When it comes to parenting, history shows us that women have typically been the prime caregivers within traditional households. While they still are in many respects, many fathers in Singapore are elevating their roles as new fathers, particularly with newborns, who need a different level of care before they become toddlers. In fact, a recent study by Nielsen found that dads are taking active steps to better care for their newborns and support their spouses in the process.
In addition to shifting household dynamics, some of the change reflects an increase in working mothers, and many are returning to work after childbirth earlier than they have historically. The new Nielsen study found that 76% of mothers have returned to the workforce as soon as three to six months after giving birth.
In light of evolving family dynamics and world events, dads are getting more involved in caring for newborns, oftentimes by lending a hand to accommodate their spouses’ schedules. More than one-half of husbands surveyed say they care for their child on weekday nights, while two-thirds say they care for their child during weekend days and nights, giving working mums a break on weekends and after work.
Time at home is also increasing, as more parents work from home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brands and retailers of baby care products or infant formula milk can use this as an opportunity to target marketing efforts toward fathers, since we know that dads are becoming more involved in child care.
Consumption of formula milk this year dipped four percentage points from 2018, highlighting some lost opportunity that brands could seek to regain. One way to get back in the basket is to understand the roles that dads play in the early phases of child care and adjust your marketing or business strategies accordingly.
Give dads credit where it’s due
While mothers maintain their primary caregiver roles, new fathers are finding new ways to share responsibility for caring for their newborns, many of which simply involve the gift of time. For example, many are reducing personal time and social times to bond with their families.
New fathers in Singapore report reducing the time they spend with their friends the most (39%), sleep less (31%), followed by participating in hobbies less (27%), and exercising less (23%) in order to care for their family more. They also help out with housework the most during the infant’s first six months of life, when their wives are the main caregivers due to the need for breastfeeding. This give-and-take shows that dads are a key influence in the caregiving journey.
In addition to their traditional role as more of a secondary caregiver, dads in Singapore often feel as though they have less of an influence on their children than they actually do, especially with newborns. Interestingly, one-in-two dads surveyed said they didn’t think that they were as involved with the overall caring of their newborn (below a year old). According to Singapore mums, however, dads play a bigger part in parenting than they think, and credit should be given when it’s due.
Being present to care for the child promotes physical bonding between newborn and parents, but fathers don’t limit their involvement to physical bonding. They clean and bottle feed the child, send the child to child care, perform their own research on baby care products and infant formula milk, and help purchase those products. These actions show how dads in Singapore make an effort to support their spouse with child care and their importance on the decision-making process of purchasing baby products.
One- in- two mums breastfeed their newborns (zero to six months old) either fully or predominantly in 2020, which is a nine percentage point increase from 2018. And despite going back to work sooner after giving birth, there was an increase in working mothers choosing to put their baby on a full breast milk diet.
Women who breastfeed may also pump so their husband or caregiver can help to feed the baby, but the demands of pumping make it difficult for responsibilities to be divided more equally. In our study, mothers cited insufficient milk supply as a key reason for supplementing breast milk with formula milk. Difficulties with breastfeeding or pumping often takes a toll on both parents’ wellness as they worry about whether their child will get enough nutrients for optimal development.
Dads can increase their parenting efforts while bonding with their newborns by helping their spouses with feeding, whether it be with formula or bottled breast milk. When it comes to what they feed their newborns, Singapore dads are very focused on picking the right formula. In fact, they research formula milk intensively before buying because they’re driven by the belief that breast milk is the best for their child.
Our study found that more than seven-in-10 dads believe that breast milk was the best choice, but they also agree that feeding their child formula in addition to breast milk gave them peace of mind, and so did more than half of mums surveyed. Knowing that the addition of formula milk to breast milk gives mothers experiencing insufficient supply the assurance of knowing that their child will still get the nutrients they need, especially for mothers returning to work after maternity leave.
Speaking through to dads
We see this as an opportunity for brands and retailers of infant formula milk to target fathers in marketing initiatives and strategies. Almost all dads surveyed (98%) are either the decision-makers or hold influence over the brand of formula milk to buy, hence it’s important that they are not overlooked in your brand’s strategy.
When marketing to dads, infant formula milk brands should focus on providing parents a peace of mind and giving them the assurance they need. In doing so, highlighting the nutritional benefits of the different ingredients helps dads analyse the quality of a particular brand, especially during this period of time when the COVID-19 pandemic has re-assessed the world’s hygiene standards.
Two-in-five dads surveyed don’t understand the benefits of ingredients added to formula milk, so brands should convey the ingredients’ benefits clearly. Brands will also need to identify why their products are viewed as inferior to breast milk, then improve them, or highlight unique benefits that breast milk may not have. This assures dads that the brand of formula milk helps to boost his child’s immunity and that he/she will get the required nutrients.
Nearly half of dads in the study think that all brands are similar, compared with only 35% of mums. So it’s important for brands to highlight how they differentiate themselves from others, even if it’s the price that’s different.
This matters as more dads than mums associate higher prices with better quality, and dads are less influenced by discounts or promotions compared to their spouse. As a category that targets an audience with different priorities, offering discounts or promotions on infant formula milk may not be very effective.
What we know from our data is that the convenience and availability of infant formula milk appeal to dads. Therefore an effective strategy would be to tailor marketing messages to dads via e-commerce channels (e.g., FairPrice Online, Qoo10 or Redmart), because almost seven-in-10 dads have purchased formula milk online.
Babies develop bonds of love and trust with their parents as part of social and emotional development. Both mums and dads play an equal role in caring for their child, and brands can do their part by speaking through to either of them differently.
Nielsen Baby Power report 2020, 1000 Singaporeans and PRs surveyed
Conducted once every two years, Baby Power aims to uncover insights towards infant feeding and maternal supplements in Singapore. You will gain a comprehensive view of formula milk trends, in-depth analysis of changing attitudes and behaviour insights that can help you to devise brand and communications strategies, allowing you to take immediate actions to improve your position in the market.