A digital service that provides personalised support to parents.

We are working with NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, to create a new digital support service that helps parents and their children to develop a secure attachment, to promote healthy emotional development in the critical early days from conception to age two.

The need

During the first 1000 days of life, children lay down the foundations for their future emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Mental health costs the UK £105 billion a year in health care, lost productivity and human costs

Centre for Mental Health, 2010

One of the most important determinants of these future mental health outcomes for a child is the relationship they have with their parent or caregiver during the first thousand days of their life.

A key element of this relationship is called attachment, the extent to which a child feels they can receive comfort and safety from their parent or caregiver. Children with secure attachments to their parents or caregivers tend to have greater emotional self-regulation as adults and develop greater resilience to life events.

The stresses on parents are numerous, and the greater the number and duration of stress factors, the less able parents are to deliver positive parenting for their children.

Save The Children

Improving the quality of a parent child relationship is complex. However, research shows that a significant protective and predictive factor is the extent to which a parent believes they are able to accomplish the task at hand -.fulfilling the big needs of this little person. This is called self-efficacy. 

For this reason, supporting the development of parents’ self-efficacy in the first thousand days of their child’s life is critical, as it provides essential protection for each child’s future mental health.

What we are doing


Over the last two years Shift has conducted research into infant mental health in order to better understand the causes and risk factors for poor emotional development of infants. We are looking at what context, behaviours and actions have been shown to protect against poor emotional development at this young age.

This has included reviews of the academic and policy literature, speaking to numerous experts in the field – from academic experts in infant and parental mental health, to frontline workers such as health visitors. We also conducted a number of depth interviews with disadvantaged parents in a deprived area of Birmingham.

We have developed an evidence based Theory of Change, which explains the relationship between numerous interacting factors, and provides a framework for understanding where interventions may be targeted to produce the desired outcome of improving a baby’s emotional development in their first thousand days.


Since January we have been working with a wide range of parents, NCT practitioners and NCT volunteers to design a service that meets parents’ day-to-day needs in the first 1000 days.

We have completed a series of short interviews, in-home ethnographies and focus groups across the UK, as well as visiting Sure Start centres and antenatal classes.

We also held a co-creation workshop where we invited 30 people (including parents, NCT practitioners, trainee midwives and NCT volunteers) to work together, using the insights we’d gathered. During this day, teams helped define exactly what the service should be, what it might do and how it might look.

We used these ideas to craft three distinct concepts that we feel would truly support more parents to feel confident and capable in the first thousand days of their child’s life.

We’re now testing these three concepts with parents across the UK and will use this data to decide which concept to develop further.

Check out the three concepts. 


0–2s: Improving infant emotional development

March 30, 2017

Shift is investigating how parents can be supported to develop a secure attachment with their children to promote healthy emotional development in the critical early days, from conception to age two. This document is a summary of the research undertaken so far.




We are working in partnership with a national parenting charity

Do you want to get involved? We'd love to hear from you
Email me - tayo.medupin@shiftdesign.org.uk