Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health
During the first 3 years of life, a child’s brain undergoes an astonishing period of development, producing more than a million neural connections each second. In fact, approximately 80% of the human brain has developed by the time a child reaches age 3. Although this development is influenced by many factors, such as the child’s experiences and environment, a child’s relationships have the most impact. As a result, exposure to substance abuse, mental illness or other stressful experiences can have long-term negative effects and may disrupt brain development.
How the brain grows is strongly affected by the child’s experiences with other people and his or her environment. Children grow and learn best in a safe and nurturing environment where they are protected from stress and have a variety of opportunities to play and explore. Caregivers stimulate and support healthy brain growth when they care for, speak to and play with a child, proving them with direct and positive interactions. Nurturing a child by understanding their needs and responding sensitively helps to protect children’s brains from stress and providers of Infant Mental Health Services can help ensure that parents and caregivers have the resources and skills to provide safe, stable, nurturing, and stimulating care.
The Touchpoints Model
The Brazelton Touchpoints model developed from the work of T. Berry Brazelton, MD, an internationally-renowned pediatrician. According to the Brazelton Foundation, Dr. Brazelton’s “scientific research and clinical observations of babies and young children, beginning in the 1950s and spanning six decades, radically reshaped the field of early child development and the practice of pediatrics.”
Dr. Brazelton discovered early on what neuroscience has recently reconfirmed—that babies are born with innate and individually distinctive capacities for social interactions. He and other pioneers in the field helped shape the policies and practices in hospitals and other settings that are today considered best practice. The Touchpoints approach has undergone extensive evaluation of its effectiveness and has proven effective in a variety of organizations and settings, from early care and education centers to tribal communities, child welfare services, and the public health sector.
Touchpoints has demonstrated improved relationships within families in the following ways:
Moderates parental stress
Improves maternal mental health indicators
Improves infant developmental outcomes
Significantly increases participants’ knowledge about child development
Enhances parent-infant relationships
Increases well-child care treatment adherence
“What you think, you become.”