Book Review: Babies in Mind: Understanding your baby’s psychological needs

Jenny Perkel. Photo credit: Adrian Perkel

Reviewed by: Salisha Maharaj (South Africa), WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health Assistant Editor

Perkel, J. (2007). Babies in Mind: Understanding your baby’s psychological needs. Juta Books.

E-book second edition, revised and updated in 2014 available at:

About the author: Jenny Perkel

Jenny Perkel is a Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a past chairperson of the Western Cape Association for Infant Mental Health and a current member of the South African Association for Infant Mental Health. Jenny has authored “Babies in Mind” and “Children in Mind”, bringing to the foreground psychological aspects of child-rearing along with practical ones. Find Jenny online at

About the book: Babies in Mind: Understanding your baby’s psychological needs

Babies in Mind is essential for new parents and practitioners who want to gain insight into the psychological experiences of the baby in the first year of life. The book is written with the aim of parents in mind, and Jenny is able to make raw psychological concepts digestible and accessible.

Part one of the book takes the reader through the journey of parenthood before it begins, focusing on expectations in pregnancy, childbirth, and how to handle parenting advice. This section highlights the reality of parenthood as one that is filled with incredible joys, but also the uncertainties that come with raising a human who is filled with their own idiosyncratic needs. Jenny gently moves parents who often have an idealized image of parenthood in mind, to face the real-life challenges of having a baby who is completely dependent on their every-need being met.

Part two journeys into what it is like to welcome a new baby into one’s life. It offers practical suggestions on early feeding, sleep, understanding a baby’s cries, growth, and development as well as fostering family bonds. Along with the sound and practical input, Jenny provides parents with simple reflective exercises for them to understand the state of mind that their baby is in during ordinary, as well as challenging moments of growth and development. In her chapter “Listen to Me, I’m Crying”, Jenny positions helpful suggestions like “talk and sing to her” with wondering about the state of the baby’s mind with an invitation to, “observe your baby, tune into the cry and try to work out what it means”. Jenny also provides opportunities throughout the book for parents to observe their mental states. There is a special chapter on fathers which highlights their role as a container for the mother’s psychological needs and detangler of mothers and baby’s oneness to foster healthy autonomy for the baby.

“Troubling aspects of being a parent” is the focus of part three of the book. In these chapters Jenny addresses topics like negative feelings towards your baby, caring for a high-needs baby, maternal stress, and post-partum depression. There are helpful reflections for mothers on their own experiences of being mothered with an opportunity to understand how these experiences may impact their relationship with their new baby. Jenny also includes the Edinburgh Post-Natal Depression Scale and a Self-Rated Depression Scale. These are positioned as helpful guides to know when to access medical support.

Babies in Mind is a thoughtfully written book that draws the reader into the mind and experience of the infant. There is room for parent reflection on their journey as parents, and this invitation to reflect is offered in a non-judgmental manner. It also provides useful practical suggestions on managing some of the ordinary and challenging areas of childcare in the newborn phase such as feeding, sleeping, and understanding a baby’s needs. This book is a generous addition to resources available on guiding parents to navigate the experience of parenthood while keeping the baby at the center point of this journey.

Babies in Mind offers a freely available, open-access, manualized guide for professionals wanting to conduct workshops with new parents and caregivers: Babies in Mind Link: here.


Salisha Maharaj (South Africa), WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health Assistant Editor