All in the family: Apps to the rescue of new parents and moms-to-be

In the absence of elders, online platforms are answering questions on childcare, nutrition, diet and screentime.

health Updated: Dec 16, 2017 18:03 IST
Health,Wellness,Parenting
It puts my mind at ease to know that there is always help at hand, says Delhiite Isha Sachdeva, who uses the Parentlane app to plan nutritious meals for her year-old daughter Taisha. A few months ago, Taisha had severe stomach pain at night and someone on the discussion fora suggested a warm mustard oil massage. ‘It really calmed my baby before we took her to the doctor next morning,’ she adds.(Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)

* ‘My baby was vaccinated today, is in pain and not drinking milk. What do I do?’

* ‘I’m in the sixth month of my pregnancy and have a throat infection. Will home remedies harm the baby?’

* ‘How can I be a better mom?’

There are now apps that can answer all three types of questions for anxious new parents or moms-to-be.

“When I took the parenting assessment, I found I was in the ‘moderate’ category,” says Poulomi Dasgupta, 37, a business development executive from Gurugram with a two-and-a-half-year-old son. “A child psychologist helped me understand what to do and what not to do to be a better mum.”

Reducing screen time was one bit of advice that has stuck with Dasgupta.

“There wasn’t so much technology around when we were growing up and so we don’t know what is age-appropriate. We would let our son watch cartoons or videos on the phone when we were busy. Now, we have him engaged in other activities,” she says.

Her son, Hriddh, now has no TV time Monday through Thursday. Instead, he paints, solves puzzles, reads and plays cricket with his father.

Similarly, parents finding themselves raising their children without the help of an extended family, with things changing fast, are turning to apps such as BabyChakra, TinyStep, ParentLane, BabyBerry, HappyDNA and BabyGogo, all launched over the past five years.

“We realised that parents were more likely to go online when facing baby-related issues, rather than consult doctors or relatives,” says Naiyya Saggi, founder and CEO of BabyChakra. “Our app therefore aims to create a community. Parents essentially want to be reassured at each step that there are others also going through the same experience; that each baby and pregnancy is unique but the problems are not.”

Some of the apps offer advice in real time from health experts, child psychiatrists and even relationship counsellors to ease the stress new parents undergo.

Delhiite Isha Sachdeva, 28, for instance, got help planning nutritious meals for her little fussy eater.

“The app I use, ParentLane, has a recipes section that’s like a ready-reckoner for healthy and tasty food for children,” says the financial project manager with British Telecom. “After a busy day at work, I no longer have to worry about what to feed my one-year-old daughter Taisha.”

Four months ago, Sachdeva adds, Taisha had severe stomach pain at night and someone on the discussion fora suggested a warm mustard oil massage. “It really calmed my baby before we took her to the doctor next morning,” Sachdeva says. “It puts my mind at ease to think that there is always help at hand.”

Mumbai homemaker Syona Ahuja with her six-month-old daughter. The baby had persistent diarrhoea and she couldn’t understand why. ‘It was only when I asked on BabyGogo that I understood the cause — I was giving her honey before she turned one and that was harmful. The minute I stopped it, my baby was fine,’ she says. (Praful Gangurde / HT Photo)

CUSTOMISED CARE

Some apps, like BabyChakra, let parents post questions anonymously too. “Women use that option to ask questions relating to sex after childbirth, and breastfeeding,” Saggi says.

Others, like BabyGogo, Parentune and BabyBerry, help you track your child’s growth and development, record milestones.

“We set up our app to help parents track their baby’s growth by feeding in details about their height and weight. We also post articles on ideal foods and reminders for vaccination shots,” says app cofounder Siddharth Ahluwalia. “We realised that parents can’t go to a doctor for every little thing.”

TinyStep lets you record milestones in a virtual album — first step, first laugh, first tooth. It also offers a week-by-week pregnancy tracker, and a ‘Mom Circle’ feature helps you locate other expectant or new moms around you.

When Nisha Sarawagi’s six-month-old boy got a diaper rash that wouldn’t disappear, it was the app she turned to. “I was bombarded with home remedies, and more than any ointment, coconut oil as suggested by one parent worked for my baby,” she says.

When Mumbai-based homemaker Syona Ahuja’s six-month-old daughter had diarrhoea, she couldn’t understand why it happened. To avoid antibiotics, she tried home remedies for a few days.

“However, it didn’t improve and it was only when I asked on BabyGogo that I understood the cause behind it — I was giving her honey before she turned one and that was harmful. The minute I stopped it, my baby was fine,” she says. “Interacting on apps like these helps learning mothers like me to know so many things I would have never known about a growing baby.”

POINTS TO PONDER

“Parents must be aware that every case is unique, each pregnancy and each baby is different from another,” says Dr Anita Soni, gynaecologist at Mumbai’s LH Hiranandani Hospital. “The apps have essentially replaced relatives we were all used to having at home. While this can be helpful, parents should consult a doctor before self-medicating a baby or themselves.”

Dr Samir Dalwai, developmental pediatrician at Mumbai’s New Horizons Child Development Centre, adds that it’s a good thing that the apps are getting standardised information out to people.

“We now know of parenting techniques from different parts of the world and common remedies to problems,” he adds, “but cross-checking is key. Keep your doctor involved at every step.”

First Published: Dec 16, 2017 18:03 IST