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

The extent to which a child feels they can receive comfort and safety from their parent or caregiver, often called attachment, is key to healthy emotional development. 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, a significant factor influencing the relationship is parental self-efficacy – the extent to which a parent believes they are able to accomplish the task at hand.

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 past two years Shift has conducted academic and policy literature reviews, interviews with experts (including academics in infant and parental mental health and frontline workers such as health visitors) and disadvantaged parents. This research has allowed us to understand the causes and risk factors for poor emotional development of infants, and explore the behaviours and actions that protect against poor emotional development at this young age.

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 2017 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 here. 


0–2s: improving infant emotional development

July 6, 2017

A review of the factors that contribute to the healthy emotional development of infants in their first thousand days of life. 

Summary report: 0–2s, Improving infant emotional development

March 30, 2017

A summary of the factors that contribute to the healthy emotional development of children in their first thousand days of life. 




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