Minding the Baby - Evidence, impact and evaluation At a glance

We're testing Minding the Baby to find out what difference it can make to young, first-time mums’ understanding of their babies feelings and needs.

Why early intervention is essential in giving babies the best start

All babies need to be safe, nurtured and able to thrive. The early care they receive provides the essential foundations for all future physical, social and emotional development. Whilst most parents do provide the love and care their babies need, sadly too many babies suffer abuse and neglect.

Identifying and supporting the most at risk families in our community at the earliest stage is critical to giving a baby the best possible start in life. Working with parents during pregnancy and the first years of a child's life can transform life outcomes.

Read more about the importance of early intervention.

How Minding the Baby is helping protect children

If parents don't have a good relationship with their baby this can increase the risk of a baby having behavioural, language and learning difficulties. It also increases the chance of a baby being abused or neglected.

Helping mothers understand their child is one of the ways to give babies the best possible chance in life. It also means children need fewer support services as they get older.

Minding the Baby is based on attachment theory, which is about the importance of the emotional bond between a parent and child.

Our aim is to help new mums recognise and respond to their baby's feelings and needs. This is also called maternal reflective capacities.

Minding the Baby was developed by Yale University in 2002. Their research shows it has a positive impact for parents and children (Sadler et. al 2013).

How we're evaluating this service

Developed by Yale University in 2002 and based on attachment theory Minding the Baby helps vulnerable mothers to develop an emotional bond with their baby. University College London and the University of Reading are undertaking a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the programme.

Primary outcome
The primary outcome is the quality of parenting operationalised as maternal sensitivity.

Secondary outcomes
Key secondary outcomes will be attachment security, child cognitive/language development, behavioural problems, postponed childbearing, maternal mental health, and incidence rate of child maltreatment.

The measures being used:

  • Parental sensitivity - structured observations, including the "Three boxes procedure"
  • Maternal reflective functioning - The Parent Development Interview Attachment between child and mother - Attachment Q-Set
  • Parental health and mental health - The Parenting Stress Index Short Form; Edinburgh Post-natal depression scale; PTSD Checklist civilian; State Trait Anxiety Inventory; Adult Quality of Life (EQ-5D)
  • Maternal sense of mastery - Pearlin and Scooler scale
  • Support to parents - Norbeck social support questionnaire; and Service use and supports questionnaire
  • Child development- Bayley scales infant development
  • Child behaviour and temperament - Child Behaviour Checklist; Infant behaviour Questionnaire Revised
  • The Yale Protocol for Health Record Review (infant health outcome).

The randomised control trial has only recently got underway, with a second round of recruitment to the programme. An implementation evaluation was undertaken for the first round of families, including interviews with parents and practitioners in order to explore their experiences of receiving and delivering the programme.

The programme is 27 months long, hence final reporting is not due until 2018.

Find out more about the progress

Contact Richard Cotmore for more information.

What we've learnt so far

Parents participating in Minding the Baby felt that their parenting skills improved, they learnt more about their baby's development and better understood their baby's behaviour and how to manage it.

They felt their well-being improved and that practitioners helped them manage their personal difficulties. They appreciated that the programme was flexible and tailored to their needs. They received good information and guidance as well as practical help.

They thought that practitioners delivering the programme were trustworthy, non-judgemental and supportive.

Practitioners felt that the programme enabled them to build strong relationships with mothers at an early stage. They were able to give mothers a different, more positive experience of relationships.

They found it was helpful to be paired with another professional who could act as a sounding board and offer support.

Read the evaluation.

What we're doing next

We will continue to run Minding the Baby until the end of 2018 when we will have the results of the randomized control trial (RCT) evaluating the programme.

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Donate now

Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.

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  1. Sadler, L. S. et al (2013). Minding the Baby: Enhancing Reflectiveness to Improve Early Health and Relationship Outcomes in an Interdisciplinary Home-Visiting Program. Infant Mental Health Journal 34: 391–405.  [Freely view abstract or access full text by subscription: Infant Mental Health Journal 34: 391–405].