People might question whether an awareness campaign for the mental health of babies is necessary, wondering how mental health is something that we should be concerned about at such a young age. But there are numerous studies that show how the first 1000 days of life are some of the most crucial in development. Aside from this, babies are among the most vulnerable in our society – they are a person who does not yet have a voice to speak for the world they will grow up in.

Did you know that our brains are hardwired to seek out relationships with others, even before birth? Babies can not only start to hear sounds from 24 weeks of pregnancy, but incredibly they will begin to associate these sounds with safety, recognising familiar voices from birth. It is so important for parents to focus on building positive environments for their children during pregnancy and their early days in order to set them on a good trajectory for life. This is a time where millions of neural connections are being made, so the way that their caregivers respond to them and how safe they feel to explore the world around them to be able to develop those relationships and connections are crucial factors in a child’s development, not only physically and emotionally, but mentally.

This is exactly why Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 is focusing on the theme “Speak up for babies”. By giving them a voice, we can help to provide a safe and welcoming environment for them now as well as securing a future for them. 

Emerging research into the building blocks of a healthy brain even further emphasises the importance of these early years. Exciting new research is exploring the potential of umbilical cord blood stem cells to play a role in brain development. These stem cells have the unique ability to develop into various cell types, including those crucial for brain function. Studies suggest that cord blood stem cells might promote a healthy nervous system by releasing substances that protect and repair brain cells and supporting the growth and development of new brain cells. While research on the direct link between cord blood stem cells and mental health is still ongoing, a healthy nervous system is considered the foundation for good mental well-being. 

For parents who are interested in better supporting their baby’s mental health, the best way to do so is to focus on building those strong, responsive relationships with their little one in the early days where it really matters. Creating a nurturing environment where your infant feels safe to explore will help them to better engage in play and thus learn and develop in healthy ways.

For anyone and everyone, helping to increase awareness for mental health in babies is critical, especially at a time where policy makers are making big decisions. Using a collective voice to spread insights and to campaign for changes will help to build wider awareness of the importance of the first 1000 days, which in turn will help the wider community to recognise the importance of early intervention and to improve outcomes for babies.