What is Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health?

A baby’s mental health is every part as important as her physical health.

Good mental health matters for her brain, body, and behavior — now and for her whole lifetime.

So, what is good infant mental health?

Good infant mental health means a baby is nurtured and protected by caring adults – most often her parents – in a way that provides the basis for a secure parent-child relationship. It is within these special relationships that babies build a strong (or weak) foundation for all emotional, cognitive, and social development. And, research has also made the link between these strong early relationships and a child’s lifelong physical health.

Good infant mental health looks like this: when parents and other caregivers are responsive, protective, and stable, babies become confident, resilient, and better able to manage their emotions.

Formally, infant mental health (IMH) is defined as

The developing capacity from birth to 3 “to experience, regulate, and express emotions; to form close relationships; and to explore the environment and learn” — all in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations for young children.[1]

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