I have a confession: as a marketer and a new father, I’m disheartened by the baby product marketplace. And when a dad says he’s disappointed, he means it.
Now, I usually view everything from a positive perspective. I see the greatest challenges as the most significant opportunities. But from the get-go, I’ve found the way that becoming a parent — especially becoming a dad — is terribly marketed.
Think about it: so many things in pop culture, from the actual book and cinematic version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting (starring J Lo and Cameron Diaz), to brutal reality docs like The Business of Being Born, and TV shows like Parenthood and Baby Daddy, it’s a seemingly endless stream of horror stories about the exhaustion, fear, and trauma-related to having and raising kids.
At least it’s my perception that the negative and volatile aspects of parenthood are over-emphasized, like how you’ll never sleep and your private life is over. And the joyful moments are shown sparingly like a rare treat in a life of brutal committed service to a hysterical infant.
This kind of messaging was a big reason why, for nearly 40 years, I never imagined I’d have a child.
And now that my wife and I have a son, I can’t imagine life without him.
What I can picture is a better-designed experience. My opinion is that many baby products are either overly complex or wildly outdated and often are aimed at the wrong audience. Considering the global baby care product market is reportedly growing to be worth 88.72 billion U.S. dollars worldwide in 2026 (up from 67.35 billion U.S. dollars in 2020), I have some suggestions for those companies who say they want to help new parents and their children.
As an avid proponent of Design Thinking, my first take on the experience of new parenting is that everything is way more challenging than necessary. Context-driven design is critical for new families because life as the parents once knew it is turned completely upside down.
This is pretty literal. Day is night, and night is day from a sleep-cycle perspective. (At least in my household 😀) Suddenly there’s a need for all kinds of new accommodations for resting, eating, and interacting with the world. There’s a steep learning curve, too — quickly getting down the fundamentals like, say, changing a diaper (something I’d never done before meeting my son), becomes imperative.
It’s shocking how many things come without clear instruction manuals or intuitive interfaces.
Now, I’ve always been an advocate for inclusive design. The experience of becoming a parent just underscores why it’s critical to design interfaces for all the ways people may interact with your product.
For example, now that I spend much of my time holding or comforting my son, I’m finding that I need to be proficient in utilizing one hand to do pretty much everything. Voice-activated tech aside, working with one hand can be really challenging. Even pressing an app to order dinner can turn into an ordeal.
Now, factor in the rush of emotions that color every minute of every day. New parents experience more emotional highs and lows than perhaps ever before in their entire life. This, along with the confusion of rapid adaptation to a brand new tiny, vulnerable human in your home completely reframes the way you think about everything: time, space, safety, basic needs, even finding time to go to the bathroom.
Given all of this context, an easy way for baby product companies to show up begins with getting a better understanding of the user’s intent. For example, simplify instructions. Make it easy to access them with one hand by using, say, a QR code that new parents can hold their phone up to and hear someone calmly and patiently walking them through registering the product and then setting it up.
Or even doing something basic, like heating a bottle, swaddling a baby in a blanket, or artfully changing a diaper, as I mentioned before.
This leads me to the next way to improve new families’ UX…
Follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
The one thing that’s come to the fore for me is that simplicity rules.
Take, for example, two of the hottest baby products out there, the MamaRoo, a high-tech baby swing that “replicates your natural motions,” and the SNOO, a smart bassinet.
Both have all sorts of bells and whistles, like buttons, apps, Bluetooth, lights, and so on.
And guess what? The kid would rather play with the box. (That was my first lame attempt at a dad joke — or maybe it was something my parents said about me.)
Actually, my son prefers the basic swing a friend gave us as a hand-me-down. And although my son sleeps in the SNOO, after one unfortunate early instance where he vomited from too much “natural” rocking, we never use any of the features of the $1,500 piece of baby equipment. (Your grandparents, who put your mom or dad in a bureau drawer to sleep, would turn over in their graves.)
As the father of minimalism, legendary designer Dieter Rams once said:
“Good design is as little design as possible.”
So, what I’ve noticed is that many brands sport gratuitous features and functions that don’t add utility or value to the experience for my son, wife, or me.
If you want to design demand for a baby-related product, focus on the form and function, and recognize that whatever is on top is just the cream. Paying a premium is about status. And in this case, actual status has to do with addressing the customer’s true needs in the simplest, most direct way possible.
Beat the adage of “ages and stages”
My son came home in onesies that, within a week, he had outgrown. Developmentally, within the first year or so, he’ll be smiling, tracking objects with his eyes, grasping things in his hands, babbling, laughing, sitting up, crawling, sitting, standing, and ultimately, walking.
As a marketer and experience designer, I look at baby care brands and think, Wow, this will be obsolete in days. The life cycle is mega-condensed, so how can this product upcycle different ways to retain the user?
(No, this is not my sleep deprivation talking. It’s the kind of thing I think about all the time as someone who designs demand for a living.)
Nowadays, the answer to how to stay relevant for a longer chunk of a buyer’s lifecycle is much simpler than ever before. Create a community and foster involvement. Listen to parents’ needs and develop products that solve challenges. Offer digital companionship to keep customers involved with your brand. And if you’re focused on a small niche, see your customers as the driving force of your referral engine and make sure the brief time you engage with them is positive and valuable.
Connect nurture and nature
The care and feeding (physically, intellectually, emotionally) of the new parent can be complex — and some see it as a gold rush. If you don’t believe me, try a Google search for any infant-related term. Chances are, you’ll be met with a landslide of information. Now, try to find the right resource… it’s not child’s play by any stretch, believe me.
I’ve been Googling things nonstop, and so many of the websites and message boards I’ve found are poorly designed and feel outdated.
So, what shows up for me is how many missed opportunities for connectedness there are. For example, my wife and I have both downloaded an app called “The Wonder Weeks,” which is about your baby’s brain development. But there’s no intuitive way for us to share information — no community connection, to be precise — so it’s more like parallel play than an integrated experience.
Also, there’s no continuum or reason to pay more than the initial $3.99 per download they got from my family. That’s a missed opportunity for the app creators.
Overall, I believe it would serve baby product brands well if they could take a deeper stance on empathy and understanding how they can best serve parents better, along with the child. It’s not hard to amplify that feeling of pride and excitement and help alleviate feelings of, say, nervousness and trepidation.
This brings me to an important point: sponsored communities are a great way to connect with your audience if you have a built-in following (which many baby product brands do). The features can include anything from a newsletter to a full-on interactive content community.
I’ll throw in that dads, in particular, are underserved, which is a massive missed opportunity. Much of the baby product marketing is aimed at moms, and I get it — they’re the core constituency.
But I’ve been an integral part of the nurturing aspect of my son’s life since the day he was born. And I will always play a primary role in his life, which is much different than perhaps how things used to be, even up until a decade or two ago.
Dad blogs are out there, but they don’t necessarily speak to me. And maybe the idea is to not separate the father’s experience from the whole, but instead to build out content and features that speak equally to the person who didn’t give birth.
Again, connection is the key to designing demand both in the short and long term.
AI can help — it’s what companies like Apple and Google use to automatically create collages (video, pictures) of milestone moments that parents can easily share. And they’re more than happy to remind me what great gift items with my son’s face on them make for Mother’s Day and other holidays.
And that’s definitely the kind of help I need. As The Hustle recently pointed out:
“It seems obvious, but targeting baby products to parents is a new phenomenon.”
In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Give equal focus to the parents’ situation and needs. This doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive process. Today’s technology combined with good old-fashioned empathy and understanding can help you birth a better baby product with plenty of room to grow.
What’s a baby product experience you think needs a design transformation? Let me know in the comments below.