The Importance of Supporting Infant Mental Health

July 5, 2017

Ordinarily, we don’t usually think of infants when the term “mental health” comes to mind. Rather, we think about adolescents or adults, as the two groups most likely to be affected emotionally, psychologically, and through their social well-being. However, research tells us that today’s society presents substantial risks to the mental health of all people, even our very youngest. Think for a moment about some potential risks that can put the well-being of a young child in danger: child abuse, poverty, homelessness, family violence, broken homes, substance abuse, not to mention the possibility of inconsistent (or non-existent!) high quality and loving care provided by an adult, early educator, parent, or guardian.

Mental health issues can affect the development of infants and toddlers directly and indirectly at a time when there is vast potential for rapid brain growth and development. When caring for children who are dealing with difficulties that can affect their mental health, it’s important to do your part in helping them achieve their child development milestones. Regardless of what may be going on in their lives, your assurance through actions and best practices as an early childhood educator can make a difference in their future well-being. Early childhood programs can provide the possibility of better outcomes for infants who are exposed to negative factors, and, in fact, can serve as somewhat of an emotional or psychological shelter for these children.

Three Factors that Ensure Positive Mental Health in InfantsiStock-132264460

  1. Sensitive Caregiving – Responding sympathetically and in a timely fashion to the basic needs of the infant: physically, emotionally, and cognitively.
  2. Intuitive Cues – At times, infants’ needs aren’t always expressed through vocalization or crying. The early childhood educator must be in tune with each infant to anticipate needs and pick up on them, including body language, demeanor, and posture. Many of the most important needs can be unspoken and under-demanded, but they exist nonetheless.
  3. Attention – Try to have an even focus of attention towards all the children under your care. Even when certain children require more attention, make sure you are checking in with infants, who require careful and diligent observation. Remember that infants may be quiet and more stationary than older children, but they also have many needs from the adults caring for them.

Making Successful Interaction with Infants

  • Make sure most of the conversation in the room is with the children, not between the educators.
  • Be completely engrossed in interacting with infants under your care
  • Use every opportunity for face-to-face communication
  • Pay close attention to changes in body movements and vocalizations
  • Spend time holding, cuddling, and comforting infants

Even when the infants are playing on their own, educators need to frequently interact with them through physical touch and emotional recharging, as well as on-going conversations.


We, as adults, need to continue to be watchful advocates for children at risk by providing assistance, support, and sometimes an escape from the devastating effects that the lack of positive mental health can bring. Through these actions and best practices as an early childhood educator can make a difference in the lives and future well-being of many very young children.


Recently Posted:

Blog - Text Search
Blog - Category Search
Blog - Search by Tags
Blog - Publish Date

Experts Speak: Autism and Apraxia

Experts Speak Autism and Apraxia with Elizabeth Vosseller Early childhood educators play a critical role in the lives of young children and their families around the world. As the administrator of the Child Development Associate®...