If you own a pedometer, wear a sleep-tracking device, told a website what you ate for breakfast this morning or run a fitness app on your phone, you may already be familiar with the concept of the “quantified self” – the idea that capturing a range of fitness data is the first step to making positive changes to health and wellbeing. It’s little surprise, then, that a range of apps are available to capture baby data from feeds to nappy changes to weight and height.
I’ve been using the FeedBaby app (Android and iOS, free for the Lite version), pretty much because it was the first on the list in the App Store when I searched for ‘baby’; many, many other options are available. I use it to keep a tally of feed times and durations as well as remind myself which side each was on (it’s amazing how easy it is to forget). With a simple button-press, FeedBaby also tracks naps, logs nappy output in as much detail as you care to record and plots weight and height against WHO percentiles (we’re in the 25th). If you want to drive yourself mad with data, there’s truly no better way – or you can simply open the app next time the midwife asks how often and how long your baby feeds for and give an impressively comprehensive answer.
Quick caveat: the Lite version of the app constantly pesters for an upgrade; I finally caved because I thought it might be useful to sync data across devices and start timing a feed on whichever object I had closest to hand, only to find the sync feature doesn’t work reliably. You might even want to shop around and see if there are better apps available, I won’t even pretend to have tried.
I also used my UP Move wrist device a few times to track my own sleep, primarily for the lulz; just in case anyone planning to be a parent soon has any illusions about what a night with a newborn looks like, here’s one (orange=awake):
While quantifying apps like this are useful for tracking basic ins and outs (and in our household at least are simpler and more reliably to hand than an old-school notebook and pencil), there are plenty of pregnancy and baby-related apps dispensing more comprehensive information and advice. During my pregnancy I used The Bump for health advice and a weekly notification telling me which vegetable Scarlett was now the size of; and the Department of Health-endorsed Baby Buddy which invited Darien to take a picture of my bump each week to create an animated video that promptly disappeared from my tablet the moment Scarlett was born.
How useful one finds these apps depends a lot on what else you’re reading, who else you’re talking to and what you’re using to record information. I found Baby Buddy’s appointments reminder feature genuinely useful on more than one occasion, when busy periods at work, hormones and sleep deprivation conspired to turn my brain to midwife-forgetting mush. The Bump has lots of useful checklists for everything from what to pack in the hospital bag to how to kit out your nursery; it also has a lot of rather US-centric lifestyle advice and features far too many references to showers and registries. (I did learn the phrase “sip and see party” from the app, however, which will soon enrich all our lives).
Do you need an app (or several) to be a good parent in the 21st century? Undoubtedly not, and for lo-tech parents a pen and paper, an elastic band on the wrist to remind you which side you last nursed on and a conversation with a parent, sibling or friend will probably keep you on top of your new-parenting duties. But if you’re an iPad-toting millennial who owns more digital devices than pens, these apps can make a very handy way to check current advice and track as much information about your child as you could want and then some.
Pro tip: if you’re using one of these apps, be careful not to bonk your daughter on the head with your chosen device. She will cry, more in surprise than pain, for two minutes before falling asleep again but you will feel terrible and sob for an hour, so watch your grip.