(c) Bunter Kreis am Universitätsklinikum Essen
NICU goes mobile
Within the last three years a number of mobile applications, so-called apps targeted at parents of preterm infants were released. The core of nearly all of them is the tracking of the baby’s development in combination with a digital diary. There, parents can add data such as length, head size, weight, drinking behaviour, milestones, and pictures. But most of the apps offer more functions. These vary from an appointment reminder, checklists for parents for preparing a doctor’s consultation to a medication reminder with guidance for parents how to use it.
Some apps provide sharing collected data about the child with healthcare professionals. This is said to improve the medical care since the doctor receives detailed and individual information about the small patient.
Mobile app for siblings are the latest development. They help children to understand and deal with the situation when their brother or sister is born preterm.
Mobile apps for parents of preterm infants (in alphabetic order):
Baby + App
The Baby + App provides parents with relevant and reliable information and features a wide range of trackers, such as height, weight, sleeping and feeding patterns. The app was developed in close collaboration with healthcare professionals and parents. Parents can track their baby’s growth and receive advice specific to the baby’s developmental stage.
The Baby + App features everything from a milk, crying and expression tracker, informative articles, guides and lullabies. It is the only app where users can track multiple babies, siblings for instance, at the same time.
The Baby + App is available for iOS and Android for free. At the moment, it features the following languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian and Italian. Other languages will follow soon. A short introduction video is available here.
The Frühstart-App was developed by the Clinic for Pediatrics I at the Essen University Hospital in close collaboration with the local parent counselling association Frühstart/Bunter Kreis e.V. and the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences. Prof. Dr. med. Ursula Felderhoff-Müser, Director at the Clinic for Pediatrics I, who initiated this app and took the needs and wishes of parents into account at an early stage of its realisation:
„In our continuous work with parents of preterm infants, we have recognised that they often wish more support in their daily routine. That ranges from the management of medical appointments to the tracking of milestones and the possibility to share important data with the doctor. With our app, we want to give parents more self-confidence for their care-giving after discharge.”
The app consists of four columns that allow to track relevant health data such as weight and head size, to manage medical appointments, and to set a reminder for medication. In addition, there are checklists for parents with questions for the doctor.
The app is for free and available for Android and iOS. Supported language is German.
View more (Vitabook; in German)
The MyPreemie app by the US based parent organisation Graham’s Foundation was launched in 2013 and is one of the pioneers of apps for preterm parents. It comes with a customisable start page and includes a diary and a tracker for various health data. Special features include customisable to-do lists, a to-ask list for managing daily care and medical appointments. The design is hand-drawn to be comforting to parents. With the implemented pocket guide to preemies the app provides useful information on relevant health, developmental, and parenting issues relevant to preterm birth including equipment in the NICU, medical procedures, and on specialists parents will be meeting there. Every page of the MyPreemie app can be shared by email or Facebook to keep family and friends updated.
The app is for free and available for iOS and Android. Current supported languages are English and Spanish, with more languages coming in the future.
View more (Graham’s Foundation)
The German Foundation For Sick Newborns (DEUTSCHE STIFTUNG KRANKE NEUGEBORENE – DSKN) launched the neoApp in January 2016. Based on a paper-pencil-diary for parents of preterm infants that has been developed and tested at the University Hospital Dresden, parents have the chance to feed the neoApp with their feelings and thoughts as well as with relevant data about their child’s development. With the filled-in information the app draws graphics, e.g. of the baby’s growth. Participating hospitals can add contact details and talking-times to provide parents with this useful information. Parents can provide the paediatrician with the collected data about their child that may improve the outcome of the consultation.
One out of seven goals of the DSKN is: Strong parents – strong kids. Therefore, the DSKN supports the development of effective interventions for parental empowerment.
“Parents of preterm or ill born babies face a variety of challenges after the birth of their child. Their thoughts revolve around the child’s recovery, possible disabilities and their consequences, and often even for survival. It is precisely these parents who need help in coping with this exceptional situation, since their dealings with themselves and their child determine the child’s further development. A paper-and-pencil diary has been shown to help parents in that critical situation. By developing the neoApp the DSKN helped to make that evaluated tool of parental empowerment available to all interested parents”, says Prof. Dr. Mario Rüdiger, chairman of DSKN.
The neoApp is available in German for iOS and Android and can be tested for free.
View more (akili:innovation; in German)
My NICU Baby app
The My NICU Baby app by March of Dimes is particularly aimed at parents of preterm and ill born babies. Educational videos cover several parenting topics. The app also helps parents to understand the medical terms they hear in the hospital. A tracking function of weight, feeding, and breast pumping is implemented as well. Users can customise the app by taking photos and adding filters. In addition, parents can connect in the March of Dimes online community for exchanging experiences with each other. Customisable to-do and check-lists help to manage the NICU stay and to prepare for discharge from hospital.
My NICU Baby is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.
View more (March of Dimes)
My premature baby
UK’s charity organisation Tommy’s released their app My premature baby for iOS and Android. According to Tommy’s it is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. My premature baby features a development diary that allows parents to record thoughts, milestones and other events, and a feeding log. The app offers tracking the baby’s weight on a growth chart. Beyond this, the app contains all the information from the Tommy’s book Having a premature baby that was first published in 2011.
A special feature is a networking-tool helping to find parents going though similar experiences on a map.
View more (Tommy’s Prematurity app)
Peekaboo ICU PREEMIE app
The US based website Peek a boo ICU is focussed on babies’ development and developmentally supportive care in the NICU and is committed to family-centred care approaches. Their ICU PREEMIE app was designed to support parents to find their way through the NICU journey until they are back at home for the first time. Besides the customisable sections to track e.g. the daily weight or length and to record individual milestones such as the first Kangaroo Care, the app wants to educate parents about the baby’s development and especially nutrition. The feeding guide includes a pumping log to record and keep track of milk production. In the Navigating the NICU section, parents get to know the neonatal intensive care unit, the staff and relevant neonatal terms.
The app is for free and designed for iOS. Supported language is English.
View more (Peekaboo ICU)
Life’s Little Treasures Foundation
The aims of Australia’s charity organisation Life’s Little Treasures Foundation are to provide tailor made information and support for families of preterm and ill born children. The foundation has released two mobile apps for parents. The free NICU Words is a glossary describing the terms parents probably will hear when their baby is admitted to the NICU.
The Premature Baby Journal enables parents to record the baby’s birth details and to track weight, feeding and temperature in graphs. The user can upload photos, track milestones, and in the journal section is able to record their feelings and those of all family members. Special features of this app are a converter from actual age into corrected age (weeks) and the possibility to track data in the imperial (pounds and inches) or metric system (kilograms and centimetres). That makes the app usable nearly all over the world. In the comprehensive feeding section, mothers can record among other things time, amount, and total number of feeds. They can also set an alert when the next express of milk is due.
Both apps are available for iOS and Android. Supported language is English. NICU Words is for free, whereas the iOS version of Premature Baby Journal costs about five US Dollars and the Android version is available for about two Euros.
View more (Life’s Little Treasures Foundation)
The Baby Check App – The Lullaby Trust
The Baby Check App by The Lullaby Trust and Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation features 19 simple multiple choice questions that parents can answer if their baby is showing signs of illness. Each question tests for a different symptom and when completed, a score of either 0 (normal) or between 2 and 15 (if it is abnormal) is calculated that tells parents or carers how ill their baby is. The app adds up the scores as one proceeds and then lets parents know whether their baby needs to see a doctor or health professional.
The app can be downloaded for free from Google Play and the App Store.
View more (The Lullaby Trust)
Mobile app for siblings
The German Federal Association “Das frühgeborene Kind” e. V. recently launched the app Hallo Frühchen (hello preemie) addressed to siblings of preterm babies. Hallo Frühchen tells the story of Amelie, a young girl attending kindergarten, whose brother is born preterm. Amelie is accompanied by her stuffed tiger Tassilo.
Realised in comic-style, Tassilo the tiger explains the complexity of preterm birth in a language to suit children. In a detailed and animated knowledge section, Tassilo answers questions frequently asked by children in pre-school age. The app aims at helping young children to understand the situation when they get a brother or sister born preterm.
Hallo Frühchen is designed for tablets and can be downloaded for free for devices running with Android and iOS.
View more (Bundesverband “Das frühgeborene Kind” e.V.; in German)
Please note: This list doesn’t represent a recommendation of any of the described apps and may not be complete. If you know further apps you would like to see introduced here, please write an email to email@example.com. Providers promise to take special care about data security and privacy. Nevertheless, please recognise that you enter personal data when using some functions. The apps can be updated without prior notice.
Disclaimer: The information provided by the apps do not replace individual advice given by the baby’s healthcare team. It is meant as a supplement, rather than a substitute for medical advice. In addition, each baby develops differently and some babies may need more complex and longer-term medical care than others. This is the reason why their timing of reaching specific developmental levels may vary.