Apps and Other Digital Tools Lend a Hand to New Mothers

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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 Web sites to make life a bit easier during those first few months of sleepless nights and days spent cooped up at home.

READ E-BOOKS 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.

And for those 3 a.m. feedings, when you are too exhausted even to read, you can stream Netflix or Hulu on the iPad.

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.

Unlike most home workout videos that hardly feel like a workout, this one leaves you sore, and has enough levels and variations to keep it that way.

EASY THANK-YOU NOTES Just when all the energy you have for chores is consumed by changing diapers and cleaning bottles, your friends and family shower you with gifts, and gifts mean thank-you notes. And there are all the requests for baby pictures.

I quickly developed a system for the notes. Take a cellphone photo of the gift and the return address, because you will invariably forget which blanket came from whom, and delete the photos once the thank-you note is sent.

To avoid paper and stamps altogether, send a paper thank-you note virtually. Using Apple's Cards app, you can dress the baby in the hand-knit sweater from your aunt, snap a photo with your iPhone, write a note and the address and Apple sends a real card, complete with a cursive address.

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. (Also, it makes the fathers-to-be feel useful as they watch mothers in labor writhe.)

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 immunizations; 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 (especially helpful for apartment living, when neighbors can be so inconsiderate as to have a barbecue at an ungodly hour like 7 p.m.) 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 favorite came from Rockabye Baby, which has transformed the songs of artists from Madonna to the Beatles into soothing, instrumental lullabies. For our baby, Bob Marley was magic. I'm still not convinced there are babies lulled to sleep by Metallica or Kanye West, but apparently they exist.

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 on orders over $49, which you quickly reach (these creatures need a lot of diapers), 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.

Because of those 2 a.m. diaper changes, you are in no mood to cook. Recruit your friends to sign up to bring you food on MealBaby or order restaurant delivery using Seamless or GrubHub. More start-ups are delivering more types of things, like Munchery for meals made by local chefs and Rewinery for wine, both in San Francisco.

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 you finally found that fit, or addressing baby gift thank-you notes, both of which are jobs new mothers posted on the site.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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