Evaluating the Coping with Crying service
There are no standardised ways of looking at a parent’s reaction to a screaming baby at 3am in the morning.
But I wondered how I could measure if the film we show to parents, helping them prepare for parenting, cope with crying and prevent non-accidental head injuries, actually made a difference.
How could I prove that anything parents reported was as a result of seeing the film, rather than receiving parenting information from somewhere else? Was there a way to find out if having a chat with a mum at the local children’s centre was just as effective as watching our film, for example?
In an "ideal" evaluation, with willing participants and plentiful resources, I would have recruited parents to an RCT. I would have relied on the good will and professionalism of healthcare staff to randomly show the film to some parents and not to others, under carefully controlled conditions. We would then be able to look at differences between the 2 groups.
But this is not an ideal world.
Implementing an RCT might be setting us up to fail. The nature of having a baby means that, understandably, many parents aren't willing to be recruited to a study at such a busy and momentous time in their lives.
And I’d spoken to enough midwives (and been involved in enough RCTs) to know how much work this would entail. They were already struggling to show the film to willing parents in a small window of opportunity between mothers giving birth and parents taking the baby home. How could I also expect them to recruit parents to a “research study”?
The difficulties in trying to set up an RCT, given the resource we had and the ethical and practical difficulties, felt insurmountable.