When a child, more so a baby, develops a mental health disorder, parents often take a lot of blame. Many say that they’re responsible for the kid, after all. Surely it’s fair to say they did or failed to do something that made the little one turn out this way. But not so fast!
In most cases, parents really aren’t the cause of the child’s mental disorder. After all, mental health is extremely complex. The kid might have inherited faulty genes that led to the disorder, something that you can hardly say is something the parents had control over. Sometimes he may even have a genetic predisposition to mental illness, but it is only triggered by circumstance.
As such, judging parents for their baby’s mental illness isn’t a great thing, especially if they’re concerned and responsible parents. It’s important to remember that they are also struggling and trying to make sense of the situation.
However, there are quite a few things that parents can do to directly cause mental illness in the little one. And they generally fall under the category of child abuse or neglect. Or, at least, flat out irresponsibility.
When we think of child abuse, we often figure that mental health issues happens to the older kids. After all, babies don’t understand the world in the same way as four-year-old children do. But the first year is crucial in the development of the child’s mental health and how she sees the world. Hence, the little one will be severely affected as well.
Here are some of the things that can directly cause mental disorders in babies.
While rare, moms who don’t seek medical treatment (or prevented from doing so) for problems during pregnancy may be putting their baby at risk for mental disorders. One of the most common reasons why a baby might be born with an acquired mental illness is lack of oxygenation. This can happen during pregnancy, if the mother fails to seek treatment for serious conditions that result in decreased oxygenation in the womb. In particular, this usually comes from placental or umbilical cord defects.
More commonly, however, it occurs during childbirth. During this time, there is a big risk that the baby will experience oxygen deprivation. And while this can happen to otherwise normal deliveries or pregnancies, it usually occurs in moms with high-risk pregnancies who insist on having a home birth. If complications kick in during the process, the little one is deprived of oxygen, which almost immediately damages brain cells.
It can take quite a lot of effort to get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. It turns out, however, that some parents actually don’t. Even worse, they might even mindfully leave the little one without being fed for long periods of time, thinking that overcoddling him might spoil him. In the worst of cases, this can damage the brain due to there not being an adequate supply of glucose, the sugar that is the primary fuel of the brain.
But in cases where the parents don’t actually wait for the little one to reach this point, damage can still be done. Infants are particularly sensitive to hunger and the relief provided for by sucking. Those who do not receive the basic need of nourishment often learn to be mistrustful. Their inability to develop a trusting relationship with their parents can result in mental problems, even as early as a year old.
13Not Maintaining Temperature
Leaving the child in a room that is way too cold or too warm can be dangerous. See, infants do not have the same thermoregulation mechanisms that allow us to maintain a relatively stable body temperature. As a result, they have a much lower threshold for too hot and too cold.
Both overheating and hypothermia can lead to damage to the brain cells. In some cases, this damage can be so extreme that it results in permanent mental conditions. This is not to mention the trauma of being left to the elements without relief. While some babies suffer from this out of neglect, it’s important to know that it’s startlingly easy to do so by accident as well. It’s therefore best to check the little one’s temperature periodically, especially during the night. If he’s either cold to touch and shivering or hot a d sweaty, it’s best to adjust the room’s temperature or the warmth of his clothes right away.
12Keeping Baby In Crib
Some babies are just kept in their cribs for months at a time without the opportunity to crawl around or learn to walk properly. While the previous point may be ambiguous in that it’s an easy mistake, this is quite hard to do by accident. It’s just that some parents just can’t be bothered to do so, considering a walking or a crawling baby a nuisance. This behavior is to the detriment of the child.
Apparently, a baby who does not get the opportunity to play and learn in an open space may severely lag behind in developmental milestones. However, most of the damage often occurs when the little one enters the age in which he begins to compare himself to his peers. Since he might lag behind significantly, far more than even the late bloomer, the inequality may result in him questioning his own worth. The gap caused by parental neglect often increases by the time the child hits preschool.
11Not Talking To Baby
As with walking, talking is another developmental milestone that will prove important in the little one’s mental health. Disinterested parents may provide all the baby’s needs, but avoid communicating in a way that he can effectively learn to talk. While some infants can learn to do so anyway, from any conversations that the parents may have with other people in his vicinity, he may not have the nuanced use of language that can allow him to develop proper relationships in the future.
This may result in him being unable to develop proper bonds or friendships with his peers. Compounded with the parents’ inability to form a proper bond with him, this is a recipe for mental health problems such as depression, antisocial behavior, and low self-esteem. It’s easy to overlook the impact that early communication with the little one has on his future relationships. Do not take this for granted. Talk to the baby.
10Yelling At Baby
Even if communication is addressed to the baby, it’s a bad idea to yell at him. Some parents do so when the infant “misbehaves”, often the result of an accident or natural curiosity. However, infancy is not exactly the right time for negative reinforcement of the sort, because he just doesn’t know better. He will, however, be able to detect anger in the voice or recognize that the loud volume is unpleasant.
When he is treated like this regularly, this can have a negative impact on the way he relates to people. Remember, he can’t exactly tell right from wrong yet. He doesn’t know that he’s being yelled at for accidentally spilling the milk or for wetting his pants. He may even associate other things that he is doing as being wrong. In addition, this may also impact his ability to have a healthy relationship with his parents. As a general rule, if you can’t explain to the little one why it’s wrong in words, just say “no” and let it slide.
9Avoiding Medical Treatment
Not giving the little one medical treatment when he sorely needs it is extremely dangerous. Not only can it threaten the baby’s life, it can also result in serious problems later in life. This often occurs in parents who are mistrustful of the health care system and opt for unproven treatments. While some illnesses may resolve on their own, others can be tragic.
One example of a treatable condition that can be dangerous if the child doesn’t get medication immediately is asthma. After all, asthma is when the airways become constricted as a result of a hypersensitivity to a certain substance or stress. Because of this, there will be decreased oxygenation all throughout the body. If ignored for long periods of time, especially if the trigger is not removed, this can result in brain damage if not death. There are many other conditions that can cause mental health disorders as well.
The idea of an infant being sexually abused is horrifying. But it does, in fact, happen. Even worse, considering the statistics on sexual abuse as well as the fact that very young children hardly go out of home, the perpetrator is most likely a member of the family or a close friend. Since this is apparently a traumatic, painful experience that the infant does not understand, it’s likely to affect his mental health adversely.
Direct sexual abuse isn’t the only thing that can affect the little one adversely. If either parent is sexually abused by their partner, they are also prone to either be too detached, as they themselves are fearful and scared of their partner, or too clingy, as the child seems the only source of genuine love. This can lead to dysfunctional parenting later on, which can make the child have trouble developing relationships later on. Needless to say, the effects of sexual abuse can have upsetting implications on the child’s mental health, whether it’s direct or indirect.
As with yelling, infants don’t understand why they’re being hit. They may do things that are perceived as “bad” by the parent, but this is only often a result of natural clumsiness or curiosity. He may misattribute the punishment, thinking that he, himself, or his need to explore is bad. As such, he may grow up with low self-esteem, at the very least. The repercussions this can have on the baby’s health can be staggering. Children with low self-esteem are more likely to become anxious and depressed, even at a young age. The problem gets much worse if the abuse continues beyond infancy.
And like sexual abuse, the effects can also carry down from a parent who is physically abused. The abused parent is also likely to become distant or over-attached to compensate for the partner’s behavior which devalues his or her dignity. Parents who are being abused, or see that their own children are being abused, must get help as soon as possible.
Raising children is tough work. So we don’t blame the average parent for wanting a glass or two of rosé or even a beer in the evening. Alcoholism, however, is another devil entirely. After all, alcohol impairs judgment and reasoning, which if left unmanaged can result in poor decision-making and, therefore, poor parenting. This is particularly if the alcoholic has violent tendencies. In fact, many cases of domestic violence, whether physical, emotional or sexual, are associated with alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism is also just as dangerous during the pregnancy. Moms who regularly drink too much alcohol during pregnancy are at high risk of giving birth to a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS. Infants with FAS are at high risk for mental health conditions such as mental retardation, hyperactivity, developmental delays and learning disabilities. In fact, the risks of alcohol during pregnancy are so great that doctors highly discourage alcohol consumption by expecting mothers.
While the effect of each drug varies, many illegal drugs, especially when taken with little regulation, can result in some of the same effects as alcohol. Drugs that impair the parent’s ability to care for his or her child can result in either neglect or abuse. It is therefore important to avoid these drugs unless they’re medically necessary. Parents who need to take medical marijuana might want to gauge their ability to care for the little one when they need to take their dose, and then seek help as necessary.
Among the most dangerous of the illicit drugs are crystal meth and cocaine. Their effects on the parent’s behavior can be damaging. But, taken by the pregnant mother, they can actually physically change the structure of the fetal brain. This can result in brain defects that are associated with mental retardation and other problems. Needless to say, these must be avoided by pregnant moms and parents alike.
Alcohol and drug use are extremely dangerous, but smoking is in an entirely different league of its own. Unlike the previous two, the behavioral change that results from smoking is quite minimal. However, all its other effects are just as hazardous for the little one. It’s common knowledge, for instance, that smoking is not advised during pregnancy. This is because smoking constricts the blood vessels, which results in decreased blood flow to the fetus and, therefore, can limit oxygenation. In addition, the many toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can find their way into the womb, causing brain damage. The combination of all these factors significantly increase the baby’s risk of birth defects, as well as problems with the placenta or umbilical cord.
This includes secondhand smoke and even thirdhand smoke, the kind that clings to the clothes and the hair. Because of this, even the baby’s father might want to go cold turkey during his partner’s pregnancy. Or, at the very least, take a full shower before going to his family.
3Leaving Baby Home
Most parents won’t leave their kid at home without a babysitter, something we think is sound practice. If nobody is there to look after the little one, however, it’s not a great idea to leave the baby home alone. While some parents can manage it for only a few hours, this isn’t something that’s great to do regularly or for long periods of time. First of all, something could happen to the baby when nobody is home. A cabinet could topple over, the bed could catch on fire or the baby might fall out of the crib. If the parents aren’t around to attend to the baby right away, this could spell disaster.
Even if nothing bad happens, however, the baby might have needs during the period that the parents are gone. He might be in need of a diaper change or a feeding. When the little one’s needs are not met for too long, they will begin to develop a sense of mistrust. Not at all great for relationship-building.
2Avoiding Hugs and Cuddles
There’s a prevalent misconception that parents shouldn’t pick the little one up right away when he’s crying as this might “spoil” him. Really, however, it’s practically impossible to spoil an infant through cuddles. Touch is one of the basic things that provide the little one emotional security. This is essential for his growth and without it, he will grow up ill-adjusted and possibly either anxious or depressed.
Do note that this does not mean, either, that the little one must be hugged at every opportunity. Even the busiest of parents, after all, can have children that have good mental health even if they don’t pick them up all the time. Most often, children who grow up with mental health problems are those who are frequently ignored, who are held so little that it’s painful. So, as much as possible, be generous with hugs and cuddles. The little one will be healthier for it.
1Negative Attitude Towards the Baby
Babies may not look it, but they’re very perceptive to other peoples’ emotions, particularly their parents. They won’t necessarily understand the reasons behind it, but they can detect subtle behaviors that might indicate that the parent dislikes them. After all, this negative attitude often come along with neglect or maltreatment. When this is sustained, the child will grow up feeling that he is not worthy of love. He is therefore prone to a wide array of mental health problems.
Of course, it’s an entirely different thing with moms who don’t develop attachment to their babies immediately. Most of these moms are still able to perform most of their responsibilities, without necessarily treating the little one with contempt. While this lack of attachment may seem odd, even disturbing, to the mother, it’s often fine. Usually attachment develops after some time. However, outright hate towards the baby can be dangerous. When a parent feels this, it’s probably best to seek help.
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