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: 3

Facilitating Infant Participation


In clinical and early years settings, the baby has an immediate audience, and it is important that communications do not go unnoticed. The baby should be actively listened to. Professionals should acknowledge what they are seeing and hearing both to the baby and to their carer. This can be done in words that make sense to the adults or older children. Words should also be directly spoken to the infant who is more likely to understand the communication via the tone, facial expressions and movement that accompanies them. Through our words and body language, we let babies know that we are listening to them.

Audience also refers to the wider notion that everyone has a duty to respond to and share what has been learned from the baby. At a very basic level, they may let us know that the environment is unsuitable or not ideal. For example, they may cover their ears or cry if they find the room too noisy. We must take note of and act on their feedback.

Modelling to others that we value and take account of what babies tell us can be done when we meet babies and their caregivers. In clinical work, this may be followed up and reflected in our correspondence with others in each baby's network of professionals and with their parents and carers.

Further, the experiences of babies and what we learn from them about what is important should inform the development of policy and practice. Services and organisations may not have previously considered barriers to and facilitation of infant participation. Where services are routinely working with infants, explicit review is encouraged to overcome issues impeding infant access and inclusion. They should be co-producers of our services, contributing their views to design and implementation. This requires a mechanism whereby their input is formally presented to and evaluated by managers who are responsible for service development and ongoing improvement. This is discussed further in the next section (Influence).


Email: pimh@gov.scot

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