Communicating with your baby when you have a mental illness

The COPMI national initiative, Australia

This resource is for parents with mental illness and has been developed to help you in communicating with your baby.

Emotions, behaviours and moods affect how you view yourself and how others view you. They also affect your relationships with others, including with your baby. For parents with mental illness, it can be very challenging to think about how your baby views what is happening. This resource will help you connect with your baby when you are unwell so that they feel secure and nurtured. It steps you through:

  • understanding your symptoms and behaviours
  • thinking about what your baby notices and experiences
  • communicating with your baby to support a nurturing connection.

Although babies may not understand everything you say, they are very sensitive and responsive to your emotions and your tone of voice. You might notice that when you are struggling with your moods and emotions, your baby’s responses may also change.

It’s important to remember that your experience with mental illness does not make you a bad parent, and there is no need to explain mental illness to your baby. When you are with your baby, it is important to find ways to connect with them to help them feel nurtured and secure. Some tips include:

  • smile when you look at your baby.
  • maintain eye contact with your baby until they look away.
  • hold your baby close and cuddle them.
  • give your baby a massage.
  • gently rock your baby and talk in a soothing voice when they are upset.
  • use a warm, calm, ‘sing-song’ voice when you speak to your baby.
  • smile and nod when your baby make sounds.
  • encourage your baby’s little noises by repeating their sounds when they finish their ‘sentence’ to create your own two-way ‘conversation’.

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