Infant Mental Health

Date: April 12, 2022 l Author(s): Meiby Nodarse, M.H.C/M.F.T and Michele Rogan

Mental Health has recently become a major topic, not only in the foster care world, but all over the globe! More than ever people are realizing the importance of finding healing and growth after difficult life experiences and are raising awareness around positive mental health practices. This is such an incredible shift to see, but did you know that infant mental health is just as important as teen or adult mental health?

Infant Mental Health focuses on the social and emotional well-being of infants between the ages of 0-3 years old. The effects of trauma in infancy may not arise or fully manifest until the child is older. For example, if an infant had an inconsistent caregiver, and could not count on them to consistently meet their basic needs, this child may develop mistrust and skepticism of the world around them. These reactions or emotional barriers, however, can be prevented or significantly decreased by implementing early interventions with an infant to promote healthy development.

There is a tremendous amount of learning and developing that happens in the early years of a child’s life, and factors like trauma in-utero, environment, human interaction, culture, etc., can have a positive or negative impact on an infant’s mental health. Keeping risk and protective factors in mind when caring for an infant will help you have a better understanding in how to best prepare to support them.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “At each stage [in life], risks occur that can be changed through prevention intervention. Early childhood risks, such as aggressive behavior, can be changed or prevented with family, school, and community interventions that focus on helping children develop appropriate, positive behaviors. If not addressed, negative behaviors can lead to more risks.”

Some examples of risk factors can be: trauma, poverty, early aggressive behavior, or lack of parental supervision. Protective factors that can combat these risks can include, but are not limited to: parental monitoring, strong ties to the community, supportive caregiving, and the ability to control impulses.

Being aware of the possible outcomes and behaviors can help you implement preventative strategies in infancy. Intervention simply means helping your child growing a secure base, and increasing the child’s ability to form healthy relationships. The benefits extend beyond infancy and help to decreased anxiety and aggression, increase the ability to regulate and express emotions in adolescence and adulthood.

Interested in learning tools and techniques to better support an infant in your home who has experienced trauma? 4KIDS offers a free, 2-day training that equips parents on how to use these interventions, and continue to build connected relationship with their kids. If you would like more information, please visit: