Using Co-design to Explore How Midwives Can Support the Emerging Mother-Infant Relationship During the Early Postnatal Period: Protocol for a Mixed Methods Study

Cathy Stoodley*, Lois McKellar, Tahereh Ziaian, Mary Steen, Ian Gwilt, Jenny Fereday

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


The postnatal period can be a challenging time for women, with mothers experiencing a range of emotions. As a woman transitions to motherhood, she adjusts to a new sense of self and forms a new relationship with her infant. Becoming a mother is a complex cognitive and social process that is unique for each woman and is influenced and shaped by culture. The emerging mother-infant relationship is a significant factor in maternal well-being and infant development, with the bond between the mother and her baby being critical to the development of secure attachment. It has been recognized that the strength of this relationship is the main predictor of how well a child will do throughout life. There has been a global focus on the importance of the first 1000 days, with Australia identifying this as a national priority. Midwives are ideally placed to support mothers during the development of the mother-infant relationship, providing care through the early postnatal period, which has been identified as a sensitive period for the development of the mother-infant relationship.

The aim of this study is to explore how midwives can support the emerging mother-infant relationship in the context of cultural diversity and develop an appropriate co-designed intervention in the early postnatal period.

This study will use a mixed method approach, specifically the exploratory sequential design (intervention development variant). This study will be undertaken in 3 phases: 1 qualitative phase, which is followed by 2 quantitative phases. Phase 1 will include a scoping review to explore interventions that have influenced the development of the mother-infant relationship, and then, interviews will be undertaken with women exploring their early experiences of motherhood, followed by 3 co-design workshops. The workshops will engage with multilevel stakeholder representatives where, through partnership and participation, they will propose and develop an intervention to support the emerging mother-infant relationship. Phase 2 will develop and pilot 2 purpose-designed evaluation surveys to evaluate the co-designed intervention from the perspective of both mothers and midwives. Phase 3 will implement and evaluate the co-designed intervention using pre- and postmeasures and feedback from the purpose-designed surveys.

Phase 1 has commenced and is expected to be completed by August 2021. Phase 2 is expected to be completed by September 2021, with phase 3 commencing in October 2021. The study will be completed by March 2023.

The results of this study will be shared with a variety of audiences and will contribute to the body of knowledge on the mother-infant relationship, potentially improving the understanding of this relationship for women and midwives. This may result in improved strategies for care, with mothers benefiting from enhanced experience and satisfaction during the early postnatal period.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29770
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


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