POSITIVE parent-baby relationships are vital to a child's physical and mental development.

That's the message from Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, which says research has found that babies are "born ready to relate".

Positive experiences in the first two years of a child's life promote healthy brain development, it adds.

Dr Lisa Milne, clinical lead of the trust's specialist mother and baby mental health service, has shared her own experiences as a parent in the hope it helps others.

"What I’d like is for all parents to know more than I did about just how amazing their baby is," she says.

"When I had my first child I knew he would need his nappy changed, to be warm and fed often, and have lots of cuddles.

"But I didn’t know then that before he was even born he knew my voice, and within hours of birth would recognise my smell, and that being held against my skin would ease his stress. My baby was ‘talking’ to me from birth onwards, using his body or ‘cues’ to express himself. I didn’t know that babies are born ready to relate.

"Babies have incredible brains for taking in vast quantities of information, making sense of their experiences and learning from them. They love, and need, interaction.

"I was unaware my interaction with my baby was actually helping build his brain."

Lisa adds: "I can remember finding it very stressful when my baby cried. Other people would tell me 'babies just cry – they are exercising their lungs' and that if I kept trying to comfort him I would 'build a rod for my own back'. Interestingly, we now know that if the parent picks up a distressed baby they help stop stress chemicals flooding their baby’s body, and positive chemicals are released instead. And babies who are more responded to end up being better at managing their emotions than babies left to cry.

"It's not easy having a baby. Demands of childcare can seem relentless. Many women find it takes time to 'fall in love' with their baby. However, the more we're able to understand our babies, the more interesting, inspiring and fascinating they can be.

"By treating our babies as if they have minds of their own, we are helping them develop."

For more information, visit readytorelate.bdct.nhs.uk

Free training for professionals to support strong parent-infant relationships can be found at bdct.nhs.uk/enroll-on-ready-to-relate-training