Infant Mental Health for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
The infant's early experience primary takes place within the confines of the parent-infant relationship. Attachment and social-emotional development emerge within the context of the parent-infant relationship. Of course, the parent part of this equation is widely defined to mean any primary caregiver: mother, father, grandparent, aunt, foster parent, etc ...
The parent-infant relationship can be assessed by observing the parent's response to the infant when crying, smiling, or just neutral-faced (Ryan-Wener, 2007). Parents should look frequently at their infant and ask questions that recognize their infant's uniqueness. Parents should touch or massage infant gently. Parents should attempt to comfort infant when upset such as after immunizations (5 S's for infant immunization comfort: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/04/11/peds.2011-1607.full.pdf+html?sid=b2508655-75b1-4df0-88ce-becc000be6e0). Parents should hold infant most of the time during pediatric office visits. Parents should recognize infant's safety needs related to exam table and small objects.
Age-specific observation of parent-infant interaction:
Skin-to-skin contact after birth for 30-120 minutes and/or early breastfeeding improved mother-infant interaction at one year of age (Bystrova et al, 2009).
References and Resources:
Bytrova, K et al. (2009). Early contact versus separation: Effects on mother-infant interaction one year later. Birth, 36: 97-109.
Ryan-Wenger, N. (2007). Core Curriculum for Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby Elsevier.