Being that I work in IT (and am an all around gadget geek) and Joyce is a fan of structure and organisation in the home, we’ve decided to try to take advantage of the age of technological wonder in which we live and adopt a data driven approach to parenting.
No, I’m not taking the piss. Bear with my while I explain.
As I’ve written about in other contexts, increases in both digital data storage capacity and the mobility of technology has dramatically reduced the cost and difficulty of collecting and storing data. Parallel increases in processing power has also made analysing this data much more straight forward. This has made it feasible to collect and analyse data about a whole range of subjects that wouldn’t have been worth the hassle in the past.
One of these areas is parenting. Believe it or not, there’s a niche community of geek parents who are utilising the proliferation of smart phones to collect data about their babies’ daily routines in the hope of taking an evidence based approach to parenting. The idea is that by looking at a data set containing the details of your child’s feeding, sleeping and digestion, you can work out what patterns of activity are conducive to keeping your baby happy and settled and identify any changes in routine that have upset things. It also provides a detailed and accurate record of your child’s bodily functions which can be very handy when it comes time to visit the doctor.
Joyce and I have decided to give it a go. To this end, since we got home from the hospital, we’ve been using the Total Baby iPhone app for real time data collection and analysis.
So far, it’s been great. Total Baby can collected A LOT of very granular data about basic functions in simple drop down menus eg the last time a specific activity (ie sleeping, feeding, nappy ect) was undertaken and details of the activity (eg the characterisation of scat by colour, consistency etc). Very usefully, it also contains a series of timers that enable you to record the length of time spent on an activity with a touch of the screen. It also offers the ability to add customised data collection points and timers so that you can track niche issues that might be specific to your child.
At first we were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to remember to keep up the data collection process – especially once sleep deprivation set in. However, it’s been surprisingly easy. Joyce almost always has her iPhone in hand for email/twitter while she’s breast feeding, so it’s a built in memory aid. Plus, we spend so much time thinking ‘I wonder if it’s time to do XYZ?’ that we’re frequently looking at the app during the course of the day too.
Having a handy record of things like how long it’s been since the last feed and which breast was used for the last feed has been great for keeping us organised and allowing us to plan ahead. Similarly, Total Baby has become our first point of call when trying to work out what’s perturbing NKOTB at any point in time. It’s been a great anxiety reliever in his regard. Instead of just feeling our way in the (metaphorical) dark trying to work out what the problem is, we’re able to engage in some data driven problem solving. It’s not always successful obviously, but the feeling of control you get from having a data set to analyse is reassuring (even if it’s just an illusion).
At only $4.99 – Total Baby been one of the best baby purchases we’ve made.