For so many new parents, the challenges of a new baby can feel overwhelming. Even without barriers to service and a strong support system, the task of caring for an infant is all consuming. Research continues to show that the first three years of life is when an infant’s rapidly developing brain begins to establish a correlation between their caregiver and a sense of safety and security. When a caregiver is struggling to cope, their inability to deliver comfort to a distressed infant can often lead to early dysregulation and ultimately future difficulties for the child related to learning, comprehension, mental health and relationships.
Postnatal depression in mothers (or fathers), violence in the family, immigration and settlement issues as well as isolation or economic challenges such as those that accompanied the pandemic and ongoing inflation, create stressors that can result in the disruption of a secure environment and a higher prevalence of infant abuse and ultimately poor outcomes for these babies.
This issue of Spotlight sheds a light on Me and My Baby: a Lumenus program designed to provide immediate support for those struggling to cope. Me and My Baby works to build resilience in parents and caregivers of infants and takes a unique approach to help reduce the risks associated with parental mental health challenges ultimately benefitting the infant.
See how your donations allow Lumenus to build capacity and find a sustainable way forward for Toronto infants and their families.
The Lumenus Mission
We illuminate a seamless pathway to optimal wellbeing through high-impact mental health and developmental services and strong system leadership.
Early Years programs are building resilience and brighter futures for children and their families
Caregiver Stress Matters: The Me and My Baby Walk-In Model:
The Me and My Baby walk-in “plus” model is a stepped care approach that offers a range of intervention options suited to meet the needs of the individual caregiver and thereby the infant-caregiver relationship. It provides a safe, easy way for caregivers and their infants to seek support in a stigma-free environment.
Using mental health adult screening tools focusing on post-natal depression and health and wellness, the model identifies the various risk factors that may impede their ability to provide the type of responses their child needs.
Collaboratively with the therapist, they then create a service plan. The intervention could include any or all of the following, depending on what the caregiver/infant need:
- Walk-in session to identify issues, do a preliminary consultation, provide information on support services and determine next steps.
- Brief intervention (2-6 Sessions) with a qualified mental health professional focusing on how to support secure attachment with the infant, parent skill development on how to be responsive to their child’s needs, violence identification, settlement issues, housing, nutrition, etc.;
- Referral to other services within the Lumenus suite of options or externally to the community
Disruption in the development of security can promote in the baby an early confusion with how distress is identified, understood and calmed. When a caregiver has difficulty soothing their baby (because of their own stressors), the baby finds ways to do it themselves which tend to be maladaptive and lead to future social and behavioral challenges.
Experience to-date from this low barrier access format through the walk-in shows that immediate, barrier-free, cost-free access to this type of service has encouraged participation from caregivers that might never have sought out these services. They’re able to develop an early understanding that they can meet their infant’s physical needs (hunger, sensory, sleep) and socio-emotional needs (feeling safe and loved) as well as how critical it is for them to regulate their own responses including downregulating negative emotion and upregulating attuned emotions; this will lead them to develop the relationship foundation with their baby that is a cornerstone for the child’s optimal development. The caregiver also increases a sense of competence when they feel they have coping strategies to address their challenges, and is better able to cope and respond in ways that will help their baby grow into their full potential.
Caregiver Mental Health is the Baby’s Mental Health:
“Consistent sensitive responsiveness
to the baby’s cues also lets them develop
trust and feel secure and
safe in their relationship with the caregiver.
This type of relationship is
key to the baby’s functioning
throughout their lifetime.”
“Healthy development in the early years (particularly
birth to three) provides the building blocks for
educational achievement, economic productivity,
responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong
communities, and successful parenting of the
(Source: Center on the Developing Child,
New mothers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to access the services they need:
“I started using the Me & My Baby program last spring a couple months into the pandemic. As a new mother with a 4-month-old I was already faced with the challenge of parenting solo while my partner was waiting for us to reunite in another country. At the time I felt a lack of support system. I felt my mood start to slip. I felt sad, overwhelmed and anxious. I reached out to one of the free mental health resources I saw on Instagram and after speaking with a counselor they referred me to the program.
“I could not have made it through my first year as a parent without the support of the Me & My Baby program. I felt supported through a variety of challenges including experiencing homelessness for 6 months. The program has helped with advice/resources on parenting, any minor health concerns I have regarding my son as well as processing complicated feelings. Me & My Baby helped me feel more confident in my ability to parent and manage my feelings when they become overwhelming. I recommend the program to any parent who needs someone in their corner as they navigate the first few years.”
Please share this Lumenus Impact Report with like-minded colleagues, family and friends. Your donations are making a difference. Imagine what we could achieve with a growing network of support!