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In Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, Dr Gemma Dyble, Clinical Lead and Clinical Psychologist with our latest project: Little Minds Matter, explains why parents in Better Start Bradford are being encouraged to consider their babies’ mental health and to ‘treasure’ positive experiences as part of this national campaign.

Dr Gemma Dyble’s blog

10-16th June is National Infant Mental Health Awareness Week which highlights the importance of the first 1,001 days, from conception to age two, in parent-baby bonding. This year’s focus is on ‘breaking the cycle’ – having a baby can be an important time to think about our own childhood and what sort of parents we want to be ourselves; and the ‘importance of attachment’ – we know that babies who feel loved and protected can cope better with life’s difficulties and bounce back from challenges as they grow up.

Infant mental health refers to how well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to three. While the term ‘Infant Mental Health’ may sound slightly odd and people often wonder how mental health issues can affect those so young; it helps us to think about a baby’s emotional wellbeing. Healthy first relationships are critical for a baby’s future mental health and development. If a baby feels safe and secure and experiences the world as a consistent, loving place, they will build a healthy brain and grow into a confident person who enjoys happy relationships.

Around 1,400 babies born every year in the Better Start Bradford area of Bowling and Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton and services are available to offer a wide range of support for expectant parents and families with children under four. Each service aims to help families support children’s social and emotional development, language and communication skills, and health and nutrition, from in the womb until their fourth birthday.

Treasuring positive memories and leaving negative ones behind

During Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, the new Little Minds Matter: Bradford Infant Mental Health Service, along with Better Start Bradford and their Baby Steps project, will be talking with parents about the theme ‘you can’t change your past, but you can change your baby’s future’.

We will be asking parents to share with us their experiences of parenting and being parented and what are the qualities that they value in themselves and others and what features do they value less. We will be exploring where we learn to parent and how do we make changes when we want to do things differently. We will be visiting baby groups to talk with mums and dads about treasuring helpful experiences from the past and getting help when we need to leave negative experiences behind. Mums or dads will be able to decorate treasure boxes to take home, and we will be trying out some gentle reflection activities. Most importantly we will be listening to parents to hear what helps their relationship with their baby to blossom.

Awareness of the importance of Infant Mental Health in Bradford is increasing and Little Minds Matter: Bradford Infant Mental Health Service will be doing a lot of work around awareness, training, consultation and promotion in the next three years to help share key messages around this important time.

We are launching the new Better Start Bradford project Little Minds Matter: Bradford Infant Mental Health service on 12 June. The new project will help strengthen the relationship between babies and their parents and has been commissioned by National Lottery funded Better Start Bradford and will be delivered in partnership with Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust and Family Action.

By Dr Gemma Dyble, Clinical Lead and Clinical Psychologist, Little Minds Matter: Bradford Infant Mental Health Service