Data collection and your baby

{aside: YES, I KNOW I said I’d post a recipe for the Carolina-style bbq chicken. I still will…I just haven’t gotten to it yet. Work, exercise, tired, parent, work, tired, parent, exercise…you get the drift}

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So, dh decided to interrupt my Angry Birds Space/me time with a copy of the most recent Atlantic magazine. It seems that there was a piece written called “The Data-Driven Parent”, all about how parents are turning to technology to help them track their infants’ behavior, feedings, etc., in order to bring some order into the chaos. On many levels, I SO GET this.

Flashback to nearly 5-1/2 years ago when, recovering from my c-section for dd, I suddenly realize that A) breastfeeding is WAY harder than I thought it would be, B) I don’t appear to be getting the hang of it and neither is she, and C) I have a supply of breastmilk that’s directly inverse to the size of my breasts, which turned into porn-sized bazooms by day 3 post-delivery. With my child losing too much weight in the hospital from lack of nutrition, I tearfully turned to formula and, pretty much immediately upon arriving home, a Medela Pump-in-Style. I pumped, really I did, but I was producing half-ounces at a time. Meantime, my friends from the online birth group were producing gallons, it seemed. Self-esteem, meet the toilet.

Because dd’s weight was such an issue, I tracked everything about her eating and her diapering. We were actually told to do this for a few weeks, and then we continued long after the doctor told us it wasn’t necessary. Pages and pages of double-sided log sheets were completed until we had finally gotten to the point where I was willing to back away from the spreadsheets that I’d used not just to track the feedings but to draw charts with trendlines. {Yes, I’m THAT person. I’m willing to acknowledge it.}

With ds, my supply was better, but breastfeeding was still no better of an option. He and I never clicked, and while I was in the hospital, he actually gnawed me to the point where dh had to run out to a nearby compounding apothecary to get me super-special healing salve. I won’t get into all the gory details, but suffice to say that I wanted to hug and kiss the LC who managed to get me a Medela Freestyle breast pump from our insurer as a fully covered benefit the LAST DAY that they offered it, which coincided with the day I said, “Screw this, I’m jumping on the pump.” {Also side note: Ladies, health care reform is brilliant and some pumps are now going to be fully covered benefits. If you’ve ever pumped or plan to, VOTE OBAMA this November. #thatisall}

I leaned on the spreadsheets I had from dd’s infancy and just made a copy for ds, tracking his feedings and (Oh Dear Lord) comparing his intake to hers. He got significantly more milk than she did, although I did have to supplement with him anyway. But he had whole days where he got nothing but milk. It’s amazing. It’s victory. It’s probably completely incomprehensible that this was a BIG DEAL to me if you never had an issue with feedings yourself.

And this all does have a relationship to the Atlantic article – which talked about how parents are turning to technology to do pretty much what I did, only they’re going quite a bit farther. The parents interviewed for the article are turning to mobile and tablet apps to do their tracking (“Back in my day,” she wheezed, “We used EXCEL and we made those formulas BY HAND! GET OFF MY LAWN!“).

I have no issue with them doing this, but when they get to the point where folks like Belkin are going to enable – nay, encourage – parents who own their tech to share their results with each other so that you can compare and contrast your infant with some other random infant, that’s where I bristle. In my mind, checking the kiddos up the street for “what’s normal” isn’t always your best bet, since that’s a sample that’s often less than statistically significant. Really, if you want to know “what’s normal”, check with your pediatrician. They know this stuff. They went to school for this stuff. They can talk you down off the ledge about how some kids will be 99th percentile because – and I know this is a hard concept to grasp – when you have a scale, SOMEBODY is gonna be at the top of it and SOMEBODY ELSE will be at the bottom of it. That’s why it’s a range. Or a scale. Else they’d change the scale.

What worries me about this is that, instead of enabling parents to do the tracking that makes them feel more secure by having knowledge at their fingertips, it will actually encourage them to worry more, to get even more irrational by going all Dr. Google on their infants about what’s normal and what’s not normal for a 4-week-old baby.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but it seems to me that data collection and productivity apps are cool, and things that encourage panic and contextually-insensitive faux diagnoses are uncool.

Maybe I should just get back to Angry Birds Space; I was a LOT less cranky then.

One thought on “Data collection and your baby

  1. Three years later and we are still a slave to the spreadsheet! Wish I was techy enough to make an app for it all and get purchased by facebook. ;p

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