Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

Healthy, nurturing relationships with parents and caregivers lay the foundation for a baby’s social and emotional development, also known as infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH). IECMH is at the heart of the full range of Think Babies policy priorities, all of which support the resilience of families and communities and the social and emotional development of babies and toddlers.

Make no mistake: mental health issues can take root very early in life. Infants and young children can have diagnosable and treatable mental health disorders. Policies and programs that fall along a promotion, prevention, and treatment continuum provide parents and young children with support for social and emotional development and prevent and treat mental health issues as early as possible. Investments that support the mental health of infants and young children prevent the more costly interventions that all too often result when mental health challenges go unaddressed.

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Tell Congress to #ThinkBabiesAndAct and support healthy emotional development right from the start!


IECMH consultation is associated with decreased rates of suspensions and expulsions.


Evidence-based IECMH treatments have shown returns of $3.64 per dollar invested.


An estimated 10-16% of young children experience mental health conditions including PTSD and anxiety.

Legislation At-A-Glance

The Infant and Early Childhood Grant Program expands the capacity of communities to address IECMH. Grants fund communities to develop, maintain, or enhance IECMH promotion, intervention, and treatment services. Each year, Congress can increase funding for these grants through the appropriations process. In addition, Congress can increase Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funding and dedicate new funds to young children; and invest in the workforce so that there are enough providers who are trained specifically to work with young children and families.

What it could mean for babies:

More babies and families would have access to the continuum of services—from promotion to prevention to treatment – preventing lifelong mental health challenges. A robust and well-trained IECMH workforce would be established, dedicated to healthy social and emotional development for infants, toddlers, and their families.

Advocacy Tools & Resources

How to Talk about IECMH: Use this infographic to help define infant and early childhood mental health and talk about social and emotional development.


State of Babies Yearbook: 2023: Use national and state-by-state data on the well-being of infants and toddlers to call on federal, state, and local policymakers to improve outcomes for babies and families.