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Babies and young children (aged 0 to 4 years)

To support their mental health and emotional wellbeing, babies and young children need:

  • positive, loving, stable relationships with their parents and/or caregivers
  • consistent, predictable caregiving
  • caregivers who are sensitive to their cues, signals and behaviour
  • an absence of traumatic experiences

When babies and young children experience loving and stable relationships, they learn what to expect of others and the world. They learn that:

  • they can take control and do things for themselves
  • they are worthy of being cared for
  • their caregivers are dependable and will look after them when they are upset

Babies and young children grow and change very quickly, and their feelings and relationships become more complex. They need parents and caregivers to help them manage their ‘big feelings’ as they strive to understand the world. In this supported way, they gradually learn to manage and regulate their own feelings.

Babies are born with a drive to understand and master their world. They do this best when their caregivers encourage them and provide safe opportunities to explore, play and learn. Joy, laughter and having fun are important to their learning.

Every child has their own style of interacting with others and relating to their world. Every parent and caregiver also has their own personal style. When child and parent differ a lot in their approach to life, it can make parenting more difficult. If this is happening in your family, an infant mental health clinician can help you and your child understand each other better.

Babies and young children are affected by stressful events – even those they don’t understand. Little people are also very sensitive to how their parents and caregivers react to stress. Stressed babies and young children may develop emotional problems, behaviour issues, developmental delays and/or physical health effects that can last for a long time.

If stressful events are happening for your family, and are affecting your baby or young child, it’s important to get help early. Talk to a health professional you trust. The Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH) provides services for babies, young children and their caregivers who need extra help to get back on track.