Baby Tracking Tools Will Just Make You Crazy

During the thrilling, exhausting, terrifying first weeks after my son was born, I remember laboring over an increasingly complicated Excel spreadsheet. In it, my husband and I attempted to track everything that went into or came out of our newborn's body, and in the case of the exit details, whether it was a liquid or semi-solid or Mystery Substance or what.

It got obsessive, this documentation process, and after a particularly panicked episode where I became convinced my child was fatally constipated (because the chart said so! ALL HAIL THE CHART!), we gave up the practice altogether in favor of 1) sanity, and 2) common sense.

Which is why I'm here to gently caution against the new influx of "baby tracking" applications that allow you to keep meticulous record of your infant's sleeping, eating, and diapering habits.


Oh sure, they sound useful -- until you find yourself hunched over a cellphone or computer at 3 a.m. wondering if you entered left breast or right.

There are a bunch of different apps and web services out there for baby tracking purposes (Baby ESP, Baby Connect, Trixie Tracker, eBabytracker, and Total Baby ... to name just a few), and they all purport to do the same thing: provide parental peace of mind through data entry. You can use them to keep track of everything related to your infant, from feeding details to medicine doses to the exact contents of their 1:52 p.m. diaper (B.M., leaked).

Modern parents tend to be obsessed with quantifying our kids, and truly, I understand the appeal, especially when it comes to a newborn. For many of us, the early weeks of adjusting to life with a baby are so unfamiliar, it's comforting to cling to any sense of normalcy or routine. My life may have disappeared down Alice's rabbit hole, but by GOD every bit of it is going in this damn chart.

The problem, as I learned, is that the tracking itself can get out of control. Plus, who wants to be glued to an app or program every few minutes when you've got a baby to tend to? Tinkering with a timer so every second of naptime is accurately accounted for, snapping an image of a diaper for a photo diary, remembering to hit the big "STOP" button when a feeding has completed ... I mean, come on, caring for a newborn is hard enough without paying a $4.99 download fee for the privilege of making things even MORE complicated.

Besides, when we focus on the numbers (when there's no medical reason for doing so), we're missing the big picture. Would any of us refuse to feed a hungry baby just because an app said they should be satisfied with their last feeding? Or ignore a bulging diaper because according to this 11:47 a.m. entry, we just changed one? 

Becoming a new parent is a scary transition period, but the sooner we learn to trust our own instincts, the better. An app can't do the hard work for us.

As pediatrician Gwenn O'Keeffe with the American Association of Pediatrics said in an interview about these new baby tracking programs,

Kids have been raised by parents without tools like this for generations. What parents need is a good inoculation of common sense and some self-esteem, to realize that they can do this without a tool. Just because we have computers and hand-held devices, doesn't mean we need a tracking device. What we need to do is look at our kids and realize they're developing just fine.

Hear hear. I wish someone had told me that six years ago when I was an emotional new mom crying over a damn spreadsheet.

Have you ever used any kind of baby tracking tool? Would you recommend it for a new mom?

Image via Total Baby

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