Children's sleep problems are among the big headaches of parenthood. So I was glad when I crossed paths two weeks ago with Ben MacNeill, a Web designer in Raleigh, N.C., who offers parents one way of figuring out how to get a child on a sane sleep schedule: the Trixie Tracker. This online database lets you record your child's sleep patterns, and then it charts them using nifty graphs, a dashboard, and a daily sleep summary. "Once you find out what your baby's natural rhythms are, you aren't going to fight those rhythms," says MacNeill, a confessed data geek. "It augments your parental instincts." Not to mention helping to compensate for a parent's sleep-deprivation-induced memory loss.
Since 2006, when MacNeill launched the Trixie Tracker, 10,000 people have registered with the website to track their children's sleep cycles, diaper use, food intake, and medication intake. That last one really appeals to me. I resort to scribbling "1 tsp Motrin 2 a.m." on a scrap of paper when I give my child medicine in the middle of the night, hoping that my husband will see it if he gets up an hour later. Storing that information in a central place would make a lot more sense, particularly for kids who are taking multiple medications. And the record can be printed out and brought to the pediatrician's office.
You can try out the Trixie Tracker, named after MacNeill's 6-year-old daughter, with a free two-week trial or sign up for six months for $24.95. Some parents ask their child-care providers to use the tool, creating a daily record of the child's activities.
MacNeill is working on a mobile version of the tracker, but you don't have to wait until his comes out later this year. IPhone apps designed to record children's activities are already available, including BabyBrain ($4.99), which is designed to help parents of newborn twins or other multiples keep track of who ate when. It's hard not to like an app that includes an "Add Boob" function to track nursing. Also check out Total Baby ($4.99) by Andesigned, a company that also makes apps for planning a wedding and decorating a (virtual) Christmas tree.
The next trend in life-tracking tools for parents should be a tool that lets parents share and compare data. There are more and more such "crowd-sourced" websites for adults' health information, including 23andMe, which allows customers who have purchased gene scans from the company to share the info with friends and family, and PatientsLikeMe, focused on disease management. What would be your ideal crowd-sourced parenting tool?