A Free Source of Information and Advice for New Parents
By BOB TEDESCHI
Published: January 25, 2012
Everyone wants a piece of a new parent — or, at least, the wallet of a new parent.
Baby Connect, an app for iPhone and Android, showing a graph of a baby’s daily activities.
WebMD Baby, a new iPhone app, has about 400 articles, 600 tips and 70 videos
App stores are part of that money rush. There’s mobile software that can help parents name their babies, soothe their babies, entertain their babies and speak to their babies in sign language.
The newest baby app of note on the market, though, WebMD Baby, is free, and it is arguably more practical and useful than many of the others combined.
WebMD Baby is available only on Apple devices, at least until the company releases an Android version later this year. It provides a strong complement to — if not a total replacement for — Baby Connect ($5 on Android andApple), the best mobile assistant for new parents.
Unlike Baby Connect, whose strengths and weaknesses I’ll detail in a moment, WebMD Baby comes packed with information. The app takes advantage of its parent company’s trove of medically related content to offer parents guidance on what to expect from their child’s physical and emotional development, as well as health-related counsel when things go wrong.
At the app’s core are roughly 400 articles, 600 tips and 70 videos.
For parents of a 1-year-old, for instance, the app recently offered a video question and answer with a pediatrician about top mistakes parents make with toddlers. (Hint: to properly calibrate discipline, issue one-minute “time outs” for 1-year-olds, two minutes for 2-year-olds, and so on.)
Oddly, the app doesn’t allow for full-screen video in landscape mode, but since this is a new app, I’d expect WebMD to fix this flaw quickly.
The app also presents daily and weekly packages of information aimed at helping parents understand a child’s development during the first year. Last week, the daily tip for a parent with a 3-week-old baby, for instance, offered details about what to expect at a one-month doctor’s visit. (There are packages for the child’s second year, as well, but at longer intervals.)
Some have criticized WebMD for publishing medical advice that might encourage readers to use its advertisers’ products, but I found the section on “Illnesses and Emergencies” to be generally free of specious advice. For now, at least, there is no advertising on the app.
WebMD Baby also has a “Baby Book” section, where you can record and store videos, pictures and notes of a child’s milestone moments. The videos and photos also remain in the device’s photography storage area, so they’re not held hostage by the app.
Thankfully, every page is designed in a way that would make it easy for a parent to use with one hand — while, presumably, holding a sleeping baby with the other.
One of the app’s shortcomings is that parents can’t peek in on the app from different devices and see the latest information. If you log information into WebMD Baby from aniPhone and then your spouse logs onto the app from an iPod Touch, for instance, it won’t show her the information you entered in the iPhone.
With Baby Connect, however, such an arrangement would work nicely. Even if you have an Android phone and your spouse has an iPhone, any time you enter new information into the app, those changes will appear on your spouse’s app the next time it’s opened.
Baby Connect lacks the information and advice that makes WebMD Baby so valuable, but it has more tracking options than its competitor. The app prompts you to create a separate page for each child. From there, parents and caregivers can track mood and activities, as well as health-related items like vaccines, temperature and medicines.
If you’d like to simply remember where you were at a given moment with the baby — so you can remember their first public tantrum, perhaps — the “My Location” button will make a record of it.
The app is generally easy to use, and it includes a helpful summary page for each child so you can scan recent entries at a glance.
That said, it can be difficult at times to understand the app’s internal logic. Seven main features are included on a child’s home page, including “Medical.” (Additional features are expected in an updated version the company plans to release this week.) When pressed, the Medical button yields a list of items like weight, or vaccines.
Alongside those main buttons on the child’s home page is one titled “More,” which leads to another screen of items like nursing, solid food and, again, vaccines. Unlike the vaccine section found through the child’s home page, though, this one includes a list of common inoculations.
If you choose one from the list, thereby indicating that your children received that particular vaccine, the app will record the event in the other “Vaccine” location. That’s helpful, but it would be much simpler to offer the list of vaccines in the original “Medical” section.
New parents have enough to figure out. They don’t need to add tricky software to the list.
Yet Baby Connect remains a more fully featured app for new parents than WebMD Baby. For people who are approaching parenthood for the first time, and who have a tendency toward extreme organization, Baby Connect is a good complement to WebMD Baby.
Otherwise, I’d leave space for WebMD Baby and feel grateful for a moment’s respite from spending money on parenting products.
Fans of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine should check out Only the Pearls ($4 foriPad), which includes 250 strips, 12 animated strips and video interviews with the author. … Want a ballpark estimate of your tax refund? Consider TaxCaster by TurboTax (free onAndroid and Apple). … Asteroids Gunner (free on Apple) is a well-executed reprise of the classic Atari arcade game.
A version of this article appeared in print on January 26, 2012, on pageB6 of the New York edition with the headline: A Free Source of Information and Advice for New Parents.
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