Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2020
Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs every June to highlight the importance of babies’ emotional wellbeing and development. This year’s theme is: seeing the world through babies’ eyes.
Even as tiny newborns, babies want to connect, communicate and learn, and they experience lots of different emotions.
The first 1001 days of their lives are critical as their brains are developing rapidly. The relationships they have with their parents and caregivers are really important as they learn about themselves and their world through these relationships.
How can you see the world through babies’ eyes?
There are lots of simple ways parents and caregivers can support their babies through their first 1001 days and learn to understand what they’re telling them:
- Babies are born ready to communicate with you. They show this by doing things like copying your facial expressions and becoming calmer when they hear your voice. Spend time talking to them, making eye contact and smiling at them.
- Babies are born curious and ready to learn about the world around them. Join them by getting down and playing on their level. Talk to them about what they might be seeing or hearing – this will help their brain develop.
- Babies are great at communicating and showing you how they feel using their body and their voice. Look out for cues that they want you to interact and play with them, that they need a break, or that they are ready for a new activity. For example, they might tell you it’s time for a new activity by looking away, squirming or kicking.
- Your baby is trying to make sense of the world. Sometimes it might seem scary or overwhelming to them. Their brains are growing fast, but they can’t always cope with the emotions they’re feeling by themselves. Help and re-assure them by soothing, cuddling, singing and giving them skin-to-skin contact. Just by being there you show them that you will keep them safe and are there for them.
- Sometimes the world can be confusing, frustrating or even a little scary when you are little, and sometimes full of joy and delight. Take time to think about the world from your baby’s point of view. It’s probably very different from your own…
Where to find more information and tips
There are lots of websites and videos out there to help support your baby through their first 1001 days. The following selection are all from trusted organisations:
- Big Little Moments – short animated videos from Better Start Bradford, giving children the skills they need to develop into healthy, bright adults. See in particular:
- Saying what they see
- Saying what they’re doing
- Hungry Little Minds – simple, fun activities for kids, from newborn to five, developed by the Department for Education.
- Small Talk – a website from the National Literacy Trust focusing on chatting, playing and reading with your baby.
- Tiny Happy People – a packed website from the BBC to help you develop your child’s communication skills. See in particular:
- The benefits of talking to your baby from birth
- Four top tips for talking to your baby
- Reasons babies cry
- Five ways babies are already communicating
- Why touching and talking are so important for newborn babies
- What is really going on in your baby’s brain
- The Association for Infant Mental Health: Getting to Know Your Baby – a series of detailed videos around bonding, communication, interaction, sleep and soothing.