Baby-tracking apps can trigger anxiety in new parents – here’s how to avoid it

Mother using mobile phone while holding baby
Experts recommend using baby-tracking apps mindfully. Tetra Images/Getty
  • Tracking my baby’s weight gain reminded me of dieting apps and my unhealthy relationship with them.
  • Being able to see how much a baby is eating in a day may help some parents.
  • Experts recommend inputting data at certain times of the day and not constantly.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When my daughter lost a little too much weight in the days after her birth, her pediatrician recommended we keep track of feedings. Naturally, I downloaded an app, Huckleberry, to help with that.

The app made me anxious almost immediately. In addition to food, it allowed me to track weight, diapers, naps, and even my baby’s emotions. I told myself I wouldn’t get bogged down in all that, but a couple of weeks later I was obsessed. As soon as my daughter’s eyes closed, I’d tap the “start nap” button. Each time she woke up after just a few minutes or she didn’t hit her ounce goal for the day, it felt like a small failure.

This feeling reminded me of calorie-tracking apps I used when I wanted to lose weight. I had become compulsive about tracking what I ate and how much I exercised, and I quit using the apps when I realized they were harming my mental health.

Many studies suggest health-tracking apps can be helpful for pregnant people, but not everyone responds positively. In one survey, almost half of the participants said they had negative experiences with these apps, including feelings of guilt and fear. These feelings are already heightened in new parents.

“A new parent has instinctual fears and has an overabundance of opinionated information freely available to them,” in addition to “societal expectations and familial expectations,” Kendall Phillips, a licensed professional counselor, told Insider, “and it is completely normal to feel anxious, afraid, worried, and concerned.”

But a person should not become dependent on a device or app. As with everything, Phillips said, “moderation is key.”

Do what feels right

Phillips believes most parents can manage well enough by paying attention to their own instincts.

Siarra Jones, a mom of a 5-month-old in Raleigh, North Carolina, initially used an app to help her “forgetful mom brain” keep track of feedings, she said.

“I had anxiety over my child consuming enough, so being able to see daily averages and check frequency helped,” she said. “I’m a data person, so being able to go back and check things like fever temperatures over time makes me feel better too.”

But Jones knew she might be prone to unhealthy use of an app, so she kept track of something else as well: how she felt when using it. When it started stressing her out, she stopped.

Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, the chief medical officer of the online therapy company LifeStance Health, recommended scheduling reminders to check the app or input data at appropriate times – not as soon as you open your eyes or when you’re trying to wind down at night. She also suggested reviewing the data with a healthcare professional at well-child appointments or when there’s a change in patterns.

When you should ditch the app

The experts we talked to – Phillips, Patel-Dunn, Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, and Dr. Payel Gupta – identified some signs your baby-tracking app is no longer serving you:

  • You’re losing sleep because you can’t stop checking it.
  • You’re ignoring other care tasks for yourself and others.
  • You’re checking the app even when your child is in someone else’s care.
  • You get angry or irritated when you notice discrepancies in the app after someone else has cared for your child.