The Evidence Portal

My Baby & Me

About the program

My Baby & Me focuses on changing specific aspects of mothers’ responsive behaviours with their children across the infant and toddler developmental periods. The Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) curriculum is used as a base for the program.

PALS was originally designed for parents of particularly vulnerable children (infants and toddlers from low-socioeconomic-status backgrounds). It includes both infant and toddler modules that teach mothers interaction skills and responsive parenting styles.

My Baby & Me includes a number of added sessions that target goals such as establishing consistent daily routines, learning about infant health and safety, developmental milestones, and problem solving and decision making. The program is unique in that it focuses on building responsive parenting in a structured, step-by-step approach via a combination of video modeling, interactive discussion, live coached practice, and video self-reflection.

The program is based on the principles of:

  • improving specific maternal interaction skills that predict positive child outcomes
  • use a variety of formats (video and in-person demonstration, feedback, discussion, pictures, print materials) to engage each mother actively in the learning process
  • build in recurring opportunities for parents to master and integrate new skills over time
  • foster a trusting, caring relationship between coach and mother to promote active and sustained engagement
  • make session sequence and contents developmentally appropriate for children and interesting for mothers
  • provide explicit coaching, practice, and guided self-reflection activities for each target skill within the context of naturalistic mother-child interactions
  • provide mothers with resource and referral information to address broader, individualised needs such as housing, adult education, health care, and insurance, while maintaining the primary focus on the explicit teaching of parenting skills.

Four key constructs comprise the program’s interactive style:

  1. contingent responsiveness (accepting and showing children they are unique individuals)
  2. warm sensitivity, including positive behaviour management skills
  3. maintaining children’s focus of attention and interest
  4. rich verbal input.

Who does it work for?

The program was developed for mothers aged 15 years and older, from low-income households, during pregnancy and postpartum.

The program has only been evaluated in the USA (Guttentag et al. 2014).

A randomised control trial was conducted with 247 people (the number of people in the intervention group versus control group was not reported). On average, mothers were 20 years old. 50% of participants were African American and low income families.

The program has not been tested in Australia or with Aboriginal Australians.       

What outcomes does it contribute to?

My Baby & Me has mixed research evidence on two different outcomes: negative parenting behaviours and positive parenting behaviours.

Negative parenting behaviours:

  • Positive outcomes: mothers are physically less intrusive with their children when receiving the My Baby & Me program.
  • No effect: the program has no effect on rate of negativity during parent-child interactions.

Positive parenting behaviours:

  • Positive outcomes:
    • Mothers who participated who My Baby & Me have higher rates of maternal warmth towards their children.
    • Mothers who participated who My Baby & Me show more contingent responsiveness (accepting and valuing their children as unique individuals) over time.
    • Mothers who participated who My Baby & Me engage in higher quality verbal stimulation with their children.
    • Mothers who participated who My Baby & Me engage in more frequent use of verbal scaffolding (a mother’s support for a child’s immature communication skills and use of rich vocabulary).
    • Mothers who participated who My Baby & Me have higher rates of demonstrating/physical teaching by the time children are 4 months old and continue to improve over time.
  • No effect:  the program has no effect on rates of maternal positive affect (e.g., enthusiasm and commitment during mother-child interactions).

Negative outcomes:

  • No negative effects were found.

How effective is it?

Overall, My Baby & Me has a mixed effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Mixed research evidence (with no adverse effects):

  • At least one high-quality randomised controlled trial (RCT) or quasi-experimental design (QED) study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • An equal number or more RCT or QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT or QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects.

How is it implemented?

My Baby & Me is implemented over 55 sessions. It is conducted from 3rd trimester of pregnancy until the child reaches 30 months in age. The curriculum (available in both English and Spanish) includes educational videotapes featuring mothers with similar backgrounds to the clients.

Sessions follow a schedule of weekly or biweekly visits. Each visit lasts approximately 1.5 hours. When children are 24–30 months of age, the last six sessions occur at monthly intervals as part of the program completion and graduation process.

The core of the My Baby & Me curriculum (comprising 22 of the 55 sessions) is the PALS program developed by Landry et al. (2006). Parents begin with basic skills of observing their child’s communicative signals and progress to using a variety of responsiveness behaviors, 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

Additional modules in eight major topic areas in early parenting knowledge and skills cover the rest of the sessions, including:

  • establishing early routines
  • infant and toddler health and safety
  • personal problem solving and decision making
  • infant touch and massage
  • developmental milestones and age-appropriate play
  • reading with babies and promoting early literacy
  • promoting positive behavior
  • enhancing community connections.

How much does it cost?

Not reported

What else should I consider?

Guttentag et al. (2014) notes: Our intervention included a large number of sessions and diverse modules presented over a relatively long period. Multimodule interventions limit the ability to assess the independent contribution of each component to parent and child outcomes, and lengthy interventions are labor-intensive and costly. Although we were able to carry out this moderately large-scale study across four diverse sites, it may be challenging to scale up a program with such a large number of intervention modules and sessions.

Where does the evidence come from?

One RCT conducted in the USA with 247 participants (Guttentag et al. 2014).

Further resources

Guttentag et al. (2014), "My Baby & Me": Effects of an early, comprehensive parenting intervention on at-risk mothers and their children. Developmental Psychology, Vol. 50, No. 5, pp. 1482-1496.

Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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