The mental health of sick babies in hospital: Risks, vulnerabilities, and the impact of COVID-19


Hospitalisation for treatment of serious illness can place infants, and their families, at risk with respect to their mental health. Trauma responses are common, and optimal infant-parent relationship development may be disrupted. Significant additional environmental and psychosocial burdens were placed on this group in 2020 as a consequence of measures adopted to protect the community from COVID-19. Coupling past research with the clinical experiences from 2020, we will consider how the pandemic response has impacted on our infants and their families. We will also speculate on how this may continue to impact post discharge, and how health care providers should respond.



A/Professor Campbell Paul is a Consultant Infant and Child Psychiatrist, and the clinical lead of the Infant Mental Health Program at The Royal Children’s Hospital. He has been at RCH for 40 years. He is current President of the World Association of Infant Mental Health (WAIMH), and was instrumental in the establishment of the distinct discipline of Infant Mental Health within Australia. Campbell is a master trainer and Director of NBO Australia, based at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne

Dr Megan Chapman is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, and the coordinator of the Infant Mental Health Program at The Royal Children’s Hospital. She has been at RCH for 20 years, working in mental health across adolescent, forensic, and child settings prior to joining the Infant Mental Health team in 2008.  Her PhD research looked at Parental Reflective Functioning in Neonatal Intensive Care, and its impact on the parent-infant relationships and mental health outcomes of parents and babies.

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