Everyone tells you that having a new baby at home is hard, but I did not understand what they meant until ours arrived.
The sleep deprivation. The constant nursing. The endless laundry. Did I mention the sleep deprivation?
No matter how cute the baby’s dimples or squeezable his thighs, keeping the little creature alive and settling into life with a new family member is grueling. But with today’s digital tools, we have some benefits our parents and grandparents did not.
Here are a few apps, devices and websites to make life a bit easier during those first few months of sleepless nights and days spent cooped up at home.
Even though I fell asleep the second I hit a sofa or bed those first few weeks, I somehow managed to do more reading than I had in months. That was because I quickly figured out that during the hours a day – really, hours – that a baby spends nursing, I could read.
The problem is that nursing is a two-hands job at first, so turning the pages of a paper book was impossible.
That is how I finally became a Kindle convert. Just as my apartment became overrun with board books, I embraced e-books, because I could prop the Kindle on the couch and turn the pages with a finger.
Shed the baby weight
Photos of postpartum celebrities suggest that the extra weight just disappears. But for those of us who do not have personal trainers arriving at our doorsteps the day we give birth, exercise seems an impossible feat, even when we can comfortably walk again. Who can find the time, not to mention the child care, to go to the gym?
The Nike Training Club iPad app changed that for me. With the app, you can exercise in your living room while the baby naps or, as I did, sit the baby in a bouncer chair and entertain him by jumping and lunging around.
Put apps to work for you
How to share photos with great-grandparents who do not use e-mail, much less Instagram? Download the Walgreens app. It lets you upload photos from your phone and pick up prints an hour later.
You can also use it to make a shopping list, because you cannot trust your baby brain to remember diapers, wipes and infant Tylenol the next time you are at the drugstore.
Set pill reminders to take your painkillers in the middle of the night and order refills by scanning the pill bottle with your phone. The lap function on the iPhone’s stopwatch turns out to be handy for timing contractions.
We break our rule of no screens for baby for video calls with the grandparents using Apple’s FaceTime. The Fisher-Price Apptivity case, with handles made for babies, securely holds the phone and protects it against biting, drooling and dropping.
Then there is an entire category of apps unknown to anyone but new parents – for tracking everything from what time your baby last ate, slept and dirtied his diaper (trust me, you care); the baby’s height, weight and immunisations; which side the baby last nursed on and your freezer stash of milk. They include Baby Timer and Milk Maid by Earlybird Software and Total Baby by Andesigned.
... and for your baby
Instead of throwing away your old iPod, give it to your baby. Download a white noise app that plays all night. We downloaded ours, White Noise Ambience by Logicworks, in a state of desperation in the middle of the night, in a hotel with paper-thin walls. Download lullabies, too. My favourite came from Rockabye Baby, which has transformed the songs of artists from Madonna to the Beatles into soothing, instrumental lullabies.
Diapers and more, on demand
When I asked new parents which app or site they could not live without, most responded with Diapers.com. It offers free, often overnight shipping and you can add all the other things you no longer have time to go out and buy, from paper towels to pet food.
In addition, Diapers.com, Amazon.com and other e-commerce companies like the Honest Company let you order diaper subscriptions, so you will not find yourself in a dire and dirty situation at 2 a m.
And for everything else – from assembling the crib to baby-proofing the house – there is TaskRabbit. Suddenly, it seems perfectly reasonable to hire someone to do things you never would have dreamed of doing in your pre-baby life – like buying seven pairs of the elastic waist pants or addressing baby gift thank-you notes – both of which are jobs new mothers posted on the site.