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Understanding your baby's mental health

Your baby’s mental health is their social and emotional wellbeing. It develops through their relationship with you.

In this relationship with you, they learn to:

  • experience and express their feelings
  • form close relationships with their parents, family members and other people who take care of them
  • explore their surroundings and the world

Brain development

The first 3 years of your child's life is the most important time for their developing brain.

Their experiences with you in everyday moments during these years help to build:

Developing a relationship in everyday moments

Babies’ brains at birth are hard-wired (designed) to form a close relationship with you.

Everyday moments are an opportunity to engage with your baby and develop your relationship.

Make the most of activities like feeding or bathing by using them to interact with your baby.

For example, during these everyday moments you can:

  • make eye contact
  • give cuddles
  • hold your baby close
  • talk to them about what you’re doing – for example: “we are going to visit Granny now” or “you really liked that song”
  • comfort them
  • sing to them

Babies experience the world through their senses. In these everyday moments together, your baby communicates with you through their senses. You can learn to read these cues (physical signals your baby makes). These include:

  • crying
  • looking at you
  • movements
  • making sounds like babbling or gurgling

Two-way interactions between you and your baby over time will help your baby feel:

  • loved and secure
  • that they matter – this helps to build their self-esteem
  • that relationships are good – this helps them to develop other relationships later on such as friends, teachers and eventually partners

An example of a two-way interaction is playing with your baby. Pass a toy to your baby and wait and see how they respond to it. Talk to them about how they’ve responded, for example "you love this toy". Let them respond with a sound or action - this teaches your baby that they are important and builds a healthy brain.

Page last reviewed: 07/05/2019
Next review due: 07/05/2022