Just over a year ago, I had a major life changing experience; my first daughter was born. Whilst everyone told me just how major a life changing experience this would be, I didn't appreciate how big a deal until I got there. Free time? No chance. A whole load of additional tasks to keep her happy and healthy …? You bet. Did we need help…? You bet!
I work for 42 hours a week in an office. Going home to a baby, or going to work after limited sleep has been a new challenge. As Prince William said recently:
"I have to say that I thought search-and-rescue duties over Snowdonia were physically and mentally demanding, but looking after a 3-week-old baby is up there!"
In terms of keeping up with a baby's routine, tracking when she last ate, had a nappy changed, when the last time she slept or for how long, when you last gave her medicine etc... it is difficult. There are lots of things going on to manage, and she is not able to tell you what is wrong or what she wants. It took us so long to make any routine work for her, and we were spending most of our time running around looking after her, and very little having quality time together.
My wife found a clever little app that really helps you track what is going on with your child, and then when they are upset, you can quickly see why, well most of the time anyway. I thought I would share this with you, and perhaps you may be able to put it to good use and save some of the trouble we experienced. For more general newborn advice, Anish Majumdar has a few other tips that are worth checking out.
The app is called "baby connect", we used it on android, but it is also available on iOS. There is a simple web interface too. There are other similar apps available, but this one worked well for us. The app is a quick and simple way to track when your child eats, sleeps, had a diaper changed. You can also go into more detail for what they ate, how much, how long they slept, weight change and.. well I will save you the details on the options for diapers, but you get the idea! You can also set up reminders for any of these features i.e. remind me it is time for a feed or nap.
We found this extremely helpful to keep us on track for the day, and to reassure us that we had all of our child's needs covered (and we didn't forget anything… which is totally forgivable when you are sleep deprived!). In addition to this, you can export your data and if you ever have an issue where you need to talk to a doctor (which I have learned is highly likely), you have a detailed and accurate data set for the doctor to refer to. This is really useful to spot patterns in behaviour, such as being allergic to particular foods, or when you want to reintroduce certain foods after an allergy. My daughter developed an intolerance to dairy, fortunately there see to be a range of synthetic options available to manage this.
There is a small charge for the app (there is a trial version, but it only last for a few days), but making use of the web version is free. This means that one person can download the paid version, and when your partner or childcarer looks after your baby, they can log into the web version and keep the app updated at no cost. You can do this for as many different carers as you have helping with the babysitting (different grandparents, etc.). I can recommend asking your carer to make use of at least the web app. It means you can check your phone and receive the updates from your nanny.
I must admit that when I had my first whole day of looking after my daughter all by myself, it was daunting. I was struggling to get through the day and keep her happy. I could not be bothered finding bits of paper to scribble notes down at the same time. Since we started using the app, I am much more amenable to tracking what has been happening, perhaps this is just my liking technology encourages me to use it. Whatever, it seems to work!
Tessa Miller mentioned a sort of similar app in her recent "How We Work" post. Tessa uses My Fitness pal to track her diet and note any symptoms that may be triggered from IBD and Celiac disease. It is a similar sort of idea, but suited to the variety of needs of your small child.
It is a significant challenge looking after a baby or small child, and there is very little you can do to really prepare for having your first. It can be all too easy to slip into a stressful routine of firefighting her needs that makes enjoying your time with your little one difficult. This simple app really helped us manage our time, manage the needs of our daughter, provide useful advice to a doctor and more importantly helped us find a rhythm that we could all work to. It's a shame that we could not get her to respond to classical conditioning so that when my phone plays a certain noise she knows it is bed-time (we are still struggling with this aspect!) Perhaps that would be a little cruel.
"A man is not complete until he has seen the baby he has made."
Sammy Davis, Jr.