• Kristen Pringle

Babies brains matter. What is infant mental health?

I remember working in a public mental health service at the Royal Children’s Hospital and being asked (by a new clinician), why would babies have mental health difficulties? I found this a curious question and it has since been asked of me many times.


If you spend long enough with babies you know that babies do have an emotional life of their own that is just as important and vulnerable as older children and adults, and as such, it is so important to advocate and speak up for babies, so that their emotional needs are attended to as a priority.


Babies’ brains matter.


Infant mental health refers tohow well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth (or even in utero) to age three. Infant mental health and early childhood mental health are sometimes also brought together to include children up to 5 years of age anddescribes a young child’s capacity to form close and secure relationships, to experience, explore and learn, and to express emotions and regulate.


Tuned in, caring, and loving daily interactions with an infant lets the baby or toddler know that they are loved and safe. When these relationships are consistent, predictable and reliably responsive and supportive, they can protect and buffer infants from the negative effects of stressors and adverse childhood experiences. At the Mindful Movement centre, we work collaboratively on addressing family stressors to reduce the stressors affecting the babies and toddlers. We learn how to tune into your child, understand their cues, and together we discover what your baby needs from their relationships, whilst also engaging in enriching activities, such as play, song, readingand games. With gentle encouragement, we support mothers, parents and families to keep their babies in mind, to imagine what babies might say if they had the words and could speak. We take the time to carefully observe, to tune in and to be with your baby in their moment-to-moment experience. We take the time to watch, to wait and to wonder about the meaning of their communications - observing, pausing and being curious about their experience.


We work therapeutically with 0-4 year old’s and their families, who have also experienced trauma. This could be birth trauma, medical trauma, family systems trauma, single incident trauma, or being a victim of crime, such as surviving family violence. I come with a wealth of experience to share with families, having been a clinician in the award-winning addressing family violence program at RCH, an early intervention paediatric occupational therapist, and an external clinical supervisor for universal maternal child health nursing organisations. I look forward to meeting you as I am passionate about the mental health needs of infants.