Two weeks: That’s how old my newborn child is — a baby boy, our first — as of Monday this week. Everything’s upside-down right now: sleep, eating, walking, writing, thinking, the fabric of space-time, you name it. His mother and I are in a state of blissful stupor, of course. When you’re a dad and you’ve been wanting to be a dad for years, somehow you manage to be exhausted without caring that you’re exhausted.
When I gaze back at the last 10 months, I’m amazed at how much the mobile app-verse helped my wife and I work through the pregnancy’s complexities, and — so far anyway — ease into parenthood’s early days. While you could say I had the baby-making part figured out, I knew very little about actually being pregnant and next to nothing about childbirth itself. Worse, what I thought I knew turned out to be mostly dramatic fluff telegraphed by storytellers with a box office agenda.
(MORE: 50 Best iPhone Apps 2012)
To an ignoramus like me, childbirth was something involving the sudden and mysterious appearance of bodily fluids, manic, disorganized bolting for the hospital (think Kevin Bacon peeling out and leaving poor Elizabeth McGovern at home), sterile overhead lights and medical personnel in scrubs chanting “Push! Push! Push!” as the mother-to-be yowls in pain and then — voila! — a baby.
Thanks for nothing, Hollywood!
I had the better part of 10 months to correct most of that miseducation, helped along by Bradley Method childbirth classes and the new cosmology of mobile pregnancy tech. And yes, if you can imagine it, there’s probably an app for it, so here’s an overview of four that proved indispensable to me.
After we confirmed the pregnancy last November, my wife and I went on an info-binge, test-driving dozens of apps devoted to pregnancy, from conception to childbirth. Our favorite was “Pregnancy (Sprout)” by Med ART Studios, a little $3.99 week-by-week guide that walks you through all three trimesters with high-quality 3D renders of a developing baby that auto-update weekly based on your due date. It takes you stepwise from the egg’s journey down the fallopian tube to the point at which your baby can hear the sound of your voice (around week 22) to full pelvic engagement of the baby’s head by week 40. You can even enter your baby’s name (if you’ve picked one) and view gender-correct renders if you’ve chosen to learn the sex.
The pictures include handy hotspot pop-ups about when to look for hiccups, kicks or general squirming, changes in weight (you’d be amazed how much fruit analogies help here) and biology-specific updates, like at what point specific organs have engaged, taste buds have formed or your baby’s bones have started to harden.
Tap “the doc says” along the app’s bottom menu and you’re treated to daily and weekly health tips that range from when to take prenatal vitamins and battle morning sickness to dealing with a sore back, what Braxton Hicks contractions are and how to combat stretch marks, varicose veins and ankle swelling. There’s also a handy visual timeline that highlights key milestones, like when you can check the baby’s gender, run screening and glucose tests and when you’ve passed the crucial “good infant survival rate” mark (about 26 weeks).
For my wife, the two most helpful extras were the weight tracker and contraction timer (there’s also a kick counter, but we didn’t use it because our little guy started kicking around week 18 and never let up). The contraction timer is especially helpful, auto-tabulating start and stop times, duration and frequency (if you must, you can even email or post your contraction stats to Facebook). The only problem with the latter: If you have a long labor — and I have friends who’ve gone over 48 hours with their first — you’ll definitely want to pack your iPhone’s charging cable and an extension cord.
Baby name apps on the App Store are like weeds: free and commensurately ad-choked. Baby Names by Schatzisoft is probably the friendliest of the bunch with its unobtrusive ad-bar perched at the bottom of the screen and a library of over 60,000 boy/girl names to pore over (the nearest competitors claim far fewer, from 50,000 down to just 25,000).
We’d already picked a first name for a boy, but hadn’t settled on a middle, or — before we knew our baby’s gender — a name for a girl. Baby Names helped us finish the job. It lets you search by gender, regional origin, popularity and run custom searches using any of those categories, including a “trending” option (popularity on a timeline, i.e. rising or falling).
Think of it as a conversation starter you can pop out anywhere — at a restaurant, during a car ride, lounging after dinner, lying in bed — and a great way to learn about lovely-sounding international names you might otherwise have missed entirely.
iBaby Feed Timer – Breastfeeding, Nursing & Bottle Feeding
My wife tested positive for Group B Strep, a fairly common bacteria that, in rare instances, can cause serious illness if your baby picks it up during delivery. Since my wife’s labor lasted just four-and-a-half hours — too fast for preemptive antibiotics — we had to stay as inpatients for 48 hours at the hospital to keep an eye on the baby.
The upside was that when she started breastfeeding, as planned, we had lactation consultants on tap around the clock, at which point I took over scribbling each feed in a paper log provided by the hospital. Stuff like: when feeding began, at which breast, how long the feed lasted, what was in the diaper afterward and more. Twenty-four hours of logs scrawled by a guy with atrocious penmanship prompted me to poke around the App Store, which turned up iBaby Feed Timer, an elegant $1.99 app that makes tracking breastfeeding a cinch, with perks.
The feed timer gives you “left” and “right” buttons (large buttons, thank goodness, so they’re easy to hit if you’re simultaneously cycling the baby through different feed positions), and you can “stop” or “pause” the timer. At top, a clock lets you see the “time since last feed,” and at bottom, a readout lets you know when the next feed is due based on your selected interval. There’s also a manual log screen where you can adjust times, add entries for bottle or “express” feeding, or enter notes for each entry, e.g. stool, urine, etc.
The best part? The “analysis” screen, which gives you the average feed length, average time between feeds and total feed time by day, week or month.
White Noise Lite
Once we had our little guy home, having read a zillion books beforehand on soothing infants, watched the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD and read those guides, learned 10 ways to swaddle and how to watch for tired or hungry signs (and so on and so forth), we still found ourselves up at odd hours with a fussy, inconsolable kid.
The life-saver? White noise. The idea is that white noise operates on babies much as it does on adults, mitigating sudden, unexpected noises that might otherwise startle us by frequency-masking them. It also supposedly works because white noise mimics the sound of being in the womb (which, I’m told, is like listening to sounds underwater). Thus by playing white noise, you’re ostensibly creating a womb-like environment.
The free, ad-based version of White Noise Lite by TMSOFT offers 10 sounds that range from straight-up white noise (think television or radio static) to environmental selections like “extreme rain pouring” and “beach waves crashing” to eclectic stuff like “grandfather clock” and “train ride.” There’s also a $1.99 pay version that raises the sound total to 40, removes the ads and allows app multitasking (the “Lite” version stops playing if you back out of it). So far, the free version’s more than done the trick for us — the soothing effect on our newborn is instantaneous, and — knock on wood — we’re now managing three-to-four hour intervals of uninterrupted shut-eye.