Infant crawling amongst toys in bedroom

Infant observation in the perinatal period (CPD86)

Enhance your skills and understanding of infant observation during the first 1,001 days

The 1,001 days from conception to an infant’s second birthday form a significant and influential phase in development and establish the foundations for the best possible start in life. Undertaking parent-infant observation helps practitioners to understand relationships in this critical period – a stage where one in five women and birthing people experience mental health difficulties.

This 12-week, CPD course supports multidisciplinary practitioners, who work with women and birthing people experiencing mental health difficulties, and their families, to better understand how infant observation can be used in clinical work. Alongside parent-infant observations, you will be supported by expert clinicians and peers to expand your knowledge of infant development and relationships during the first critical 1,001 days. You will learn through a variety of practice, reflection, literature and discussion and after completing the course, feel confident in applying your new skills to your role.

Participants on this course must be able to supply a copy of an enhanced workplace DBS dated within three years of the course start date.

Aims and learning objectives

Throughout the programme, you will:

  • develop sensitive and reflective observational skills in relation to infants and mother–infant relationships
  • learn how to apply observational skills in your work setting
  • expand your knowledge of early ordinary emotional development of parent–infant relationships as a basis for understanding when there are difficulties in relationships
  • achieve an understanding of key literature regarding the parent-infant relationship and make links to your clinical work
  • develop the ability to keep in mind the needs of the mother, infant, and mother-infant relationship when undertaking clinical work
  • achieve an enhanced understanding of the parent infant relationship to inform your practice

Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for multi-disciplinary practitioners working clinically in a variety of UK settings with women, birthing people and families during the perinatal period.

For instance, you might be working as a health visitor or health visitor assistant, support worker, children’s centre or early years practitioner, perinatal nurse, nursery nurse, occupational therapist, social worker, or other practitioner within social care, mental health or neonatology nurse, perinatal psychiatrist, or as a clinical or counselling psychologist.

Course details

This is a 12-week, online course which will be hosted via Zoom on Tuesday afternoons. Each afternoon will include two seminars and a reading group.

Infant observation seminar1.00-2.15pm
Work reflection seminar2.30-3.45pm
Reading group4.00-5.00pm

Participants will be required to attend a one-hour pre-course meeting a few weeks before the start of the course to discuss how to arrange an infant for the observations.

April 2024 Cohort – now closed to applications

SessionDateStart timeEnd Time
Pre-course meeting:Tuesday 26 March 20241.00pm2.30pm
Session 1Tuesday 16 April 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 2Tuesday 23 April 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 3Tuesday 30 April 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 4Tuesday 7 May 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 5Tuesday 14 May 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 6Tuesday 21 May 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 7Tuesday 4 June 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 8Tuesday 11 June 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 9Tuesday 18 June 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 10Tuesday 25 June 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 11Tuesday 2 July 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 12Tuesday 9 July 20241.00pm5.00pm

September 2024 Cohort – open for application

SessionDateStart timeEnd Time
Pre-course meeting:Tuesday 10 September 20241.00pm2.30pm
Session 1Tuesday 24 September 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 2Tuesday 1 October 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 3Tuesday 8 October 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 4Tuesday 15 October 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 5Tuesday 22 October 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 6Tuesday 5 November 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 7Tuesday 12 November 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 8Tuesday 19 November 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 9Tuesday 26 November 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 10Tuesday 3 December 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 11Tuesday 10 December 20241.00pm5.00pm
Session 12Tuesday 17 December 20241.00pm5.00pm

This course will be delivered remotely using Zoom, and the session will not be recorded.

You will need a device with a microphone and camera together with a suitably fast internet connection. Although mobile devices and tablets can be used, we recommend the use of a laptop or desktop PC for the best experience. Some devices provided by employers may have restrictions in place. Please use this Zoom test link to check your set up before booking.

You will be sent the necessary login link about a week before the course start date. Should you have any concerns about the accessibility of remote delivery please contact us to discuss how we can best help you.

This course will focus on developing your observational skills and how you can utilise these in reflecting on parent-infant relationships and keeping the infant in mind. As part of the course, you will need to undertake an infant observation for one hour a week over eight to ten weeks. We will share how you can set up this observation during the introductory and initial seminars. The infant can be of any age up to one year and should be from a family not known to services. You will be required to visit the family in their own home once a week. During observation, you will not take notes, but write up notes afterwards which are discussed in the seminars.

During the infant observation seminars, you will develop your observational skills, particularly in relation to mother–infant relationships and reflect on the emotional impact of the observations on the observer.

You will also take part in work reflection seminars where you will take it in turns to bring a case that you are working with for reflection. As the course progresses, you will be encouraged to bring observations from your clinical work. Attention will be paid to the emotional impact on practitioners and the wider dynamics in the perinatal system.

As part of the course, you will be provided with literature, including texts on work in different settings. You will discuss this during seminars and reflect on it in relation to the observations and work discussions.

Participants must be working in a relevant UK based clinical role prior to starting the course.

Details of your workplace will be requested as part of the application. If offered a place you will be required to provide a copy of your workplace enhanced DBS to the course administration team before the course starts – for the purposes of the observation component of this programme. In line with safeguarding best practice this must be dated within 3 years of the course start date, will be treated in strict confidence and the copy securely disposed of once the details have been noted. This is a requirement of all our courses which involve observation. If a DBS is older than 3 years participants will be required to renew it to be able to undertake the course. Please contact us to discuss your options if this is likely to cause you any issues.

Following the pre-course introductory meeting, you will need to find an observation family to observe for the duration of the course – this is an essential requirement of the course. Delegates are expected to attend all the sessions and ensure a continuity of observation.

If you have a child under two years old or are expecting a baby, we advise against undertaking infant observation. This is because the observer task is complex and demanding; being a parent of a child under two generates further complexity and potential difficulty in managing the observer role

Included in your course fee, you will receive online membership to the Tavistock’s internationally renowned library for the duration of your course. Our friendly and knowledgeable library team will help to support you through your specialist CPD course, whatever your level of professional or academic experience. You will have access to an extensive online range of eBooks, journals, all the relevant key databases and our specialist audio-visual collection.

You may be interested in arranging a bespoke course for your team or organisation – please contact us at to discuss your requirements with us.


“Coming from an adult mental health background, I have learnt more about development of infants and their emotional needs.”
“I think the course has given me a baseline level of learning which I need to go away and build upon. I’m more conscious of ghosts in the nursery now since attending the course and frequently bring this to multidisciplinary team discussions with colleagues.”
“The course has been an excellent reflective space and encouraged different ways of thinking. It has been really applicable to practice, and we reflected on this in our small groups.”

Course facilitators

Apply now

To apply for this course, please submit an application form using the ‘Apply Now’ button.

Once you have submitted your form, the course team will review your application. If you are successful in being offered a place you will need to book, and pay for, your place as soon as possible, otherwise it may be offered to someone else.

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