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Local expert weighs in on importance of protecting infant mental health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Protecting one’s mental health isn’t just for older children and adults — one local expert says it’s vital for the growth and development of infants and toddlers.

Dr. Katie Herron is a clinical psychologist and the interim director of the Early Childhood Center, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University Bloomington.

Herron travels across Indiana, working with families and young children, including infants. She says families often tell her that they are struggling and babies are showing behaviors they have never seen before.

Infant mental health refers to a child’s emotional and social growth and development up to age three.

“We’re not trying to diagnose a baby. What we’re trying to do is make sure that baby is surrounded by secure parents who have what they need in order to help that baby, because we know that brains change constantly,” Herron said. “To be able to jump in now will be able to save a lot of trouble down the road.” 

Indicators of concern in infants include poor sleep patterns, difficulties with feeding, restlessness, distress, and fear, according to Herron.

Hoosier parents can get assistance by calling 211 or by enrolling in My Healthy Baby, a state program that connects women to a family support provider to offer free guidance and help. First Steps is an early intervention program to help infants and toddlers grow and flourish to their highest potential.