(This article talks about child abuse and neglect, and contains video that may be upsetting)
Our organisation, Baby in Mind, is dedicated to promoting and supporting the bond between parents and babies. Although this bonding is ‘natural’, it doesn’t always come easily to many parents and for many families. It is normal for parents to grapple with feelings of uncertainty and doubt, and for love to take time. We support all parents in bonding with their babies.
But for some parents we work with, the bonding process is completely derailed. Our educators who work in neonatal intensive care, drug recovery centres, psychiatric units, and child abuse services do some of the most harrowing work in the world: supporting parents (or foster parents) to help their babies love and trust again.
We don’t work with abandoned and rescued puppies. We work with human babies and their parents. Yet, because our work involves people, rather than animals, we can’t show you the photos. Our respect for the dignity of the families we support means that we don’t make videos of people’s suffering to promote our cause.
This makes the work of many of our people invisible.
For ethical reasons, we don’t share photos of the baby with 14 fractures to her bones, who is too scared to make eye contact.
We can’t share the photos of the mother who protects her baby by refusing to pick him up, because she knows if she does she will hurt him.
We can’t share the photos of the listless, floppy baby who rocks himself in the corner of the bed because he knows no-one will come.
We choose not to share the photos of the baby, screaming in intensive care, because he is going through drug withdrawals.
Nor can we share the photos which show how our people work with these families and babies in the most gentle, skillful and respectful ways imaginable.
There is no photo that can depict the work of sitting with a mother for three hours, gently talking with her until she is – finally – comfortable to make a few seconds of eye contact with her baby: the first step on the path to a strong bond between the two of them.
Our work can never be rushed. There is no photo that can show you the hours of patience and observing and adjusting and observing some more, that goes in to supporting a foster carer coming to discover how a beaten and assaulted baby can be held and touched without causing more trauma and stress.
Nor are there any photos we can share, that show how we help that little baby learn to trust and feel safe again.
The only way we can show you where and how some of our most important work takes place is by sharing with you videos and stories like these. These stories are more than something to make us feel good for a moment. Replace the puppy with a human baby, and you’ll have a sense of the work we do. The only difference for us is we are not just working to help a hurt and traumatised baby. We are helping hurt and traumatised parents and babies to find their way with each other.
In some respects, we do this work because every bit of research shows that these early interactions to build trust – touch, eye contact, voice – impact on every aspect of a child’s life well into adulthood. But mostly we do this work because the first connection between babies and their caregivers is our first and primary experience of being human. By ensuring all babies can experience this connection – no matter what the challenges – our people are shaping a better humanity for all our children.
(If this article has raised any issues for you, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14)
If you would like to help support the work of Baby in Mind, check out the latest opportunities to get involved below.
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