Your Baby’s Mental Health FAQ

Babies experience emotions, too.

These emotions, and your nurturing response to them, are at the heart of your baby’s good emotional, social, and cognitive development — or mental health. When you and your baby have a secure relationship, it sets her up for a lifetime of  healthy development — for her brain, body, and behavior.

Here are the answers to a few of the most-asked questions:

What is infant mental health (IMH)?

Infant mental health is a field dedicated to promoting the social and emotional well-being of all infants, toddlers, and families within the context of secure and nurturing relationships. Infant mental health services support the growth of healthy attachment relationships in early infancy, reducing the risk of delays or disorders and enhancing enduring strengths.

Why are strong relationships important?

Strong relationships matter for your baby’s brain, body & behavior.

Brain A baby’s brain develops rapidly during the first 3 years of life.  Predictable, responsive and nurturing relationships support healthy brain development, encourage curiosity, connection, exploration and complex thought for for success in school and life.

Body Stress from unresponsive or harsh early relationships can have physical impact on a baby’s health — increasing the likelihood of life-long health problems, risky health behaviors and early death.  When parents understand how past or present trauma, neglect or abuse influence their ability to care for their baby, they are more responsive and more likely to hold, feed, comfort and protect their baby.  This reduces stress and creates lifelong protective factors.

Behavior When a baby has health relationships with with parents who are sensitive, and responsive, he is better able to have, express and regulate a range of emotions that can lead to positive behaviors and meaningful interactions with adults and peers.

How do I build a strong relationship with my baby?

Provide predictable, nurturing and age appropriate responses (e.g. smiling, talking, picking up, comforting, touching) to your baby when she seeks your care by crying, smiling, vocalizing, grasping, reaching, following, etc.

What if I'm having trouble bonding with my baby?

If you’re concerned about your relationship with your baby, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and/or your primary care physician to discuss your concerns as soon as possible. If you still have concerns upon speaking with your child’s pediatrician and/or your own primary care physician, consider contacting a professional who specializes in infant mental health.  Check out our Michigan Infant and Family Service Provider Registry to find a professional near you.

What if I have worries about how my baby is developing?

If you’re concerned that your toddler isn’t developing the skills she should be, or if her development seems behind other kids her age, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss your concerns as soon as possible. With some developmental delays and disorders, early diagnosis and intervention can be incredibly important in avoiding more severe outcomes.  Your child’s pediatrician will be able to address your concerns.  If your child needs further evaluation, your child’s pediatrician may refer you to Early On and have you request a developmental assessment.

Where can I find out more about infant mental health services in my area?

Check out our Michigan Infant and Family Service Provider Registry to see where infant mental health services are located throughout Michigan.


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