Module 1: Promoting Mental Health in Infancy


Babbling and Beyond

Early sound and language games and shared communication around
daily routines support development of brain synapses and lay the
foundation for expressive language development.

Questions to Ask

  • How is your baby communicating with you now?
  • Does your baby imitate sounds you make? Do you imitate her sounds?
  • What do you talk to her about during the day?
  • Is it easy or hard to know what she wants?
  • What gestures does your baby make? Does she point?
  • How often do you read to her? Do you talk about the pictures?

Provider Tips

  • Observe how parents are communicating with their baby. Praise them for their ability to communicate with her, and offer
    suggestions if needed.
  • Point out the baby’s nonverbal messages and gestures.
  • Using the guidance below, identify ways the parents can promote communication with their baby.

Guidance for Parents

  • Babbling, cooing, pointing, and other gestures are the way your baby communicates with you. Imitate the sounds she is making and show that you understand her gestures. This will help your baby understand that her actions have an effect and will support her interest in communicating
    with you. Answer your baby with responses such as:
    • “I see you want me to pick you up.”
    • “You really like splashing in your bath.”
    • “I think you must be feeling tired.”
    • “It looks like you want some more to eat.”
  • When you talk to your baby it helps her to organize sounds and learn to speak. During the day, talk to your baby about the things you are doing and seeing. For example, while changing her diaper you might say:
    • “Let’s take that wet diaper off and throw it away. Let’s wash you and put on a nice clean diaper. Now doesn’t that feel better?”
  • You can also help your baby learn how to communicate by:
    • Looking at picture books together and reading to her
    • Naming objects in books, around the house, and outside
    • Playing music and singing to your baby
    • Playing games such as pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and so-big
  • To help your baby learn to express her feelings, you might say:
    • “You are crying. Are you sad?”
    • “Look at that smile. You must be happy.”
    • “I see you are rubbing your eyes. Are you tired?
  • When you want your baby to do something, help her understand by using actions and words to show her:
    • Wave “bye-bye” to Daddy
    • Clap your hands
    • Taste these yummy potatoes
    • Put the ball in the box
Provider Resource

Area of Concern: Lack of Stimulation more information

Stimulation is key to infant development. Lack of stimulation can be associated with a number of factors, including:

    • Extreme poverty
    • Parents’ lack of knowledge about the learning abilities of infants
    • Parents’ child-rearing and cultural beliefs
    • Parental mental health difficulties
    • Infants’ biological and neurological impairments
    • Infants having spent part of their lives in an institutional setting

Although each of these factors can be complicated, the message given to parents should be clear and uncomplicated: Infants are born with an intrinsic motivation to learn, to figure out how their world works. It is the parents’ job to help their infants master their environment by taking the time to talk to them, play with them, love them, feed them, hold them, and keep them safe.

Untreated parental mental health concerns, particularly maternal depression, and environmental risk factors such as substance abuse and domestic violence, make it extremely difficult for parents to focus on an infant’s need for stimulation and emotional support. For example, research on early brain development suggests that infants who are being raised by mothers who are depressed exhibit reduced left frontal brain electrical activity.

Copyright Georgetown University Georgtown University Infancy