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Why 'Infant Mental Health'?
Why is our mental health during infancy important for our whole lives?

2 Infant brain development

‘What needs to be written in neon letters lit up against a night sky is that the orbitofrontal cortex, which is so much about being human., develops almost entirely post-natally.’

Gerhardt, 2014

Most people now accept that the environment caregivers provide for a baby, and the way the baby is looked after, affect all aspects of the baby’s development – emotional, physical and social. 

Until fairly recently, it was thought that how a baby’s brain develops – and how the connections and interconnections form – depends on maturation and the genes passed on by caregivers. But recent research findings make it clear that this is only a small part of the story.

Caregivers build their babies’ brains

Mother and toddler with brick tower © Fizkes | Dreamstime

What we now understand is that caregiving affects something much more fundamental and longer lasting: the actual structure and functioning of the baby’s brain, and therefore the person they will be throughout their life.

The development of every baby’s brain also crucially depends on their social and emotional experiences: above all the baby’s attachment relationship to mother, father, or whoever is their primary caregiver.

Findings emerging from the fast-moving field of research into infant brain development (neuroscience) show that stress is likely to impact on a baby’s capacity to learn and build relationships, now and in the future.

So, supporting caregivers to create a nurturing emotional environment for the baby, as early as possible (and ideally before the baby is born) is an essential part of our work.

Video: ‘Experiences Build Brain Architecture’

From Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child.

Babies are born with very immature brains. In the postnatal period there is a rapid growth of the neural pathways, that will serve the baby for a lifetime. While these are influenced in part by the baby’s genes, it is now recognised that the baby’s environment also plays an important role: the most important part of this environment is the quality of the caregivers’  interactions with the baby. 

This video shows how early interactions shape the baby’s rapidly developing brain.   

AiMH has created an information sheet for members on ‘How the baby’s brain develops’:

Download “How the baby’s brain develops – Getting to know your baby 6” gtkyb-6-how-the-babys-brain-develops.pdf – Downloaded 181 times – 441 KB