Keep up with upcoming Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Events

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2019 Breakfast Network Meeting #3 at PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Friday, June 14, 2019, 8:30-10:30 AM
Infant Mental Health: So what? Who cares?
Robert Gallen, Ph.D., IMH-E®–Infant Mental Health Mentor (Research/Faculty)
Associate Professor of Practice, University of Pittsburgh,
Department of Applied Developmental Psychology

2019 Breakfast Network Meeting #4 at Midwest Intermediate Unit 4, Grove City, PA
Friday, September 13, 2019, 8:30-10:30 AM
Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement®
Brandy Fox, LCSW, IMH-E®–Infant Mental Health Mentor (Policy)

Young Child Wellness Expert, PA Project LAUNCH
Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Project Manager, PA Keys to Quality
Robert Gallen, Ph.D., IMH-E®–Infant Mental Health Mentor (Research/Faculty)
Associate Professor of Practice, University of Pittsburgh
Erin Troup, LPC, NCC, CT, IMH-E®-Infant Mental Health Mentor (Clinical)
Licensed Professional Counselor, Sprout Center for Emotional Growth & Development
Jennifer Murphy, ECMH-E®–Early Childhood Family Specialist
ECMH Program Coordinator, Pennsylvania Keys to Quality

2019 Breakfast Network Meeting #5 at PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Friday, November 8, 2019, 8:30-10:30 AM
The Impact of Trauma
Sarah Homitsky, MD
Medical Director, Women’s Behavioral Health, Allegheny Health Network

PTSD and Childbirth

PTSD in the Nursery: When childbirth is traumatic, mothers often suffer in silence

“Over her 20-year career as a childbirth educator at Birth Partners, Inc., McGrath has met many women who experienced a traumatic birth. McGrath listens to each woman’s story, moment by moment. Her role is to provide validation and help them move on.

“To me, the definition of healing is being able to make the birth part of your life story and not front and center,” McGrath said.

Sometimes the traumatic event itself cannot be avoided, but what the hospital staff does in response can have a huge impact on how the woman perceives her birth and whether she develops PTSD, McGrath said.

Healthcare providers don’t receive formal training for preventing PTSD in patients, but obstetrician April Dunmyre tries to help her patients through emergency procedures by explaining what’s happening and why.

For instance, Dunmyre said she may tell a woman that an emergency C-section is best because the baby’s heart rate is low. Then she would mentally prepare the patient for the rush of people who will enter the room and provide reassurance that her partner can be in the operating room.

After the dust settles, Dunmyre debriefs the patient and answers questions.

“They might not be awake or alert enough or they might still be scared after they have their procedure,” said Dunmyre, who works at Magee Womancare Associates, “but then the next day the doctor or the midwife…will discuss with them what happened.”

In Deth’s case, these conversations would have been helpful. She said a lot of the negative aspects of her birth and the aftermath were caused by a lack of clear communication.

The turning point for Deth and Moss in processing their traumatic births was discovering New Mom’s Coffee (NMC). McGrath and Kids Plus Pediatrics created NMC as a donation-based support group for new mothers.”


“Before coming to NMC, Moss said she wasn’t really aware of the concept of traumatic birth. So many people had fed her the line that she should just be grateful her baby is healthy, but at NMC she was given the space to vent about how emotionally challenging it is to almost lose a child.

Part of the reason McGrath started NMC is to help women who underwent a traumatic birth not to feel alone and to find validation for their lingering negative emotions.

“I think all of us need to be aware that just because the baby was OK it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good experience,” McGrath said. “You don’t need to pry for details, but just open the door to talk with her about it. You don’t need to try to put a happy spin on it.”

Hare, Erin. “PTSD in the nursery: When childbirth is traumatic, mothers often suffer in silence.” PublicSource, 27 Dec. 2016,

Everything we know has changed.

All who work with young children develop, over time, intuitive understandings about the remarkable capabilities and astounding growth that occurs during the first years of life. As we continue to seek a deeper understanding of how relationships, interaction, and life experience impact developing children in all domains, thoughtful research has supported, and continues to illuminate, our intuition.

Over a half-century has passed since the groundbreaking creation of Head Start. In April 2014, The Atlantic published an excellent, brief and readable summary of the history of research in early childhood education and child development over the program’s initial 50-year period. As noted by the authors, Janell Ross and Amy Sullivan, “When President Johnson signed the bill authorizing Head Start back in 1965, he had some research to back up the idea of early childhood interventions—and a lot of hunches. Nearly half a century later, researchers have the benefit of long-term studies to give them more answers, although that hasn’t ended debates on the subject.”

Among other things, the article identifies two paths of research to which many aspects of our systems seem stubbornly resistant, and relate directly to the core of developmentally appropriate practice from birth through age 8 in particular. First, “assessments [need] to include noncognitive outcomes—the ability to self-motivate, exhibit self-control, and work toward long-term goals.” (The current term for these skills, among others, is “Executive Function”. ) Second, “children are only part of the equation…. the field of early childhood intervention evolved from its original focus on children to a growing appreciation of the extent to which family, community, and broader societal factors affect child health and development.” (Here the authors cite the influential National Academy of Sciences report From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development1, the findings of which served as the foundation of the work of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.)

This article cites and links to important basics of the learning underlying modern best practices and a research-based, developmentally sound approach to education:

  • the work of Jack Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips on From Neurons to Neighborhoods;
  • John Bowlby, the innovator behind Attachment Theory; and
  • Professor James J. Heckman’s economic research tying positive social/emotional outcomes to valuable benefits to the broader economy.2

Excellent, straightforward reading that is well worth the time.

Janell Ross and Amy Sullivan (2014). How Everything We Know About Early Childhood Has Changed Since Head Start Was Founded [Electronic version]. The Atlantic, April 22, 2014.


1 Shonkoff, Jack P. and Phillips, Deborah A., (eds.),(2000) From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, National Academy Press.

2 Heckman, James J., (2008), The Case for Investing in Disadvantaged Young Children, CESifo DICE Report, 6, issue 2, p. 3-8.

This post appeared previously, in slightly different form, at The Beanstalk: Observations on child development, education policy, learning across boundaries and the joy of children, permalink at, © 2014 Patrick Webster, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.