Tweddle Highlight Infant Mental Health Awareness

Tweddle Highlight Infant Mental Health Awareness


Tweddle has joined the International movement to promote Infant Mental Health Awareness Week Monday 12th – 16th June with a series of events to highlight the critical very early years.

Two Tweddle events, ‘Babies, Business & The Bottom Line’ business breakfast and “Babies’ Brains Matter’ seminar aim to highlight how infant mental health impacts us all whether it be at home or in the workplace.

During Infant Mental Health Awareness Week Tweddle invites Government, industry and consumers to consider the distinct needs of babies and toddlers and to invest in the critical services that support the first thousand days (conception to age 2).

The World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) recently released a position paper on the rights of infants to highlight the unique needs of babies and toddlers to those of older children.

A newborn’s brain is only about one-quarter the size of an adult’s however it grows to about 80 percent of adult size by three years of age and 90 percent by age five. The growth in each region of the brain largely depends on receiving stimulation, which spurs activity in that region.

This stimulation provides the foundation for learning. Stable and nurturing relationships provide positive stimulation that builds the architecture of the brain and connects up neural pathways.

From birth to age 18 months, it has been calculated that connections in the brain are created at a rate of a million per second. The earliest experiences shape a baby’s brain development and have a lifelong impact on that baby’s mental and emotional health.

One of the most essential experiences in shaping the architecture of the developing brain is the  “serve and return” interaction between children and significant adults in their lives. Young children naturally reach out for interaction through babbling, facial expressions and gestures and adults respond with the same kind of vocalizing and gesturing back in return.

This back-and-forth process is fundamental to the wiring of the brain, especially in the earliest years. A parent experiencing mental health, drug and alcohol or family violence issues can compromise this vital process.

“We know how mental health challenges appear in adults, but not many people know how they appear in a baby or toddler. But just because you can’t see them or decipher them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there” said Director of Clinical Services/Nursing Kirsty Evans.

“Parents, babies and toddlers admitted to a Tweddle Residential program have often experienced trauma – and a distressed parent means a distressed baby. To the untrained eye, a baby might just look quiet, or it might be distressed and resistant to being settled but skilled clinicians know how to read a baby or a toddler’s cues” She said.

“The baby might be frowning and looking scared, it might have a frightened parent or the parent might be frightening. Responses might include turning away, shrugging and trying to make itself smaller. A toddler might appear ambivalent or in hyper arousal mode, it might flinch to the touch, it might be exhausted, hungry or worried about arguing parents. Yes, we see worried babies” She said.

“What we know is that you have a very powerful window of opportunity to help the parents understand their challenges and empower them to change the future for their child by learning to connect. Sometimes you are dealing with parents who haven’t experienced a positive parenting role model and need the practical skills and encouragement to start again”.

While at Tweddle parents learn about what a baby needs from their relationships and the importance of tuning into their child. Some parents arrive at Tweddle not knowing how to play with their baby or how to communicate with their toddler.

Ms Evans reflected on how challenging the transition to parenting can be for some. “It can come as a shock, parents start by unpacking their problems and worries with their assessment and intake clinician and suddenly they’ve disclosed mental health issues,  family violence, social isolation, financial concerns – the reasons for an unsettled or sleepless baby become evident through the course of their admission”.

The first 1000 days of life are the greatest predictor of lifelong physical and mental health and the capacity to develop resilience. Research shows that the gaps in development appear before children turn 2.

“Tweddle has been working with the last three generations of Victorians – gaining 95 years of expertise of early life, parenting and brain development” said Ms Evans. “Infant mental health is vital to eco-system of every business; children, partners, families and communities”

Visit Tweddle’s Infant Mental Health Awareness page for information about events.

Tweddle Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 11-17 June 2018
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