Definitions change but a support network remains key for new parents
In today’s world, the idea of the tight-knit village community no longer reflects how most of us live our lives. Geographically we may be far from family and old friends, and we may not always know our neighbours very well.
However, it still takes a lot of support from various sources, both off and increasingly online, to raise a child and give them the best start in life. Which is why, in my view, the words of the old African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ still ring true – there is just a different meaning behind the concept now.
Parenthood: journey into the unknown
This Father’s Day, I have been thinking about the changing role of the father in the ‘village’. Fathers have never before in history been as involved in the birth and care of their children as they are today. Since 1990, over 90% of fathers are present at the birth, up from just 12% in 1970. More and more children are growing up in households where both parents work – in the US for example, that’s almost 50% of two-parent families, an increase from less than one third in 1970. With this changing family dynamic of both parents working – as is the case in my own family – the care of the children is much more evenly divided between them.
With three children I can relate to the uncertainties of new parenthood. ‘Is my baby growing well?’, ‘what to eat during pregnancy’… And when the baby is born the questions develop into: ‘is my little one hungry?’, ‘are they warm enough?’ and ‘why are they crying?’. These are all common concerns I remember well!
Our research tells us that the number one cause of anxiety for new parents is feeding and nutrition. 50% of us struggle with feeding and establishing a good pattern of feeds early on. Feeding is vitally important of course, especially in those precious first few days, weeks and months of life. The first 1000 days of a child’s life are now globally acknowledged as being critically important in the developmental journey from the first scan to the first step.
This is where support is vitally needed – and actively sought by parents themselves. With so many information sources, it is more important than ever to be able to find information that is evidence-based and scientifically proven. Thinking back to my own first steps into fatherhood, I would have really valued having one trusted source of truth for all my questions.
We live in an age where information is generally – and quite literally - at our fingertips. Over time our sources have changed. Our grandparents’ generation would ask their mother, sister or neighbour for help and while this still happens, (future) parents are increasingly sourcing information online. Millennial parents for example, nicknamed ‘parennials’ in the media, are often reported to be well informed but verging on overwhelmed by the plethora of apps and websites instantly available to them.
Practical support when it’s needed most
If it is feeding or other baby topics, it is important to be connected to the entire ‘village’ from midwives to GPs to infant healthcare professionals. I am confident that the Philips Pregnancy+ and Baby+ apps are also now key contributors to the modern community of trusted sources. If you don’t have a neighbour to turn to, this is where (future) parents can find answers to all their questions on parenting. And Pregnancy+ is the World Number One app - virtually an entire village in itself!
Infant feeding is one of our key topics here at Philips and we take it very seriously. We invest heavily to ensure that there is deep expertise, clinical knowledge, insight and science behind our entire Philips Avent range. We are digitizing across infant feeding for a better experience for babies and parents. One such example is the Philips Avent smart baby bottle, launched recently in the Netherlands. It combines smart technology with our scientifically developed Natural baby bottle range and helps parents to better understand and track their infant’s feeding patterns, taking away concerns. As a new father, I fondly remember being able to feed my little ones with a bottle of expressed breast milk and I truly believe that this opportunity helped me develop a strong bond – as well as allowing my wife some precious moments of rest!
Playing a part in the new parent support network
The ‘village’ which supports today’s new parents may look entirely different to the actual village that supported our ancestors, but it is still crucially important, whatever form it takes. I’d like to think that our expertise and innovations allow us to contribute to this support network too, playing our part to help people give their newborns the best possible healthy start to life.
Roy Jakobs is Executive Vice President and Chief Business Leader for the Personal Health Businesses of Royal Philips, effective October 1, 2018. He is also member of the Executive Committee of Royal Philips. The Personal Health businesses comprise Personal Care, Domestic Appliances, Oral Healthcare and Mother & Child Care.