Module 1: Promoting Mental Health in Infancy

Doctor with BabyOffice Practices to Promote Family Partnership

  • Set up your office so that it is warm, inviting, and nurturing, with comfortable chairs, appropriate toys, and enough space. Wash and sanitize toys frequently. Post positive parenting messages in the office waiting area.
  • Train staff in relating sensitively and modeling nurturing behavior.
  • Greet the family warmly; make positive comments about the infant’s appearance.
  • Highlight parents’ strengths (e.g., avoid upstaging parents by consoling a crying infant if the parents are present, support parents in nurturing their infant).
  • Comment on signs of attachment (e.g., “He certainly keeps checking with you to see if it is OK for me to examine him. He must really trust you!”).
  • Solicit input on the family from the entire staff so that it is apparent that each member of the staff has a role in making the family comfortable and in providing effective care.
  • Provide and promote open communication and information exchange with parents. Allow time for parents to raise their questions and concerns.
  • Develop systems for sharing psychosocial data between the obstetrician and the primary care health professional.
  • Offer anticipatory guidance that leaves parents feeling valued and empowered (e.g., use the Touchpoints model, which provides developmental guideposts for emotional and behavioral development and parent-infant interaction. (Brazelton TB. 1992. Touchpoints: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development. Reading, MA: Perseus Books.)
  • Develop collaborative working partnerships with mental health professionals (e.g., integrate mental health services into your practice; schedule onsite consultations, workshops, or groups).
  • Institute programs that promote reading and the closeness it encourages between parents and their infant (e.g., Reach Out and Read).
  • Provide pamphlets and other reading materials or consider producing an office newsletter or establishing a Web site.

Note

Reach Out and Read is a national pediatric literacy promotion program, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, that encourages primary care health professionals to offer parents advice about reading to infants and children. Primary care health professionals are trained to provide developmentally appropriate guidance to parents about books and reading aloud and are encouraged to give a developmentally appropriate book to each child at each well-child visit. In addition, primary care health professionals are encouraged to have volunteers read aloud to children in the waiting room. Assistance in starting a Reach Out and Read program is available from Reach Out and Read, 29 Mystic Avenue, Somerville, MA 02145. Phone: (617) 629-8042.

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