We got a question last week from a reader asking us about the best apps for tracking newborn feedings and nappy changes. To which my initial response was, “Apps? I used a yellow legal pad.” But then I remembered that was eight years ago, which might as well be 50 years as far as technology for new parents is concerned.
The question started a bit of internal debate among the Lifehacker staff about whether tracking was even necessary. Health editor Beth Skwarecki’s advice is: “Don’t track that stuff. You don’t need to and you’ll just drive yourself crazy. The apps exist because it’s an easy thing to program an app to do, not because it helps you in any way.”
Deputy editor Alice Bradley came back hard and fast: “There are plenty of situations where it makes sense to track,” she says. “Tracking stuff eased my anxiety. I didn’t care if it wasn’t worth my time.”
So, off I went to determine when—and how—parents should track their newborn’s naps, feeding schedule and diaper contents. (And yes, by “contents,” I mean what’s in that diaper: When do you see pee? When do you see poop? What does that poop look like? These are the things parents of newborns are, rightfully, focused on.)
Here’s when you should track
Start tracking from the beginning. If you’re able to start tracking in the hospital, you get the goldest of stars; but realistically, aim to start tracking as soon as you arrive home with your baby.
Typically, your baby will be examined by a pediatrician at the hospital within 24 hours of birth and then again at about three to five days old. Plan to at least track feedings and diapers for those first several days between visits in case there are any concerns regarding feeding, sleeping or “contents.” The pediatrician is likely to ask you how these three things are going, and in your sleep-deprived state, this is not information you are likely to be able to recall on the spot with any sort of real detail.
At this appointment, ask your pediatrician whether you should keep tracking. If there are any concerns, the doctor may recommend that you continue tracking until the next visit. If all is well, you may get the all-clear to ditch the notes.
After that, keep tracking (or not) for YOUR benefit
Assuming all is going along in typical fashion, baby is eating decently and sleeping decently and there no concerns from you or the pediatrician about weight, decide whether you want to continue tracking.
If trying to remember to mark down every last wet diaper and poop texture and ounce consumed is more work than your brain is capable of, then put down the notebook and/or delete the app. You don’t need One More Thing To Do right now.
But if you’re the type of person who likes to track these things, someone who finds comfort in the routine of it, by all means, track away! Maybe it helps you to see a pattern emerge in the baby’s schedule or maybe you’re just a little Type A (ahem, that’s me) and tracking makes you feel like you have a tiny bit of control amongst the chaos.
Track if it eases your anxiety; ditch it if it causes more anxiety.
Here’s HOW you can track
As I said, I scribbled down feeding times and ounces on a yellow pad that travelled from my coffee table to my dining room table and back again. It is both old school and effective, but I recognise that there are now apps out there that are way cooler (and that automatically travel with you to the pediatrician when you inevitably forget the notebook).
So, I polled the parents in our Offspring Facebook Group for their favourite app recommendations, and here’s what they said:
Baby Manager. Several parents liked this app, including Rachel, who says, “My husband can also put it on his phone, which was really helpful at the beginning when I couldn’t get out of bed to change diapers at night (c-section). We’re no longer tracking the contents of each diaper, but we’ve just started using cloth diapers, so now I use it just to make sure I’m changing diapers often enough. With both of us having the app, he doesn’t need to ask me when baby was last fed or changed or napped, which makes for easier transitions if he gets home from work and I’m leaving the house.”
Baby Tracker. This was one of the most popular suggestions in the group. It’s free, it’s straightforward, and those who used it were happy with it.
Baby Connect. If you’re ready to make a $US5 ($7) investment, this is the app that parents in our group recommend. “It literally tracks everything you can think of,” says Crystal. “It gives graphs and exports to Excel and handles multiple kids.”
Finally, one last bit of tracking advice from a breastfeeding mum in the group: “I recommend tracking which breast was last used, even if you nurse both sides. My most embarrassing leaks always came from accidentally skipping a breast. The old school way to keep track is pinning a safety pin to your shirt.”