Babies have mental health too…
Until recently, it’s a thing I’d never considered! What about you?
Infant mental health refers to your baby’s developing social and emotional skills. It helps them form close and secure connections and relationships with you, their carers, other adults, and their peers. It helps them manage their experiences and express all their emotions. It also helps them to use their environment to explore and learn with the loving support of their family and community.
With “around three children in every primary class in the UK having mental health issues and many more struggling with challenges from bullying to bereavement,” it’s something that we need to take seriously as parents and as a society. Each of these struggling children were babies once too! And as this week is child mental health week, it’s worth remembering that babies are children too and we shouldn’t forget them when we are talking about children’s mental health!
As with all things, building strong, firm foundations from the start helps us ensure that our children reach their full potential and become the happy, creative, dynamic, independent, successful members of society that we all want our children to become.
So how can we support our baby’s mental health?
Through providing them with a consistent, loving environment, building connection and using play to aid their development, we are providing our babies with a secure environment to develop their social and emotional skills.
When we as parents understand the learning our baby gains from the play we do with them, we develop a strong understanding of what our baby is going through - the struggles, the wonder, the challenges, the successes. We begin to see things from the baby’s viewpoint, helping us to support our baby’s mental health development.
If you want support to understand what your baby learns from the play you do, then download the Oliiki app and take advantage of our free 7-day trial! It’ll show you not only what to do to ensure that your play is age-appropriate, but also what your baby is learning and how that relates to their later life learning. It also gives you deeper understanding about their development.
This week also happens to be reading aloud week, which happens to be an amazing way to build your baby’s mental health. It’s never to early to begin reading aloud to your baby. You can start before your baby is even born!
When you read to your bump, you are calm and quiet.
You usually sit to read. This in turn helps you breathe deeply. Add into that the comforting sound of your voice, and the often-added stroking of your bump, and you are giving your baby a gentle, loving environment in which to bask for a while. You will not only be surrounding your unborn baby with calm and love, but also sounds and words which will help their emotional and language development.
I advise adding a black and white book to your hospital bag.
There is nothing more special than reading your brand-new baby their first bedtime story, and why shouldn’t that be on their very first night in the world? I settled down with each of my three babies to read them their first story on their first night. It was warm, calming and comforting for both of us. As they lay snuggled in my arms and I lay back on the hospital bed, I was able to drink them in, and they too, were able to drink me in. My voice, my face, my smell, my love. In that moment we shared the wonders of black and white lines, I was engrossed in them and they in me and the book we were sharing. We built a connection. Something that is truly magical!
Then there’s the joy of reading aloud to your older baby.
There’s something so special about settling down to share a book. It might be the silly voices that you put on (think wonky donkey https://youtu.be/gbsZohEMn38 or this fabulous reading session with a dad and the resulting wonderful giggles or sharing for the umpteenth time the same book that you’ve read so many times you now don’t need to actually read the words. Or it might be the delight of sharing some of the AMAZING books that are out there like Two shoes New Shoes by the wonderful Shirley Hughes and watching your child connect the written word to the brilliant images, the characters, the descriptions, and the storyline. As they connect and you read aloud, you are developing their concentration, their focus, their love of story, their quest for knowledge, and of course, as they snuggle into your arms as you read, you are developing their mental health which is such an important foundation to build for them!
Reading aloud to your baby IS supporting your baby’s mental health and what a wonderful way to do it!
What are you going to be reading aloud today?
Want to understand more about your baby's play and learning and have over 1000+ activities at your finger tips all written by teachers and education researchers? Download the Oliiki app today.