The importance of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week
It’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week!
Here, at the beginning of life, our little ones’ brains are exquisitely mouldable – as parents, we hope to set up neural templates for healthy stress response settings and secure psychological attachment styles in our babies, life-long. Not that we want to be simplistic about this! Babies cry. The factors that shape emotional well-being are complex and often out of our control. And we will always be less than perfect parents, that’s normal! But as parents we do our best anyhow to respond to our baby’s needs.
This is hard right now in a health system that both recognises the importance of getting in sync with our baby, but also promotes outdated advice which actually creates communication confusion between parents and babies. I don’t just mean sleep training advice, which so often confuses our capacity to experiment with responses to the baby and worsens sleep. I also mean advice that mistakenly medicalises our baby’s communications - which happens so much at the moment with breastfeeding advice and advice for babies who cry a lot. I gave a talk to midwives once about this accidental health system promotion of communication confusion between parent and babies, and its distressing effects, available here: https://possumsonline.com/
In Infant Mental Health Week, I’d like to remind you that you are the expert on your baby, and that experimenting with what feels right to you, what is easy, what brings delight into your life with baby, is the best way to protect your baby’s mental health (not to mention your own!). Also, please consider getting active in supporting our movement for health system change in some small way, even just by spreading the word, or by a small donation – we really need your help if we are to help our society best protect our babies’ mental health life-long!
Dr Pamela Douglas is a GP and Medical Director of Possums & Co www.possumsonline.com, a charity which educates health professionals in the evidence-based Neuroprotective Developmental Care (NDC) or Possums programs, including the Possums Baby and Toddler Sleep Program. (This program is now available inside Milk & Moon, our exciting new home for parents. Milk & Moon membership includes everything in the Possums Baby and Toddler Sleep Program, the Gestalt Breastfeeding Program, and the Parent Hub, plus many additional resources. We are no longer selling these products separately, but as an all-in-one plus much more membership through Milk & Moon.) If you wish, you can refer to an NDC accredited practitioner. Free videos and other resources for parents with babies are available here, and online parent peer support is available for a nominal fee (also now available inside Milk & Moon). Pam is a Senior Lecturer with the Primary Care Clinical Unit, The University of Queensland, and Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University. She is author of The discontented little baby book: all you need to know about feeds, sleep and crying.
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