There’s an ongoing “nature versus nurture” debate when considering kids’ personalities and how they grow up. Parents often wonder if they are bringing their new little nugget up to be a nice human with great values and one who is adaptable, kind, good-natured and healthy. Even with their best efforts from a nurture standpoint, they can fall victim to things going terribly wrong.
Mental illness can 100% run in the family. Even in the most well-adjusted, easy-going family, things can sometimes go terribly awry in terms of a baby being born predisposed to mental illness or developing questionable and concerning behaviors.
The good news is that we can watch out for signs so that, as parents, we can swiftly and adequately seek treatment if necessary. Sometimes we think that an infant’s behavior is normal or the baby has gas, is predisposed to a physical ailment or needs something in particular. The truth is that sometimes we may have a baby who is showing signs of future full-blown mental illness. When we notice this early, we are able to adapt our parenting strategies accordingly. Here are some things we can watch out for early on.
15 Baby Is Having Sleep Issues
When babies are born they sleep a lot. This does not mean our babies are depressed. It just means they are growing a ton and need to get sleep and develop. So much growth and development happen during sleep time. However, as babies grow, they begin to develop their own healthy sleep patterns. As newborns, they sleep a lot and there are tons of mini-naps.
As they move into several months, they begin to consolidate sleep.
Generally, when parents notice sleep cues, they can act accordingly. According to Science Daily, when babies begin to have sleep issues from very early on–meaning they are just not sleeping at all or they are not getting the amount of sleep they need–there may be something more going on. This is something to call the doctor about.
14 Baby Is Showing Attachment Issues
Generally, around six months of age, a baby begins to become really attached to certain caregivers. Soon after they are born, they begin to get to know and recognize voices, faces, scents, their familiar surroundings. They are developing and nurturing trusting relationships with family, daycare staff and other caregivers. It is normal for a child to cry when a trusted and loved caregiver leaves.
Generally, however, the baby can be distracted with toys or games and eventually will play as usual. There are some children who do tend to be more or less attached and even this is not something to be too worried about. According to the National Institute of Health, when an infant becomes overly-attached and will not go to other caregivers at all without becoming extremely upset and for a prolonged period of time, then it may be time to check in with our doctor.
13 Baby Is Extremely Sensitive/Anxious
Our tiny bouncing babies have varying levels and types of emotions and temperaments. Sometimes, one baby is more sensitive than another baby of a similar age. Other times, siblings–even multiples–are more opposite than similar to each other. As individuals, we are all different and have relative emotions to match our personalities.
According to Child Mind Institute,
when an infant is so overly-sensitive that everything makes him cry or he appears to be taking things too seriously for a carefree baby, then it may be time to check in with a pediatrician.
Infants respond to different cues and develop likes and dislikes. This is also more normal development. If a child is crying a lot and for reasons other than basic biological needs or pain, then this is something parents should begin to examine more carefully.
12 Baby Is An Extremely Picky Eater
As babies grow and try new foods, they develop certain likes and dislikes. Their taste buds vary widely and just as we may not like liver and onions, but love ice cream, our babies may feel the same way. When babies favor certain foods or seem to dislike a food after trying it a few times, this may not be anything serious.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, when a child is so picky that certain textures or types of foods are literally intolerable, then we are talking about an entirely different situation. If our baby will not eat many foods at all, then we can try experimenting with different combinations, times, types, etc. If our baby seems to be losing weight or hungry all of the time and will barely eat, then this is something we may want to investigate further.
11 Baby Doesn’t Like To Be Held
Many babies want to be held. They love the attention from the caregivers in their lives and wait patiently, sometimes fussing a bit until we pick them up or strap them into the body baby carrier. There may be times when a baby does not need or want to be held. Of course, they won’t tell us this! We just kind of read their cues. They are happily playing with other tiny friends or interacting with a toy.
This is great for their growth and development.
If we have an infant who is literally uncomfortable all the time with being held or cries every time he’s held, we may want to speak with a pediatrician
to ascertain the normalcy of what is happening and to rule out any other issues.
10 Baby Refuses To Socialize
One of the most amazing things is looking into the eyes of an infant. When adults bond with the infants in their care, they make eye contact and talk, play and interact. Not only is this great modeling of social skills, but it builds the beautiful bond between caregiver and child.
If our little one is not showing interest in this attention or doesn’t seem to be making eye contact when we look right him, we may decide to seek some professional advice, as recommended by NBC News.
As babies begin to recognize their names and adult voices around them, they will start to look in the direction of that adult when they see or hear her. If an infant is not responding to socialization and making eye contact, we need to rule out other potential physical issues.
9 Baby Is Under-Responsive/Apathetic
Our infants are constantly learning and growing. As adults, we display a range of emotions and our children learn how to “communicate” accordingly and naturally express themselves in age-appropriate ways. Infants will cry to communicate, but as they get older, they learn to smile and babble. There may be a sign of a mental impairment or illness if our baby is extremely under-responsive to stimuli that a typically developing peer would find exciting.
Also, if our baby is apathetic and does not show emotion much of the time, this is another instance where we may need to investigate further
to determine if there is an underlying issue, as per the American Psychological Association. Either way, it’s important to keep in mind that every baby is different and we must go with our guts in this area.
8 Baby Does Not Smile When Mom Arrives
After a long day at work, we rush to relieve our nannies or fly into daycare to scoop up our precious babies. Even younger infants will begin to recognize their parents’ voices early on and may look up, smile and notice when a parent arrives. This also goes for older infants and toddlers who will generally crawl or toddle over to caregivers during a pickup.
Of course, there can be exceptions. Sometimes a child may be so engrossed in an activity or caught up with something that they do not perform this action. Also, sometimes they are just in a particular mood. It is time to think about consulting an expert when this is a consistent pattern of behavior as recommended by the BC Medical Journal.
7 Baby Has Delayed Communication
When speaking about communication, we mean all types of communication. For example, we may be working on baby signs to communicate basic biological needs such as eating and diapering. Even younger babies can communicate with signs and/or babbling. If our infant is not making any noises or babbling after several months, this could be the sign of a problem to come.
Also, if our babies are not saying a handful of words, or attempting to, by early toddlerhood, then it may be time to seek out an expert to rule out any speech or language development issues
as well as possible mental health issues, according to Understood. Again, it is important to remember that every child develops a bit differently. It is important to notice and consult your pediatrician with any potential concerns about language and development as your child begins to (or not) communicate needs and wants.
6 Baby Can't Self-Soothe
We’ve all had times where we wondered if our baby would ever, ever stop crying. We thought there was something wrong, but our baby was just going through a growth spurt or in pain because of an illness, for example. There were times we put our baby in his crib and someone would have thought we abandoned them on the side of the road because of how hard they were crying.
Eventually, though, they learned to self-soothe or we realized they needed something more than just sleep or more food. According to the National Institutes of Health, When our baby cries to the point where nothing seems to help him except picking him up, then we may have something more deep going on with our baby. Babies, with our help, eventually can and will learn to self-soothe.
5 Baby Shows Extreme Behavior & Mood Changes
Although all little babies are temperamentally and emotionally built differently, just like adults with differing personalities, consistency is something that we will notice in any individual baby. We get to know the little nugget. Some babies are more happy, relaxed and easy-going than others. Some babies are more tense or a little more sensitive, but not to the extreme.
When our babies—just like an older child or adult in our lives—begin to exhibit extreme behavior changes that are not consistent with a biological need or illness, then there may be something bigger than we thought happening.
According to the Mayo Clinic, It is important to consult help or guidance if our infant is having rapid mood changes and appears to have unpredictable extreme behavior outbursts or inexplicable inconsistent reactions.
4 Baby Is Excessively Fearful
Babies eventually develop a healthy sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety. They learn this through trial and error and are sometimes predisposed to it depending upon the adult temperament and structure in their lives. When an infant, especially, appears overly frightened and agitated as a result, we may need to look more into what is really going on.
When we are providing our babies consistently with everything they need, their fear and anxiety is typically minimal. If a child’s home life is unstable, the sense of instability may be communicated emotionally to the baby. At this point, we know where the fear and anxiety may be coming from. If there appears to be no valid reason why our infant seems jumpy, cries in fear or recoils frequently, we need to consult medical help, as per ACMH.
3 Baby Seems Consistently Inconsolable
We tend to worry when our baby cries. Sometimes, we just fear that if we let an infant cry too long they will become mentally ill in the long-run feeling as if we abandoned them. This is not what we are talking about here. When a child is inconsolable even after we re-enter a room and pick him up, for example, then our due diligence should be to narrow down what may be causing the baby to have this reaction.
Generally, picking up an infant or providing an infant with a biologically satisfying response (food, a diaper change, a hug, for example) will help our baby to calm down.
Once they are calm, they feel safe and realize this is predictable and when they feel stressed they may need a little consoling. According to The National Institutes of Health, If our baby is still not de-escalating, we may want to talk to the doc.
2 Baby Does Not Smile
Babies begin to smile at different times in their development. Most babies will begin to smile after a few months. At this point, we know it is not likely a “gas grimace” and that our baby is truly showing a happy emotion. The range of emotions are learned and practiced and some of them are ingrained biologically.
Typically, children respond accordingly when they are happy or experiencing joy. If we have a baby who is not smiling at all (whether they are crying more or less), we may have to find out if there is something deeper going on. All babies are different. Some babies may laugh when they smile and make little noises. Some just open their mouths and smile wide. Regardless, if our baby rarely ever smiles, there may be a problem, Patient reports.
1 Baby Never Reaches For Toys
Our baby will explore his world through all of his senses. Younger infants will use their mouths to explore or, even before that, will observe and notice their environments. Even though he may not be able to reach for a toy yet, he will notice it and that is developmentally appropriate.
According to the Child Development Institute,
when a child, who does not have any physical or mobility issues, does not reach for, explore or engage in age-appropriate toys, that may be cause for concern.
It is a natural and almost reflexive action for a baby to reach for a toy that is in his line of vision. If there is a pattern of not noticing or caring about a toy that our baby can clearly see, we should seek some help from a professional.
References: Science Daily, National Institutes of Health, Child Mind Institute, Los Angeles Times, NBC News, American Psychological Association, BC Medical Journal, Understood, National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, ACMH, National Institutes of Health, Patient, Child Development Institute, Zero To Three, Huffington Post