“Cathy, my app says he has been at the breast for a total of 4.5 hours today.  Is that enough?”

“Sorry I missed the drop in, the app says that he is meant to be sleeping right now”

There are so many baby tracker apps available to new parents these days.  In the first week, when you don’t even remember your own name let alone how many heavy wet nappies your baby has done in 24 hours, they can be super useful. But sometimes things can get a little out of hand.  “Hang on, I will just turn on the app…” is the starting point of many of the conversations I have with new parents these days.  They are suddenly fixated with tracking every minute of every feed, every nappy, every sleep, and obsessing over the results. Is this helpful?  Not really.  Babies don’t work in a pattern.  Babies have no idea that they are meant to be meeting their milestones or sleeping for a set number of hours, according to the app.  Because they are a babies.  As adults, we are used to looking for cause and effect.  We expect predictability. If we know what the inputs are then we know what the outputs should be. Right?  But new babies do not conform and we are totally thrown. They do not get into the pattern we expect, or any pattern at all, and we think that we are to blame. It is just that most of the time there is no particular reason, or if there is, it is too complicated or unfathomable to understand, and by tomorrow everything might have changed in any case. So my advice is to relax, turn off the app, and enjoy the moment with your newborn.

Specifically in terms of timing feeds, apps are very little help in knowing whether your baby has had enough milk.  We know that a perfectly happy and well fed baby might get everything it needs from a breastfeed in 5-10 minutes, but that another mummy and baby combination might regularly need 40 minutes. We know that some newborn babies feed on and off for hours in an evening, or if they are having a growth spurt. The time is irrelevant.  If you want to know whether your baby is feeding well, you need to watch your baby.  Is baby’s jaw dropping, with a little pause, as they swallow?  Can you hear them make a tiny “huff” out of their nose, or hear a gulp? Is baby swallowing regularly or resting or snoozing, and does that always matter anyway given that breasts are for comfort as well as for food? What about your baby’s behaviour? Is baby alert, feeding, then going to sleep for a bit, and waking up hungry? That would be good. A baby that rarely sleeps, or that sleeps for hours and does not wake for feeds, might be cause for concern. New babies feed for 8-12 times in 24 hours, and will have regular wet and dirty nappies. Use your instincts, call your midwife or a lactation professional if necessary.  Look at the “big picture” rather than your screen and act accordingly.