The Evidence Portal

Newborn and infant care

Flexible activity

In this activity, families are educated on newborn and infant development and are taught how to respond to difficult infant behaviours. Coaching, modelling, discussion, practice and guided self-reflection are all conducted to support parents’ skill development. Education and information on child development and age-appropriate behaviours is also provided.

This supports parents to better understand their child’s behaviours and to respond appropriately. It seeks to strengthen the parent-child relationship, support child development and prepare parents for development milestones.

How can it be implemented?

Education on newborn and infant care can be provided in a number of different ways. It should be implemented as soon as possible after the birth of the child. If, however, this isn’t possible, the content should be tailored to the child’s developmental stage. 

You should use your professional judgement to determine what is most appropriate for your client/s.

Hospital visits:

  • New parents can be visited in the hospital soon after the birth of their child. Parents can be provided with a packet of parenting information. The visitors discusses the content with the parents and answers any questions they may have. 

Home visits:

  • Sessions on newborn or infant care and development can be conducted in existing home visits with individual families. 
  • Sessions typically run weekly, for 1-2hrs. 
  • Visits can be supplemented with telephone calls as needed.
  • Home visitation can last for 3-24 months. The frequency of visits and length of the program should be based on client needs. 

Home visits + online learning:

  • Home visits can be combined with an online component.
  • Home visitors can structure their visits around the content in the online learning materials. 
  • Online component can include videos that teach/model newborn care techniques and how to respond to difficult infant behaviours. 

Self-directed learning:

  • Parents undertake self-directed learning by watching instructive videos on newborn or infant care and development. 
  • Parents practice the skills they were taught and record a 5-min video of themselves and their child demonstrating the skills.
  • Parents participate in a telephone or video conversation with a coach receive and discuss any feedback and to further develop the parents skills.

One-off video and booklet:

  • Parents receive a booklet and DVD with key information about newborn care. The materials are explained to new parents by a health care professional. 
  • The booklet may contain checklists and activities that reinforce messages from the video.

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

  • Ensure learning materials are culturally safe.
  • Parenting education needs to recognise unique kinship ties within Aboriginal communities. Also, the culture of parenting in an Aboriginal family may differ from that of non-Aboriginal families. This is why parenting education needs to be co-designed with Aboriginal and community stakeholders, and recognise the worldviews, practices and priorities of Aboriginal people.
  • Adopting a whole of organisation approach to cultural safety requires consideration of the policies and focus of the service, the physical location and environment, management and governance systems, human resources, and organisational processes.  Cultural safety should be embedded into the organisation’s way of working and not be an add-on component of practice.

See the Cultural Safety and Wellbeing Evidence Review for more information.

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with a number of different target groups. Key characteristics include:

  • First time parents aged 18 and over
  • First time parents who are socially disadvantaged
  • Mothers with young children in low income families
  • Parents of new born infants
  • Families at high risk of child abuse and neglect
  • Mothers aged 15 and over from low income households
  • Teenage mothers at risk of maltreating their children

What programs conduct this activity?

  • The All Babies Cry program seeks to improve parents responses to infant crying by visually depicting a wide variety of care strategies in a 55-minute video. 
  • In the Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program home visits help teenage parents appreciate and manage individual differences in infant temperament. For example, teenage parents often misinterpret their infants’ crying as a care-giving failure on their part or as an indication that the infants are intentionally trying to disrupt their lives.
  • The e-PALS Baby Net program includes 6 online education sessions on newborn and infant care.
  • In the Hawaii Healthy Start Program – Enhanced with Cognitive Appraisal, parents are taught skills to read children’s cues to distress and to counter misattributional processes (e.g. countering the view that infants and babies can read parents’ minds, are behaving with negative intent, or are challenging parental power).
  • In the Healthy Families America program, home visitors support parents to understand child development and age-appropriate behaviours by providing education and information. This in turn, helps parents prepare for developmental milestones. 
  • The e-Parenting Program is a computer based program combined with home visiting. Parents undertake cognitive retraining on causes of and how to soothe infant crying and fussiness. 
  • In the First Steps program, parents are visited in their hospital room. Additional telephone contact is made as needed. Parents are provided with information on: infant development, feeding, sleep, crying and immunisations. 
  • My Baby & Me includes numerous 1.5hr modules about infant and toddler care. Parents begin by learning the basic skills of observing their child’s communicative signals and then progress to using a variety of responsive behaviours (e.g., smiling, using a warm tone of voice, encouraging children’s efforts, avoiding intrusiveness and unnecessary restrictions, attending to and following the child’s interests). 
  • In the Nurse Family Partnership program, home visits are conducted to improve parent education on fetal and infant development.
  • The Period of PURPLE crying program (the original and the modified version) educates parents about normal infant crying, strategies to use when infants cry and the dangers of shaking in an effort to decrease abusive head trauma

What else should I consider?

If multimedia interventions are going to be implemented, service providers or participants will require access to devices to view the content.

Cultural differences in response to infants crying should be considered when educating parents about crying.

Further resources

Last updated:

20 Feb 2023

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