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The Earliest, a New Podcast from ZERO TO THREE

The Earliest takes a deep and personal look into mental health in the earliest years of life.

We’ve all seen the news headlines, and many of us are experiencing the impact firsthand of the unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages and walks of life. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we invite you to a safe space to listen, reflect, and connect with a topic that matters to everyone.

Join host Ernestine Benedict and early childhood expert, doula, and mother Elizabeth Pihlaja as we explore pregnancy, birth, trauma, and mental health and well-being in the earliest years of life – the years that matter most. Because who we become starts even before birth.

You’ll also hear from guest experts Kathy Mulrooney and Jen Boss, discussing what’s working, what’s not, and where we go from here.

Trailer: The Earliest

Episode 1: From Womb to World

Episode 2: What Comes Before

Episode 3: Homebound

Episode 4: A Sacred Privilege


“Our mental health journeys begin before we ever leave the womb and are bound up in the mental health of those who raise us.” – Ernestine Benedict, Host

The launch of The Earliest podcast comes on the heels of our State of Babies Yearbook: 2022 release with a wealth of data that show Elizabeth is not alone in her traumatic birth experience that “shattered” her mental health and affected how she bonded with her daughter. Nearly 22 percent of mothers across the country report less than optimal mental health.

Furthermore, only 10 states have enacted paid family medical leave, which promotes bonding between parents and babies and enables workers to care for their own and family members’ extended health needs.

This four-part series of The Earliest podcast delves into how those early bonds and connections form, and why they’re so important. We hope you’ll join us in this safe space to listen, reflect, and connect with a topic that matters to everyone.


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We need your support now more than ever to ensure all babies have access to the quality care, services and support they need to thrive.