Thursday, April 21, 2011


I am a sucker for data, dangerously so. I get a strange pleasure from collecting information (and I waste too much time doing it) and seeing it presented in concise, graphic summaries.

I also waste too much time collecting information that might some day be useful. So I’m suspicious of when people tell me to track things for my infant. It drove me crazy when the nurses at the hospital would ask me when I last fed Willow and for how many minutes on each side. I don’t know! I’m barely conscious – you expect me to keep count? I feed her when she’s hungry! The diaper count charts they gave us to fill in went in the garbage. Beyond the very early indications of whether or not the baby’s system is functioning, why in the world should we care how many pees and poops she has?

There is also the danger of too much information. Our pediatrician tried to get us to use formula due to insufficient poopy diapers. I know several people who have stopped breastfeeding because they couldn’t be in control of how many ounces their baby was getting per day.

So when someone gushed about Trixie Tracker on an online forum I belong to, I thought that was something I didn’t want to get sucked into.

Then Mark and I watched the Sleepeasy Solution and decided we want to wean, or at least reduce the number of nighttime feedings. But in order to do that, we should have a good idea of when the feedings are taking place, so I can choose the best times for her advance feedings. I want to make sure she’s not truly waking up hungry and I’ll feel more confident about that if I base our plan on data.

Also, it is nice to see whether or not this intervention results in more sleep. Whether or not she continues to nurse a similar amount. And if she transfers her nursing to the day instead of the night. All of this is easier to see with data.

So perhaps this could be useful for a few weeks while we attempt to make these changes.

But then I think about my return to work just over two months from now. It would be nice to see a pattern of when the nursing happens, so that I can try to organize my schedule to be home for the most important feeds. Again, a chart does wonders.

It’s also cool to be able to compare your charts with other user’s children of similar ages. Is my child an outlier or not? Am I more sleep deprived than the average parent of a four-month old? Of course, I can’t count on the fact that every other user is entering data correctly. Nor is a Trixie Tracker user a representative sample (probably overinvolved, obsessive parents are overrepresented). But it’s still nice to have something to compare our situation with, as it can feel kind of isolating getting up every hour or so in the middle of the night and wondering if anyone else is going through this.

You also find out random, but interesting facts, such as I spend 200-236 minutes per 24 hours nursing Willow (that’s where all my time went), or that she spends 10.5 hours per day awake. I can see graphically that she is a short, but frequent eater, with feedings ranging from 8-20 minutes, but occurring 10-12 times per day. Could I live without this information? Yes. But it gives me a little more clarity on where we are and how I spend my time in what seems like a daze of feedings, changes, and naps.

So I’m now on day 2 of using Trixie Tracker and will probably be hooked for a couple of months.  Only the first two weeks are free, unless you want to track only diapers (why, I have no idea).  There is all kinds of stuff you could track. You could go crazy and spend your life tracking every single diaper, bottle, nap, solid food, nursing, and medication your child ever experiences.  You can waste a lot of time getting averages, scatterplots, and probabilities.   Or you could have a need to track certain things (a child with difficulty accepting solids, sleep problems, a burdensome medication schedule) and tracking these particular items might make things more clear, or might reveal patterns that can illuminate what is and isn’t working. 

Yes, a pen and paper works. But for me, having the data tranformed into charts and graphs makes things more clear. And being the data geek I am, this clarity gives me an unwarranted sense of having more control. 

Do you collect data on your child’s schedule? If so, how and why?

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