How to Track Your Baby’s Development on an iPod touch or iPhone

I have a newborn son (he’s two months old now) and have felt overwhelmed with the various things I have to do around the clock for him — literally. New parents need to keep track of diaper changes, feedings, sleeping patterns, and more. So how do they do it? In the old days, it was all about traditional pen and paper.

Today, it’s all about your iPhone or iPod touch.

As a geeky mommy, I’ve been able to review three applications for the purposes of parent monitoring. In this post, I explore all three of them.

Total Baby

Total Baby (iTunes link, $4.99) is one of my favorite applications for tracking baby’s growth and development (and the application supports tracking multiple children, especially if you have twins — and I hear the app developer actually has those to account for ;) ). You can specify how much food your baby has taken per feeding, chart his vaccinations, document doctors’ visits (both past and upcoming), monitor his wet and dry diapers (and specify whether the bowel movements are normal or different — here, you can note exactly what was different as well, be it seedy, watery, or whatever else), monitor when he last bathed, observe his growth (weight, height, head size), and even keep track of his allergies. There’s also a field for “other” just in case there’s something else to acknowledge (like playtime, perhaps, but it all depends on how you want to use it).

Two improvements I note that can be made relate to allowing parents to specify when children start and stop feeding, especially when they only feed from bottle. Right now, you can set a global option that marks when the feeding actually started (or ended, depending on how you want to handle it), but personally, for me, I’d love to know how much free time I have to explore my own pursuits. Of course, this is an app about my baby, though, so I can’t have everything both ways and would totally understand if that feature isn’t implemented.

The second suggestion is more of a feature request, however. Bottle feeding is not assumed at all — the application immediately assumes breastfeeding is done, which is a bit frustrating since not all mothers are able to easily and successfully breastfeed (and trust me, this mother would love to have had it easy). It would be more practical for there to be a general setting for “default feeding,” be it the bottle or breast, so that I don’t manually have to add a bottle for every feeding, especially since I’m still feeding about 20 times a day.

Still, those who breastfeed will definitely appreciate the functionality that Total Baby affords mothers who need to keep track of the specific breast her baby last fed from. And the timer features are awesome.

Baby Log

Baby Log (iTunes link, $4.99) operates in a similar fashion and has the benefit of having a single screen where you can view statistics and email them off as well. Baby Log takes in data for diaper changes, feedings, sleep times, baths, and anything else that might be important and notable (such as how much breastmilk you may have pumped).

I really like Baby Log’s timer screen where you can see all the statistics in an easy-to-digest format. It also shows statistics for the last week, which is also helpful. I found a few things confusing or difficult, though, like deleting an item once I added it (accidentally) to the log. It seems that the only way to reconcile this is to actually manually edit these accidental entries and apply them to a past or future action. So for example, if I accidentally click “Feed” at 7:15 and I’m not feeding the baby, I normally will have to wait until, say, 8:45 when I actually am feeding the baby and then I will be able to edit the 7:15 entry for that 8:45 feeding. In that sense, it’s not very intuitive — and perhaps I’m missing something, but I can’t for the life of me find out where to remove these accidental entries. Update: You can delete the entries with a one-finger swipe, so I retract my previous statements.

It’s great to be able to track more than one baby as well, but I think the interface should be a lot more intuitive to be a killer app.

Baby Brain

The final app I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing is called Baby Brain (iTunes link, $4.99). This app most closely resembles Total Baby as it lets you record your breastfeeding from left to right breast, add a bottle and specify the feeding amount (which may vary from the default entry you choose in the settings of the program), monitor diaper changes, though not with detailed bowel movement statistics like the previous application, and record when the baby went to sleep.

You can then review the statistics in a daily, weekly, or monthly format, which is a feature I especially appreciated. These baby events can also be shared with friends and families via email.

The one thing about Baby Brain that can be easily disabled but is a bit annoying at first is that it has constant reminders that tell you how to do something. Unless you click “Don’t show this again,” it’s a bit intrusive. My suggestion is to have a “hints” section where you can learn how to do everything and to learn how to take full advantage of the app. But all in all, Baby Brain is a solid iPhone application.

I think that the email feature makes this app awesome. It’d be great to automate that process somehow though, but I don’t know if Apple’s SDK would allow for that.

The Verdict

If I could choose a baby logging app from the above, I’d go with Total Baby given that it has the most features. But if you’re not looking for a full-fledged application, both Baby Log and Baby Brain are very good at what they do. However, now that I’ve reviewed the other applications, having some feature-rich enhancements would be ideal.

The ideal baby logging application should have, at the minimum, the following:

  • It should be easy to add and remove entries for feeding, diapers, and sleeping schedules.
  • It should have an “at a glance” view for weekly/monthly milestones.
  • It should not show that it prefers mothers who feed a certain way (breast versus bottle).
  • Allowing statistics to be shared via email would be great.
  • If the application tracks height and weight changes, it would be super if that data can be charted somewhere, similarly to the growth chart given to parents by the child’s pediatrician.

Altogether, though, these applications fill these voids — except for the growth chart feature — but overall, I am liking the most comprehensive package.

Tamar Weinberg is a blogger and author of The New Community Rules (July 2009), a book on social media marketing and how to leverage existing communities for awareness and profit. She is also a new mom.