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Minding the Baby

NSPCC service

April 2014

Minding the Baby is a model used by the NSPCC to help first time mothers develop positive relationships with their baby.

NSPCC service referral criteria
Evaluating to improve learning
References and further reading
Related resources


Minding the Baby is an early intervention programme designed to enhance the mother’s relationship with her child.

Minding the Baby involves an interdisciplinary, intensive, home visiting programme working with young, first-time mothers and their families that lasts until the child’s second birthday.


Maternal trauma, mental health problems and social disadvantage can disrupt parent-child relationships. Disrupted parent-child relationships can result in attachment difficulties, behavioural, language and learning difficulties as well as destructive family and social relationships, including domestic abuse and child abuse (Howe, 1999).

The Minding the Baby programme, developed by Yale University, provides intensive support to young, first-time mothers to enable them to care for their baby.

It is based on attachment theory and places particular emphasis on improving maternal reflective capacities (a mother's ability to understand and respond appropriately to her baby's emotional needs).

The programme involves alternating home visits between a nurse, and a social worker or suitably qualified therapist. Visits begin weekly from the mother’s final trimester until the child’s first birthday. Visits continue throughout the child’s second year on a fortnightly basis.

The nurse provides ongoing help in relation to health and care-giving, whilst the social worker/therapist provides infant and parent mental health services and social services support.

Both practitioners provide developmental guidance, crisis intervention, parenting support and practical support.

These home visits aim to keep the mother aware of her baby's physical and mental states and to enhance her reflective functioning by continuously voicing the baby's emotions and intentions.

NSPCC Service referral criteria

The NSPCC delivers Minding the Baby as part of a randomised control trial in partnership with University College London in Glasgow, Sheffield and York.

To qualify for the service, mothers must meet ALL of the criteria below:

  • must be 19 and under, OR 25 and under and with someone in the family being in receipt of means tested benefits
  • AND must be having first child
  • AND be primarily English speaking

Means-tested benefits means any of the following:

  • entitled to HealthyStart vouchers
  • receiving Income Support
  • receiving income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • receiving Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

For more information about the study, please contact the NSPCC, 0808 800 5000, help@nspcc.org.uk.

If you would like to make an enquiry with regard to referrals, please contact:

Glasgow: Lucy Morton, 0141 440 6300

Sheffield: Karen Bates, 0114 228 9200

York: Debra Radford, 0844 892 0226

Evaluating to improve learning

In order to understand the impact of this service on improving outcomes for children, we will be undertaking rigorous monitoring and evaluation, as part of the randomised control trial, and sharing the findings of this.

We are particularly interested in learning about:

  • improving the mother-infant relationship
  • improving maternal reflective capacity
  • improving maternal health and life course outcomes
  • reducing the incidence of abuse or neglect
  • improving infant health and development
  • improving infant’s early attachment quality.

References and further reading

Howe, D. et al (1999) Attachment theory, child maltreatment and family support: a practice and assessment model. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Slade, A., Sadler, L. S. and Mayes, L. C. Minding the Baby: enhancing parental reflective functioning in a nursing/mental health home visiting program in Berlin, L. J. et al (eds) (2005) Enhancing early attachments: theory, research, intervention, and policy. New York: Guilford Press.

Slade, A. et al (2005) Minding the baby: a reflective parenting program in Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 60: 74-100.

Yale Child Study Centre. Community services. New Haven, Conn.: Yale School of Medicine.

Yale Nursing Matters (2009-10)  Minding the Baby: program helps young families in crucial early stage of baby’s life (PDF) . Yale Nursing Matters 10(2): 8-9.

Related resources

News on children aged under one
Keep up to date with the most recent developments on working with children aged under one with CASPAR, the current awareness service for child protection policy, practice and research.

Practice resources and research on children under one
Publications to help professionals working with children aged under one and their parents.

Children under one homepage
See all of our resources for professionals on working to prevent the abuse and neglect of children aged under one.

Specialist mental health midwives: what they do and why they matter (PDF, 173KB)
NSPCC, Royal College of Midwives and Maternal Mental Health Alliance report explaining the role of specialist mental health midwives.

Contact the NSPCC's information service for information on NSPCC services, children under one or any child protection topic

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