Let’s talk about infant mental health. Why is this important and how can behavioral health therapists support infant mental health?

Bringing a new baby home can be a joyous time in a parent’s life. It can also be a considerably stressful time, filled with many questions and uncertainties, as well as increased pressure to do the “right” things to ensure your baby gets the very best start. Infant Mental Health is focused on the developing ability of infants and toddlers to form secure attachment and trusting relationships, express and manage their emotions, and explore their learning and growing environments. This development takes place through experiences with their family, community, and in the context of culture. Assessment and intervention efforts in Infant Mental Health focus on the relationship between the caregiver and infant.

Why Is Infant Mental Health Important?
Research has clearly shown that early experiences matter. Brain development occurs in infancy and early years at a tremendously rapid rate, and experiences of toxic stress can negatively impact brain development as well as affect bonding and attachment and future behaviors and relationships.

What is Secure Attachment?
Secure attachment is an essential foundation for Infant Mental Health. Secure attachment between an infant and caregiver instills trust and encourages the infant to explore their environment from the secure base of the securely attached relationship. Attachment theorist John Bowlby describes attachment as “a lasting psychological connection between human beings.”

How Can I Develop Secure Attachment with my Baby?
Practice self-care! Take care of yourself. You are better able to take care of the needs of your baby when you feel well physically and emotionally. Build trust with your baby by respond to your baby’s needs by comforting them each time they cry Make eye contact and hold and cuddle your baby Speak to your baby with a calm and soothing voice, singing or talking to them during feedings, diaper changing, and during the daily routine Have realistic expectations of your baby: your baby cannot tell you their needs or be able to sooth themselves for the first year of development Practice being fully present, giving baby your full attention periodically throughout the day without the distractions of cell phones or other devices.

How Can Behavioral Health Care Providers Help?
A behavioral health care provider partners with you by building on your family’s strengths. Your provider will support you in creating strong, secure, and trusting attachment with your infant. Your provider will work with you to consider your baby’s temperament, specific family situation and needs to co-create a plan for reducing risk factors for toxic stress, as well as increasing resiliency and protective factors within the family.

Want to know how a Behavioral Health Therapist can Help?

Schedule your infant, child, and teen for an evaluation today and see how a therapist can help your family.
Call (828) 398 0043 or click on the schedule button.

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