

Together we can help change the language and ensure the mental health of babies becomes, and remains, an integral part of the broader mental health conversation and prevention initiatives.

During Infant Mental Health Awareness Week Tweddle will be sharing daily updates on social media. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn #IMHAW21 and #IncludingInfants

AAIMH and Tweddle Foundation Chair Dr Nicole Milburn speaks with Parent Infant Foundation Head of Policy and Campaigning Sally Hogg about Infant Mental Health.

Where to go for help and advice:

During Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, we ask that you consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Tweddle Foundation. Your donation will support Tweddle’s statewide programs that help babies, toddlers and families thrive in the critical first 1000 days.

 


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