Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

Mental health is the foundation of early childhood development.

The mental health of infants and toddlers has a direct impact on their social and emotional development.

Babies come into this world ready and wired to form relationships. From the moment of birth, children are forming connections, developing social responses and learning about themselves and the world around them.

As a baby grows through infancy, toddlerhood and the preschool years, each experiencepositive or negativebecomes a building block for their future wellness. 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).

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.

Mental health is formed in our earliest days, even before birth. Learn More.

Take Action

Act Now to tell policymakers to prioritize infant and early childhood mental health and support healthy emotional development from the start. Tell Congress to act now to increase our nation’s capacity to support infant and early childhood mental health. #ThinkBabies

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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.