The Maternal Looking Guide: a perinatal clinical tool to support the emerging mother-infant relationship’

Patricia O’Rourke, Jon Jureidini, David Ben-Tovim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This study explores maternal looking–the unidirectional looking by a mother at her newborn–as a precursor to mother-infant gaze. 

Methods: Phase 1 used video as a means of detailed and disciplined observation to examine how mothers look at their newborns (n = 13). Using an iterative design, intensive analysis identified and categorised patterns of looking and looking-related behaviours. This resulted in a typology of looking. Phase 2 subjected the typology to inter-rater reliability testing, with midwives as multiple raters (n = 24), using the typology to rate standardised tapes of mothers and newborns (n = 10). 

Results: Phase 1 generated a one-page clinical tool (Maternal Looking Guide). This tool enables the assessment of mothers’ looking behaviour over six constructs and allocation to one of three overall categories of looking: those women who are doing well (comfortable), those who need a referral to an expert perinatal service (worrisome) and those to whom something extra could be offered (uncomfortable). In Phase 2 the Maternal Looking Guide achieved moderate reliability. 

Conclusions: The Maternal Looking Guide is a practical, moderately reliable, clinical tool that can assist midwives and other perinatal workers identify those mothers who may need extra support at this critical perinatal window of opportunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-318
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date21 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Clinical tool
  • maternal looking
  • midwives
  • mother-infant relationship
  • newborn


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