In many ways, the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health communities are rather separated. However, there is so much overlap that they practically plead to be integrated. Perinatal refers to the period of time trying to conceive through the first year postpartum while infant mental health refers to the period of time from pregnancy through the first 5 years of your child's life.
Other words for the perinatal period include postpartum, peripartum, the 4th trimester, parental leave and many others. Both time periods encompass the transition to parenthood. Perinatal mental health refers to your emotional well-being during this time, and infant mental health is the time during which we focus on supporting and strengthening the emotional well-being and development of your child as well as their attachment bond with you. As Donald Winnicott famously stated, "there is no baby...there is a baby and someone." One cannot provide full care for any person in this context without considering the relationships around them.
Although infant mental health goes further into a child's lifespan than perinatal mental health, they both basically address the same stage of life. One (perinatal) is more focused on the parent, and the other (infant) is more focused on the infant's development and the relationship between the two. However, there is no separating the infant or toddler from the connection with their caregiver. Both specialties are inherently entwined.
A new parent is often concerned about their baby's development. Perinatal mental health may provide stress-reduction to the caregiver while infant mental health may educate them on typical development and bring the focus back on the relationship. Working with someone with specialized training regarding the perinatal period can make a huge difference in the success of treatment if a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder is present. An Infant Mental Health Specialist is someone who helps parents build on that bond and strengthen the attachment with their baby or young child. One without the other can lead to relief, healthier relationships, etc. However, *together* they can give caregivers support in the ways they deserve.
Finally, the collective voices of caregivers are some of the most powerful to advocate for systemic change. Both Perinatal and Infant Mental Health have a strong focus on advocacy and justice so that our larger society can also provide the support they deserve. It is a strong focus of mine to participate in dismantling, decolonizing and deconstructing the harmful systems at play (including recognizing the system of traditional mental health) and following leaders of color and marginalized communities to reconstruct and reimagine how our care fields can better support and build up our families, communities and larger society.