Baby Steps: evidence from a relationships-based perinatal education programme Evaluation of what works in supporting parents with additional needs

Man holding a baby

Pregnancy and the first few months of life are an important time for families. Baby Steps is an NSPCC antenatal programme that continues after the baby is born. It is designed to attract and engage 'hard-to-reach' parents, including parents in prison and parents from ethnic minorities. It helps prepare them for their new role in caring and supporting their baby.


There are 3 reports which summarise qualitative and quantitative findings from interviews with parents and questionnaires completed before, during and after the programme. There are 2 additional reports focusing on prison and parents from a minority ethnic background. This is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Authors: Sally Hogg, Denise Coster and Helen Brookes
Published: 2015

Key findings

Parents were very enthusiastic about the Baby Steps programme, and reported that it gave them new knowledge that prepared them for parenthood and helped them to feel more confident as parents. 

  • Improved knowledge led to parents being better able to deal with stress and to them having a positive and healthy pregnancy.
  • Mothers had lower rates of caesarean sections. Their babies had lower rates of prematurity and low birth weight than the general population of parents giving birth.
  • Groups of parents, who had less access to other forms of information and support, particularly benefitted from Baby Steps. 
  • Parents had better relationships with their babies, both during pregnancy and after the baby was born.
  • Parents’ relationships with their partners improved too.
  • Parents’ emotional wellbeing improved. They reported a decrease in anxiety and an increase in self-esteem.
  • The Baby Steps programme was found to be an important source of support for parents. 

These findings suggest that parents will be better equipped to provide sensitive, responsive care to their babies, which may ultimately result in these children having better long term outcomes. 

Overall, the findings indicate that Baby Steps is a promising intervention. However, as the study did not include a comparison group, more research is needed to be sure that improvements in outcomes were the direct result of the programme. 

In the future we will further develop the evidence base for the programme and develop a social franchise model to enable other providers around the UK to take on Baby Steps; strengthening the evidence for the value of this programme and enabling it to reach more families.

"I didn't think I was capable of being a mum or that I deserved to be, I really didn't up until going to that group. They were saying, 'You are capable; you're going to be brilliant.' What they've given me is confidence in my ability. So, everything I do with her I'm confident in. So, I'm using every aspect of the course."

"I didn't realise how close the baby had to be at first to be able to see you. It was helpful to be able to know that so that when I did have my baby I realised I had to hold him up for him to see me. That was useful."

"You don’t realise even, you don't have to be fighting, but just shouting, how much shouting can affect the baby."

Please cite as: Hogg, S., Coster, D. and Brookes, H. (2015) Baby Steps: evidence from a relationships-based perinatal education programme: summary document. London: NSPCC.

Please cite additional reports as: Coster, D., Brookes, H. and Sanger, C. (2015) Evaluation of the Baby Steps programme: pre and post measures study. London: NSPCC.

Brookes, H. and Coster, D. (2014) Baby Steps in a prison context: parents' perspectives. London: NSPCC.

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Related resources

Baby Steps: perspectives of parents from a minority ethnic background

Evaluation of the Baby Steps antenatal programme focusing on the experiences of parents from ethnic minority backgrounds. Part of the NSPCC’s Impact and Evidence series.
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Baby Steps in a prison context: parents' perspectives

Evaluation of the Baby Steps antenatal programme focusing on the experience of parents who are in prison, or who have a partner in prison. Part of the NSPCC’s Impact and Evidence series.
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All Babies Count: prevention and protection for vulnerable babies

Reviews the current research on the vulnerability of babies to abuse and neglect and presents analysis of the risk factors and suggestions for early intervention.
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Getting it right for mothers and babies

Report outlining current provision of postnatal and antenatal mental health services in Scotland, and making recommendations for future developments.
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