Infants’ Rights – World Association for Infant Mental Health

The latest ‘Perspectives in Infant Mental Health’ (an online professional publication of the World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) outlines the new Declaration of the Infant’s Rights. In 2012, the WAIMH Ethics Committee, led by Bob Emde, MD and Tuula Tamminen, MD, found that the needs and rights of babies are often overlooked, whilst there is more of a focus on the rights of older children and parents, especially in custody disputes.

The WAIMH ethics committee noted that many societies around the globe pay insufficient or no attention to infants, especially in times of stress and trauma.

Basic Principles of Infant’s Rights (Birth to three years of age)

1. The Infant by reason of his/her physical and mental immaturity and absolute dependence needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection.

2. Caregiving relationships that are sensitive and responsive to infant needs are critical to human development and thereby constitute a basic right of infancy. The Infant therefore has the right to have his/her most important primary caregiver relationships recognized and understood, with the continuity of attachment valued and protected – especially in circumstances of parental separation and loss. This implies giving attention to unique ways that infants express themselves and educating mothers, fathers, caregivers and professionals in their recognition of relationship-based attachment behaviors.

3. The Infant is to be considered a vital member of his/her family, registered as a citizen, and having the right for identity from the moment of birth. Moreover, the Infant’s status as a person is to include equal value for life regardless of gender or any individual characteristics such as those of disability.

4. The Infant has the right to be given nurturing that includes love, physical and emotional safety, adequate nutrition and sleep, in order to promote normal development.

5. The Infant has the right to be protected from neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, including infant trafficking.

6. The Infant has the right to have access to professional help whenever exposed directly or indirectly to traumatic events.

7. The Infant with life-limiting conditions needs access to palliative services, based on the same standards that stand in the society for older children.

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