Module 1: Promoting Mental Health in Infancy

Self-RegulationEating

In utero the fetus is affected by maternal temperature variations, activity patterns, hormonal variations, and sleep and eating patterns. This maternal environment is primary in regulating the infant biologically and behaviorally before birth.

As the baby begins to regulate her own basic biological and behavioral rhythms, she continues to use environmental cues. Parents provide support for their infant’s developing regulation through care-giving, feeding, and creating a soothing environment that allows for periods of rest, sleep, and stimulation.

The three main aspects of infant regulation are:

Feeding - The feeding process requires several aspects of self-regulation. Physically it requires a baby to suck, swallow, and breathe. Emotionally, a baby’s cries signal her distressed reaction to hunger. Cognitively, a baby attends to the task of feeding long enough to become full.

Sleep/Wake Behaviors - Babies don’t need to be taught how to sleep. Like the other vital functions, it just comes naturally. But good sleep habits are something else. They must be learned and nurtured, and the earlier the better.

Emotions - Emotions are one of the most ancient and enduring features of human functioning, and they develop significantly during the first year of life in context of social interactions and relationships.

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