Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2021
Stronger from the Start
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust highlights the mental health of the smallest and youngest in our society during Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (IMHAW) taking place from 7-13 June 2021.
Public Health Nursing Teams are supporting this year’s campaign theme ‘Including Infants’ to help raise awareness by encouraging everyone to think about infant, children and young people’s mental health and consider how babies mental health needs can be met.
Infant mental health refers to the social and emotional wellbeing and development of children in the earliest years of life. From pregnancy until the age of three, children’s brains are growing at the fastest possible rate and the way we interact with them every day shapes their brain development.
As a parent or caregiver, giving babies a sense of security and belonging is an early sign of positive infant mental health. Loving, nurturing, responsive relationships provide young children with a sense of comfort, safety and confidence and lays a foundation for lifelong mental and physical health.
Babies’ emotional wellbeing influences how they experience, manage and express emotions. Parents’ responses shape their learning and as adults we can offer physical touch and comfort, calm tone of voice, eye contact, smiles, repeated words, and praise. When we respond positively and meet their needs, babies develop trust, attachment, and confidence in us as caregivers.
We recognise how the global pandemic has affected parents, babies and services that support them in diverse ways. A recent report ‘Babies in Lockdown’ found that one quarter (25%) of parents reported concerns about their relationship with their baby and one third of these (35%) would like to get help with this. Nearly 7 in 10 parents felt the changes brought about by COVID-19 were affecting their unborn baby, baby or young child with an increase in crying, tantrums and becoming more clingy.
Susan Gault, Head of Public Health Nursing, Northern Trust said, ‘During the pandemic, more than 5,000 babies were born in the Northern Health Trust since the spring lockdown in March last year.
“Throughout COVID-19 our health visitors have continued to support babies and their families by playing a vital role in ensuring that every child gets the best possible start in life. They can understand first-hand the impact COVID-19 restrictions has had on new babies, parents and caregivers – from giving birth alone, to being isolated from support networks of family and friends.
“Within the Northern Trust area families have access to specialised tailored support from pregnancy until their children attend school, to help support child development and encourage a close special bond between baby and parent such as Breastfeeding support groups, Star Babies for first time parents, Baby and Me groups, Family Nurse Partnership, Virtual infant massage and adult mental health support.”
More advice and information on local services to meet your needs at: http://www.northerntrust.hscni.net/services/health-visiting-service/
- NHSCT Infant Mental Health Strategy: http://policies.northerntrust.hscni.net/download/74/trust-wide/1316/infant_mental_health_strategy_nhsct181177.pdf
- COVID-19 advice for pregnant women and parents: www.ni-maternity.com
- What is infant mental health? https://cutt.ly/ubEccnF
- Read the Full Babies in Lockdown Report: https://babiesinlockdown.info/
- Infant Mental Health Framework for Northern Ireland: www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/infant-mental-health-framework-northern-ireland
7th June 2021