Children require consistency, stimulation, responsiveness, and rich play environments.
This isn't always available at home, meaning access to high-quality childcare can change lives.
As a child psychiatrist, I don't believe there's been sufficient recognition of the importance of strengthening and supporting universal play-based early learning and childcare.
Early childhood educators don't need to be experts in mental health - they need support and training to be good teachers who save children's emotional lives.
Australia has increased its understanding and willingness to act on infant mental health.
We better understand the crucial importance of the first years of life on brain development.
During this time children learn in leaps and bounds, developing emotional, interpersonal and cognitive skills that will help them lead healthy, happy lives.
Properly resourced early learning and childcare provide developmentally appropriate settings in which a child can develop personal and interpersonal competence.
This is an approach to infant mental health that enhances the wellbeing of all children and families, rather than seeking to identify deficits in (and potentially stigmatise) a minority of individuals.
For those worried about the cost, there is strong evidence of the social and economic benefits of early learning and childcare and parenting programs, particularly for disadvantaged children.
Children who grow up in adversity are better protected if they have meaningful relationship with at least one adult.
It is also protective for children to develop strong cognitive skills, and the benefit is most pronounced for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who otherwise have been found to have greater cognitive and behavioural development deficits at school entry.
Mental health services can only deal with a fraction of the infants who experience significant adversity and, even then, spend at most a few hours each month with an infant.
Teachers have daily contact. For most of these children, well-resourced programs can better protect and enhance their mental health than specialists like me.
There will be a small percentage of children who require specialised services.
But for most infants starting life in less-than-ideal circumstances, a positive experience of good, ordinary childcare is protective.
Increasing our investment in high-quality, well-resourced universal childcare, provided by well-trained, well-paid teachers, is our best buy for the mental health of infants and the adults they will become.
Jon Jureidini is a professor of psychiatry in the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide.