Oftentimes, I ask pregnant moms and moms of infants if they have supports, people that can help them. They often just say “yes” sometimes added by “my mother lives close” or “my sister is supportive”. I usually reply and I understand they have supportive people in their lives, but when it is 3:00 AM and you are questioning every decision you have made up to that moment, who can you call? This is reality, not the picture of the mom smiling at her baby and talking about the unconditional bond of love and happiness she feels towards her baby. Sometimes, it is exhausting, we don’t want to respond, and we need help.
It is important to be honest with yourself and honest with those around you. If you don’t have many supports, let people know! There are free services that can be put in place to help you and at least be someone to talk to! The prenatal and infant stage have been shown to affect children as they age. If a child is neglected, not nurtured or responded to, it can greatly affect them for years to come. The goal is for the child to feel understood, accepted and loved. Infants do not cry out of manipulation, they cry because there is a need. Even if it is interaction that you just cannot seem to muster up, my advice, Fake it till you make it! I have encouraged moms to read to their infants, even if its a gossip column. Just something to encourage a positive interaction.
Positive parenting and guardians in the nursery can provide the infant with core sense of security and self worth that they can later draw upon as a child and adult, even when they have their own children. Break the cycle of maltreatment by understanding infant mental health, perspective, and needs. If those parents are absent, the outcome can last not only a lifetime but generations. Break the cycle of maladaptation. For more information, reach out to me or comment below with additional thoughts!
Traci Schank, MSW, LCSW
Zeanah – Infant Mental Health