Becoming a new parent can seem daunting and even scary at first. This is normal. And while you may be wondering, when does the focus shift to your child’s mental health, the answer is, you should start focusing on it immediately.
Oftentimes, when we discuss mental health, we discuss it in terms of adulthood or adolescence, when in reality, mental health starts from birth. From the moment an infant is born, they begin seeking comfort, warmth, and love. As parents, it is our job to help them to find these things, so they can thrive.
Providing and building the basis for good mental health starts with making your baby feel secure and loved. However, it doesn’t stop there. Here are the most important needs from your infant and how to provide them.
1. Responsive, nurturing, and positive experiences.
Babies look to us to help them understand and to determine the way of the world around them. Through being responsive and loving, you are showing your little ones that they are understood and secure in the world. Through positive experiences, they grow to feel the world is a safe and reliable place. To help them develop the best possible sense of themselves, it’s important to be understanding and to help them navigate their emotions and feelings.
2. Healthy food or milk.
If you can breastfeed, it is the best possible food for your infant, for the first six months of life. However, if you cannot, there are decent formulas available that work as a substitute. You can use feeding times to bond with your little one, and as they grow, you can introduce new nutrient-dense foods.
Above all, consistency, not perfection, is key. Through establishing consistent feeding times, consistent sleeping times, and consistency in the way you are present with them, they are better able to learn what to expect from you and their world. And because everything else is stable around them (as much as it possibly can be) when difficulties arise, they will also be far easier to handle.
4. Thriving parents.
You, as a parent, cannot care for anyone else if you are not in good condition. Be good to yourself, manage and work on your stress, feed yourself good food, and take care of your mental health. It isn’t a cliché to say that your baby needs you in the best possible condition, because babies pick up on your feelings and can sense when you are uneasy or unstable.
5. Exploration and play.
Exploration and play are immensely helpful for your little one. Through play, your infant learns new mental skills, like attention, hand-eye coordination, vocabulary, and they learn how to perform tasks. Babies are naturally curious and through their curiosity, they can learn and better understand their world. It’s so important to make playtime with your little one a priority.