Baby Steps - an online program promoting the well-being of new mothers and fathers: A study protocol

Hamilton, Kyra, Kavanagh, David, Connolly, Jennifer, Davis, Leigh, Fisher, Jane, Halford, Kim, Hides, Leanne, Milgrom, Jeannette, Rowe, Heather, Sanders, Davina, Scuffham, Paul A., Tjondronegoro, Dian, Walsh, Anne, White, Katherine M., & Wittkowski, Anja (2016) Baby Steps - an online program promoting the well-being of new mothers and fathers: A study protocol. JMIR Research Protocols, 5(3), Article number e140.

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  • Parental well-being can be seriously impacted during the challenging perinatal period. Most research and support services focus on perinatal psychopathology, leaving a need for programs that recognize and enhance the strengths and well-being of parents. Furthermore, fathers have received minimal attention and support relative to mothers, despite experiencing perinatal distress. New parents have limited time and energy to invest in program attendance, and web-based programs provide an ideal platform for delivering perinatal well-being programs. Such programs are globally accessible, available at any time, and can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection.


  • This paper describes the protocol of a randomized controlled trial investigating the effects on first-time parents’ perinatal well-being, comparing two versions of the online program Baby Steps.


  • The clinical trial will randomize 240 primiparous mother-father couples to either (1) Babycare, an online information-only program providing tips on selected childcare issues, or (2) Well-being, an online interactive program including all content from the Babycare program, plus parental well-being-focused content with tools for goal-setting and problem solving. Both programs will be supported by short message service (SMS) texts at two, four, seven, and ten weeks to encourage continued use of the program. Primary outcomes will be measures of perinatal distress and quality of life. Secondary outcomes will be couple relationship satisfaction, parent self-efficacy, and social support. Cost-effectiveness will also be measured for each Baby Steps program.


  • Participant recruitment commenced March, 2015 and continued until October, 2015. Follow-up data collection has commenced and will be completed May, 2016 with results expected in July, 2016.


  • Perinatal distress has substantial impacts on parents and their infants, with potential to affect later childhood adjustment, relationships, and development. This study aims to test the impact of a highly accessible online program to support parental coping, and maximize the well-being of both parents. By including fathers in the program, Baby Steps has the potential to engage and support this often neglected group who can make a substantial contribution to familial well-being.

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ID Code: 95248
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.2196/resprot.5706
ISSN: 1929-0748
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Information Systems
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Kyra Hamilton, David Kavanagh, Jennifer Connolly, Leigh Davis, Jane Fisher, Kim Halford, Leanne Hides, Jeannette Milgrom,
Heather Rowe, Davina Sanders, Paul A Scuffham, Dian Tjondronegoro, Anne Walsh, Katherine M White, Anja Wittkowski.
Copyright Statement: Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (, 01.07.2016. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR
Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Deposited On: 29 Jul 2016 04:18
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2016 07:22

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