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Children & Young People's Emotional Health

Emotional Development Pregnancy - 6 Months

The relationship with your baby starts right at the beginning when they are in the womb. Once your baby is born this relationship continues to grow and the first few months are focused on learning about and meeting the needs of your baby.

Over the first few months your baby continues to rely on you for everything. They may start becoming more interested in the world around them and you can help them to explore and enjoy it.

Every family does things differently. Trust your feelings about your baby and what they like. Don’t worry, you are still learning about each other. It takes time!

Dive Deeper

Pregnancy

Developing a relationship with your unborn baby is important as it supports your baby's attachment to you and others once they are born.

Pregnancy may stir up hidden feelings, hopes and fears for parents, carers and other members of the family. You may have thoughts about what your unborn baby might be like, what they look like or how they will make you feel once they are born.

As pregnancy progresses so does the relationship between you and your baby. You might feel that you are getting to know them already by their movements and the feelings you get when you think about them.

Find out more about antenatal Mood

You can also access a free interactive online course which helps parents, families, carers and professionals feel more confident when looking after their children and young people. This is called the Solihull Approach.

Read more about the Solihull Approach

Birth

Your labour may be short or long, difficult or easy. It may not be as you expected and this is okay, at the end of it you get to say "hello" to your baby!

Holding, cuddling and skin to skin contact will bring feelings of safety and security. It can also stimulate hormones, such as Oxytocin, which help us feel good, and triggers nurturing feelings and behaviours. 

Giving birth can be a life changing event for parents, especially if this is a first baby. You may feel a roller coaster of emotions. Don't be surprised if you feel overwhelmed by the experience.

Don't forget that in order to meet your baby's needs as they grow and develop you need time to think about yourself. Take time to talk about your birth experience and how you are feeling. This could be with your partner, friends, family or health professionals.

If you have a day that is not going as you expected, try skin to skin contact with your baby. This stimulates the feel good hormones (Oxytocin) and may help your baby settle. 

It is important to remember that not everyone feels the same. If you are struggling with your feelings or are worried that you are not bonding with your baby, please see below for who to talk to.

Relationship With Your Baby

The most important thing you can do to help your baby develop a sense of security is respond to them when they need you.

Babies are born with very raw and powerful emotions. Babies are very social beings and develop emotionally through the relationships they have. A child's earliest relationships and experiences play an important part in their later development.

At first, a baby develops emotionally and physically from having all their needs met. A newborn baby struggles with any delay and needs a quick response. Security comes from not having to wait too long to be comforted, fed or held.

Sleeping

When babies sleep, how long they sleep for, being asked whether they 'sleep through the night' can be worrying and tiring. No two babies are alike and although it is tempting to take advice from friends and family about how to respond when your baby wakes in the night, it is important to consider your own instincts and feelings about what your baby needs.

Find ways to help your baby go to sleep which are comfortable for them and suitable to their stage of development.

Read more about baby's sleep

Babies don't only wake because they are hungry, they wake because they need you and you may not know why. This can feel difficult, especially when you are tired yourself. As you respond to your baby, they learn that you are there when they need you. By giving them this confidence, you help them to begin to settle themselves.

Remember, as your baby grows they will continue to need you to comfort them at night.

Find out more about safer sleep

Finding out you are going to be a Dad can bring a lot of different feelings. You might feel excited and proud, as well as maybe worried about how this little person might affect your time, sleep or social life.

It can feel a big responsibility, especially if this is a first baby. Feeling a bit worried while waiting for the arrival of your baby is perfectly normal.

Your relationship with you baby can start before they are born.

  • Spend time thinking about your baby and planning for their arrival.
  • Talking to the baby bump will mean that once baby is born they will already know your voice and look to you for comfort.

The more time you spend caring for and reassuring your new baby, the stronger your bond will be. Things you can do together;

  • Talk and smile to your baby, copying the sounds they make.
  • Cuddle your baby, comforting them when they are upset.
  • Read books to them. You can start this before your baby is born - they will tune in to your voice.
  • Bath your baby.
  • Take them for a walk giving you special time together.

Spending time with your small baby will help them learn that they can rely on you for fun, warmth and security.

Early Interactions

Supporting a baby's emotional development is just as important as looking after their physical needs. Your baby will be communicating with you and you can support this by listening, watching and turn taking with them. 

You could try:

  • Repeating the noises they make
  • Cuddling and making eye contact
  • Copying the faces they make
  • Sticking your tongue out and see if your baby copies.

Spending time holding, talking and playing with your baby plays a very important role in their emotional development. For babies, play is not just about toys, it’s about the shared, back-and-forth smiles and ‘chats’ they have with you. Loving and playful experiences like these help your baby learn.

As you get to know your baby, you’ll soon realise that there are times when they are very alert and active. Other times when they are quiet and watchful, and times when they are tired and irritable. These are called baby states.

Shelf Help Books

All Shelf Help books can be reserved for free from any Norfolk library, or online. The books are available to borrow for up to six weeks.

  • Infant Massage by Vimala McCure
  • Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhard
  • Nobody Told Me by Holly McNish

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

For adults Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support. 

Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.

Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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