Smiley baby sitting in a highchair being fed from a spoon

Stronger from the Start

Stronger from the Start is an alliance of more than 60 organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, working together to promote and improve infant mental health.

Image with blue background, with pictures of young infants in the foreground. With text reading 'Stronger from the start. Working together to promote and improve infant mental health in Northern Ireland'.

As part of the Stronger from the Start Alliance we are continually working to amplify the importance of infant mental health by campaigning for meaningful change in policy, practice, and life experiences. 

The Alliance successfully campaigned for and welcomed the inclusion of infants within the Mental Health Strategy for Northern Ireland 2021-2031 and we are committed to continuing to raise political awareness in this area. 

Our campaigning hasn’t stopped there. We are continuing to lobby for the recognition of the importance of the first 1001 days and the need to prioritise infants and their families in strategy development and service delivery. 

Our key asks are summarised in our most recent manifesto which you can read here

Support Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (10th-16th June 2024)

This year Infant Mental Health Awareness Week is 10th - 16th June 2024, with the theme 'Speak Up For Babies.'

Whether you work in early years, or you are a parent, carer of family member interested in infant mental health we ask you to speak up for babies together. Please use this pledge card to sign, take a photo with and upload on your social media. Don't forget to tag us on X and Instagram.

For more information, please contact Grainne McHugh [email protected] for more information.

What is infant mental health?

Infants need trusting, secure and reliable relationships with their parents or main caregiver. The infant can recognise these qualities through the way they are held, talked to, touched, and cared for. These early interactions during the first weeks, months and years of life prepare the way for strong, healthy social and emotional health and wellbeing across the lifespan.

Man and baby in the background. Text over top that reads: Infant experiences shape later development. Let's use the evidence to address this impact and improve future life outcomes.

AnchorWhy are the first 1,001 days so important?

Baby smiling in the background of the image, with text over top that reads: The first 1001 Days, from antenatal to age 2 years, lays the foundations for both physical and mental wellbeing throughout the lifespan

The first 1,001 days include pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life. This is an age of opportunity. There is clear, compelling evidence that this period lays the foundation for every child’s future health, wellbeing, learning and earnings potential. It sets the groundwork for children’s developing emotional wellbeing, resilience and adaptability. During these 1,001 days, we can lay a foundation of health and wellbeing whose benefits last a lifetime – and carry into the next generation. 

Listen to our quick video about the importance of the first 1,001 days here.

How do we promote good infant mental health?

Early years investment is the most evidenced and cost-effective way of transforming child and family outcomes. By working to #includeinfants in policy, strategy and service delivery we can deliver generational change. We believe if we act early, we will see individual, economic, systemic and societal benefits. 

Our Stronger from the Start Manifesto 2022 outlines our key asks for the promotion and improvement of infant mental health in Northern Ireland. These asks cover 4 key areas: 

  • leadership & Collaboration 

  • improving Evidence & Policy 

  • workforce Development 

  • service Development 

Support us on social media

If you would like to support our campaign, you can save our pledge card here to show your support on social media with the hashtags #StrongerFromTheStart #SpeakUpForBabies.

You can also follow us on X and on Instagram

Join the Stronger from the Start Alliance

All community and voluntary sector organisations operating in Northern Ireland are welcome to join the Stronger from the Start Infant Mental Health Alliance. 

However big or small, whatever your primary area of interest, if you support our manifesto, we’d love to welcome you. 

You can read our Stronger from the Start Alliance Terms of Reference.

To sign up or find out more, please email our admin: [email protected]

Become an Association Infant Mental Health UK (AIMH UK) member 

AIMH UK offers a range of membership benefits and packages for individuals and organisations seeking to enhance their professional knowledge, skills and networks on infant mental health. 

Members in Northern Ireland also have access to the NI Infant Mental Health Hub for area specific updates and events. 

Click here to find out more about the benefits of joining AIMH UK

Previous events

'Back to Basics' roundtable event

On 19th November 2021, the Stronger from the Start Alliance hosted an online event called 'Back to Basics: Infant Mental Health Roundtable' for political representatives and their team to explore what we mean by infant mental health, the importance of promoting good infant mental health, and to start developing a shared vision for ensuring our babies and families are #StrongerFromTheStart.

Speakers included the Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, Siobhán O’Neill, Professor Nicola Doherty and Dr Dominic McSherry and you can watch the videos of their presentations by clicking on the below links:

For more information about the event you can read the 'Back to Basics Roundtable report' by tapping here,

Consultations and updates

Our consultation responses

Communications and updates

Three children playing in a garden

Our other influencing work in Northern Ireland

We use the experiences of our staff and volunteers as well as the children and young people we work with to best influence policies in Northern Ireland.

Free school meals petition hand in. Group outside Number 10 Downing Street

Campaign with us

Sometimes we need to take a stand on behalf of children and young people. This means calling for changes to the law, policy, or practice, but we need your help.

Three young people supported by Barnardo's standing beside Barnardo's voice and influence team staff and a Barnardo's practitioner at our summer parliamentary reception

Empowering children and young people

Nobody knows better than children and young people what their lives are really like. We're here to listen to them and help them get the support they need. Find out more about how we help below.