The Leeds Infant Mental Health Service: early relationships matter

J Reprod Infant Psychol. 2022 Feb;40(1):91-104. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2020.1828842. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Introduction: Infants' experience of the early caregiving environment is fundamental to the development of positive social and emotional functioning. The Leeds Infant Mental Health Service was established to provide early intervention to infantsunder two and their caregivers, where there are concerns about the attachment relationship. This paper describes preliminary data to evaluate its effectiveness.

Method: Improved parent-infant relationships and parental well-beingare achieved by asmall multidisciplinary workforce through direct therapeutic work with infants and their caregivers and by up-skilling other professionals who are in contact with infants, through specialist training and consultation.

Results: Launched in 2012, the service has trained over 2500 professionals.Over 500 reflective case discussions and 200 case consultations have been delivered to practitioners, many of whom work with vulnerable infants. Ascreening tool has been developed to enable health visitors to identify infants at risk of developing poor attachment relationships with their caregivers. Direct therapeutic work has been completed with over 531 families, the majority (71%) before the infant was 6 months old. Caregivers and professionals are positive about the service.

Conclusion: The model represents a clinically and cost-effective way to deliver city-wide infant mental health provision. Future research is needed on effectivess, particularly long-term outcomes.

Keywords: Infant mental health; attachment; early intervention; emotional wellbeing; perinatal.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Child Health Services*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Health
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Parents