Voice of the Infant: best practice guidelines and infant pledge

Co-produced by a short-life working group, on behalf of the Infant Mental Health Implementation and Advisory Group, which is part of the Scottish Government’s Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board.

Key Messages for Best Practice: 1

Facilitating Infant Participation


Babies and young children meet a range of people (Health Visitors, Family Nurses, GP's, Paediatricians, mental health, early years and social care professionals for example) in a variety of settings (home, clinic, nursery, hospital ward for example). Some physical spaces, such as baby clinics or nurseries, are designed with infants in mind and may be more likely to support their participation. Other spaces or environments may require more significant adaptation to facilitate this. Beyond the safety and comfort of the infant, it is important in all settings to consider how to optimise conditions for infant participation and communication. How the space is made baby-friendly9 will vary according to infant age and stage, but could include providing appropriate communal space, minimising unnecessary noise and other distractions, and providing appropriate materials to promote or facilitate infant communication (for example, furniture and toys). Getting down on the floor or sitting on cushions or low chairs with infants and their carers will support communication.

We usually meet babies and young children with their parents or caregivers, whose interests and concerns may or may not be the same. These adults often bring valuable insights, for example, about the baby's character and routines. Appropriately, they may try to 'speak' for the baby. These contributions may help professionals understand an infant's experiences. However, it is also important to assess this relationship and look beyond it to see the baby themselves. Babies' communications are easily overlooked even when they are the subject of a meeting. Helping the adults to put themselves in the baby's shoes may help overcome any tensions.

As well as physical space, emotional space is needed to properly take account of the baby's perspective. Emotions felt by those accompanying the baby will be communicated to them and may stop the baby from feeling at ease, and being receptive to attempts to engage them. In therapeutic encounters, it is important to try to attend to everyone's feelings and help create this emotional space.

During home visits, it may be necessary to address these important issues with the adults. Services for babies and young children need to provide a safe and appropriate environment to support babies as they let us know about their perspective and experience, and have their voices heard.


Email: pimh@gov.scot

Back to top