Resource to support communication between parents and their babies in hospital
My Little Voice – New resource developed to support communication between parents and their babies in hospital. Launched by Children’s Health Ireland for Infant Mental Health Week 2022.
June 15, 2022
Children’s Health Ireland today welcomed Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, to launch a new resource for parents of babies who spend time as inpatients in CHI, marking Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 (13th-19th June). The booklet, which was produced by the Speech & Language Therapy Department in Children’s Health Ireland, aims to support parents and caregivers in developing responsive relationships with their baby while in hospital. Birth to three years is a critical period in childhood and research has shown that what happens during infancy can have substantial effects on both short- and long-term outcomes in learning, behaviour, and both physical and mental health.
Infant Mental Health is the term used to describe how a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to 3 years of age. It includes their capacity to experience, express and regulate their emotions, to form secure relationships, and explore their environment, play and learn (HSE, 2017).
Speech and Language Therapist Manager, Catherine Cunningham who led the development of the project with colleagues Eilís McClory and Christina Cotter, said: “We know parents and caregivers who tune into the messages which their baby is sending are laying the foundations for their baby’s speech, language and communication development. We also know that babies and children benefit from language rich experiences and this benefit is seen in the school years and beyond, right into adulthood. We hope that this resource can make a substantial difference to the parent/caregiver who finds themselves in one of our hospitals for a longer than average stay. This simple gift shows we care, that we support them as parents/caregivers and that their child is important as a little person with his/her own voice.”
Dr. Ike Okafor, Clinical Director in CHI said: “The foundations for infants’ future health and well-being are laid down in the first years of life. Approximately 1,800 infants are admitted every year to the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of Children’s Health Ireland and many more to the infant wards and emergency departments. We are seeing the results of the isolation of the pandemic and the effect that had on children, through our Emergency Departments over the last year. It’s important we do all we can to support mental health at every stage of life. Early recognition, prevention and intervention for infant mental health is key and is also cost effective.”
Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD said: “I’m delighted to attend CHI today to launch this beautiful booklet which will help parents to communicate with their babies. We must take every opportunity to promote the mental health services and supports that are available to babies, children and young people in our communities. The well-being of children from the earliest age will ensure their healthy mental health into the future.”
My Little Voice booklet is available for parents whose babies stay in CHI at Connolly, Crumlin, Tallaght or Temple Street, through the Speech and Language Therapy departments in CHI.
Huge thanks to our Children’s Health Foundation for funding this project.