I remember that one of my top priorities in my first week of maternity leave was to upgrade my dying Nokia N97 to a proper, working smart phone. Admittedly the main reason was that my calls weren’t connecting or kept dropping out and seeing as we don’t have a landline at home, the last thing I wanted was to go into labour and not have a way of getting in touch with my hubby. Some people are quite cynical about this trend for relying so heavily on technology (and let’s face it, being technology dependent can definitely have negative effects) but I’m not going to pretend that having so many things readily available in my pocket or at the tips of my fingers hasn’t made my life as a new mother a lot easier.
Smart phones have changed the way we do things – and not always in a bad way. Baby’s first time sitting up? Captured it on my phone. Can’t remember the difference between a high and low fever? Google it. Wondering what nappy brand to change to or which pram/cot/baby monitor to buy? Read a couple of forum posts or online reviews. Got time to kill while breast feeding baby? Read a book, write a to-do list, or catch up on emails – or why not all of the above?
I have quite a few friends who will soon be first-time parents, so to help them navigate their way through the first months of mayhem, here are the apps that I’ve come to rely on.
I’ve heard people say “pregnant brain” (that feeling of slight delirium that makes you forget the name of someone you’ve known for years or makes you put the ice cream in the pantry instead the freezer) doesn’t actually go away, it just turns into “mummy brain”. Because I have a rather bad case of “pregnant/mummy brain”, I’m grateful an app exists to remind me which boob I fed from last, what time the feed started, how much milk baby’s taking from their bottle, the time baby last woke up (and therefore when they’re next due for a nap), whether or not I’ve given them their medication, and how many dirty nappies they’ve had lately (is it really diarrhea or am I just exaggerating?). Best thing is it syncs across to other devices, so when Daddy enters info on his phone, I can get it on mine too. If you’re a bit of a control freak, or just want to have a handy record of baby’s eat, sleep and play habits, this is the app for you. It’s got a daily journal option and you can upload a daily photo. If you’re unfortunate enough to have as many visits to the doctor as we have in the past six months, it’s handy to know whether or not baby’s feeding habits have changed dramatically, how many wet nappies you’ve been changing or whether or not their skin has reacted since starting their mediation – and not all of this is easy to remember off the top of your head. You just have to remember to put the data into the app (obviously) and this gets a bit tedious.
Sleepy Baby (Lite Version)
I was told very early on that white noise does wonders for getting a baby to sleep when they’re 0-3 months old – apparently it’s similar to what they would’ve heard when they were in the womb so it’s very calming. Enter “Sleepy Baby” – an app that has plays white noise, lullabies, nature sounds or lets you play music stored on your phone. The screen doubles as a night light with changing colours (or you can just lock your screen to save battery) and you have the option to set a timer so it turns off automatically after a few minutes. We turn it on if bub can’t get to sleep on his own or if he stirs in the middle of the night. Baby starts whimpering? Turn on the timer, slip the phone under the door, and return to eating dinner. This app has also been a life saver in the shops when my baby starts bawling; if it’s nap time I tuck him into his pram under his blanket, turn on the lullaby music, pull the sun shade up and suddenly he knows it’s time for sleep. It’s not foolproof – especially if it’s not nap time – but it’s definitely bought me a few extra minutes of sanity while I wait in the check-out line to pay for my items before bolting to the parent room and giving him his feed or changing his nappy.
The last thing you want to do when you’ve finally put your baby to sleep is turn on the lights. Enter Tiny Flashlight, which uses your phone’s LED screen or camera flash as a torch. It’s also super handy when you’re standing out the front of your house at night and looking for your keys inside your handbag, or if you’re sitting in the back seat of the car with bub and need a light and don’t want to distract the driver. It’s got quite a few options which I never use (warning lights, police lights, a coloured LED screen light, strobe lights, text to morse) but hey, you might find them useful.
If there’s anything you start doing more of when you’re a mother, it’s washing. If your kid is allergic to dust mites you do more than average household, because all their soft toys and fabric play mats need to be washed every week. So keeping your eye on the weather is a must. Weather watching is also important so you can plan a day out in the sun. New mums need to get out and about for a regular dose of Vitamin D; never underestimate what a breath or fresh air and a brisk stroll will do for your energy levels and morale. Not to mention it gives you a break from sitting around at home… and folding laundry.
If you’re anything like me, having a baby has played serious havoc on your memory recall function. And seeing as I’ve always been a “to-do list” kind of gal, GTasks is my best bud. I started off using Don’t Forget the Milk and Any.Do but GTasks rocks because it syncs automatically to my Google Task List. So I use it for my shopping list, chores list, what to pack for the babysitter list, Christmas pressie wishlist, and because the length of each note is practically limitless, I also use it to store drafts of blog posts and articles (like this one). It’s simple to use and the best bit (apart from all your lists being available online) is that you can colour code… 😉
Google Play Books
If you’re a breast feeding mother you find yourself with a lot of time to kill – babies tend to eat a lot in the first few months. The problem is you don’t always have the hands free to do the things you want. I used to be pretty cynical about ebooks – hell I wrote several essays and magazine rticles on the topic – and even though my love for a hardcover book and pen and paper will always remain, I can’t deny the awesomeness of having an entire library available at my fingertips. And to be able to turn a page with the swipe of my thumb? Awesome.
Handy for all the reasons listed above – necessary only because not all titles are available on the Google Play store.
This is seriously the most comprehensive Catholic app I’ve come across and it’s awesome because it’s free. It links me straight to the day’s Daily Readings and has podcasts of meditations and reflections. It also contains a catalogue of Catholic prayers including the Liturgy of Hours, Rosary, Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross, and let’s you search the Catechism of Catholic Church.
When you’re at home with baby and you send someone else out to buy the groceries, the last thing you want is them coming home with bags full of things what they thought you meant for them to buy. I could go on about the number of arguments this app has saved my marriage from. This app rocks because it not only lets you specify exactly what you want, it organises your list by the aisle it’s located in (based on the store you choose) so it makes shopping super efficient. It could do with more functions (eg specifying weight of a product as opposed to number of items), and doesn’t always have every product available in the store, but it’s free and it sure is helpful.
Whatsapp and Viber
These apps use your 3G or WiFi connection to send messages or (in the case of Viber) make phone calls. Instead of paying loads to send endless multimedia messages (a mistake I literally paid the price for after my first week with bub), I now use WhatsApp or Viber – it’s a cheaper option for sending pics, audio and videos of bub doing unbelievably cute things. It also makes keeping in contact with international friends and relatives super easy.
Facebook (or any other social networking app for that matter)
I think almost every new parent goes through a phase where they become slightly addicted to social networking. It might be something to do with being at home with a very small, dependent person that doesn’t yet know how to converse, so you feel the need to connect to other people but you haven’t found the urge to change out of your pajamas or haven’t had a moment to take a shower or brush your teeth. It may also be because few people are out and about or available at 3am when you’re doing the night shift. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – all of these are awesome for killing time, keeping you out of isolation, and giving you some sense of connection with the outside world. At 3am it’s also just easier to read short tweets and status updates, or to look at pretty pictures than it is to read an ebook or the news. These apps have helped me many a time to pry my eyes open in the dead of the night. Just be sure to complement heavy use of these apps with real, physical contact.
And for my pregnant friends still waiting to give birth, here are two more that might help:
My Pregnancy Today
I used this app to track fetal development and used the day-to-day tips and guides to mentally prepare for being a mum. The BabyCenter website is full of really good info, and their forums are great.
Don’t bother paying for a contraction timer app; there are heaps of free ones out there that do what you need them to, which is note the time your contractions started, and how long they’re going for, and the time between them.