Minding the Baby Evidence, impact and evaluation

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

We have learnt that despite the logistical and ethical challenges, it is possible to run a randomised controlled trial within a service delivery organisation.

What we're doing next

The final evaluation will focus on whether the Minding the Baby programme can be effectively delivered in UK settings, and if it can improve outcomes for both mothers and their babies.

We want to learn if Minding the Baby improves:

  • the relationship between a mum and baby (a baby’s early attachment quality)
  • a mum’s ability to understand and respond to their baby’s emotional needs (maternal reflective capacity)
  • the health and future lives of young mums
  • the health and development of babies.

We also want to learn whether Minding the Baby can reduce abuse and neglect.

Impact and evidence hub

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

Support our services

Our services help children and families who need support. With your help, we can make sure even more children are safe from abuse. 

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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].