Today’s First-Time Dads Attend Well-Baby Visits
Recently, I had the chance to observe my local pediatrician’s office for a few hours in the afternoon. I was interested to note several dads engaging with the well-baby visits. I observed dads and moms going together (with baby of course) to meet with the nurse and pediatrician. After the visit, I also saw dads taking charge in scheduling the next well-baby appointment.
This dynamic was different from my experience when bringing my own children to well-baby visits in the mid 1990’s, when it was much less common to see a dad in the pediatrician’s office. Back in the 1990’s, the dynamic I noticed was usually Mom meeting with the pediatrician (who was likely male at that time).
It appears that today’s first time dads are also more likely to accompany expectant moms on pre-natal visits, along with attending the child’s birth. That makes attending well baby visits the next step. In the UK for example, The Fatherhood Institute notes that the overwhelming majority of UK fathers (90%+) attend their child’s birth.
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a well-baby visit at 2 weeks, 2 months, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 months and 2 years, this potentially represents as many as nine visits a new dad could make to the pediatrician. A 2006 study published in Pediatrics of 32 fathers in Chicago and Milwaukee found that most had attended a well child visit (this study did not exclusively focus on babies). Reasons fathers gave for attending include, “To gather information firsthand, to ask questions, to express concerns and to support their child.”
My sense is that the conversations in these office visits may be changing, with Dad increasingly involved in the dialog. At the same time as dads are more likely to participate in the well baby visits, there has been a gender shift in the pediatrician’s office.. Notably, as of 2011, female pediatricians outnumber male pediatricians, and younger pediatricians are overwhelmingly female (72% of pediatricians under age 35 are female, and 64% of pediatricians ages 35-44 are female).
In 2012, Marketing to Moms Coalition research found that 71% of moms see themselves as primarily responsible for taking their child to doctor’s appointments, while 23% say this responsibility is equally shared with their partner, and only 4% say it is primarily the partner’s responsibility.
This changes when we look at moms of children younger than 2, the very group that is going for well baby visits. 59% of moms of infants/toddlers say they are primarily responsible; 31% say the responsibility is equally shared, while 7% say it is primarily their partner’s responsibility. Quantitatively, moms are still leading the charge in well baby visits, but dads of young children are increasingly likely to be engaged and involved.
All of these changes suggest a need to reexamine products, services and marketing communication around well baby and well child visits to take into account today’s dynamics. The change from male pediatricians to female pediatricians coupled with the increase in fathers’ participation in well baby visits means that brands won’t be able to copy and paste strategies of the past. These big shifts will require a new market strategy—and brands that develop it first will have a competitive advantage.