What is Infant Toddler Mental Health?
Infant mental health is recognized as the ability of a child, from birth to three, to “experience, regulate and express emotions; form close and secure interpersonal relationships; and explore the environment and learn” (ZERO TO THREE Policy Center, 2004). Another term for infant mental health is social emotional development. These terms are the same. Social emotional development plays an important role in every child’s life. Each child is born ready to form a strong bond with a primary caregiver, usually a parent. For babies, this is a critical element to survival. Most people realize that a baby depends on an adult to help facilitate every basic physical need—eating, sleeping, and staying clean and dry. Babies also depend on their primary caregiver for their emotional needs. By consistently responding to your baby’s cry with a warm, soothing hug, and attention to the child’s need, he or she will learn to trust and regulate emotions, which over time will lead to school readiness, positive social behavior, and lifelong nurturing relationships.