Babies naturally live by and enjoy regular daily routines, with or without our help. For busy and concerned moms (it’s all about “concern” for us mamas isn’t it?) it can be surprisingly difficult to get a sense of our babies’ schedules, even when we’re with them all day long! Trixie Tracker’s online software creates automatic charts of baby’s sleep, feeding, and diapering patterns, with data you enter throughout the day, promising to help “get your baby on a schedule.”
Although I am not of the philosophy that babies should be “scheduled,” I *have* yearned for a better sense of my baby’s patterns so that I can schedule myself around him! Ever the software enthusiast, I decided to give Trixie Tracker a try.
As I mentioned earlier, my personal goals in trying out Trixie Tracker included concern about my baby’s nursing habits, help with EC (infant potty training), as well as looking for a hand in working the family routine more consistently around baby’s schedule.
We’ve had weight issues crop up, with the doctor bringing us in for extra weight checks since Del was about six months old. Inevitably questions come up, like:
- How often are you nursing?
- How active is he?
Would you believe that I wasn’t really sure?
For those of us who like me may be a bit personally challenged in the “awareness of routine” department, Trixie Tracker seems a promising helping hand.
Trixie Tracker: The Pro’s
I recently bought myself a fancy PDA phone gadget (the AT&T Tilt), so I was able to use the mobile version of Trixie Tracker as well as the standard online version. It’s possible to have multiple copies of the software running, so I was easily able to keep it up on the laptop upstairs, the PC downstairs, and my mobile PDA all at the same time, allowing me or hubbie to easily make entries throughout the day.
It was super easy to get set up and there was virtually no learning curve. And guess what? I haven’t received a single spam email from them pushing me to buy! Much appreciated.
Trixie Tracker allows you to record the following:
- Nursing Times. Starting time and ending time as well as which side you started first.
- Feeding Baby Solids. It’s possible to enter in a “pantry” of all the foods you’ve introduced, and mealtimes for each food. Very easy and effortless to then include any number of those foods into a particular meal simple by selecting from a drop down that lets you continue to add foods until you’re done. The idea here is that you can record either all your child’s meals, or simply record the first time a food is introduced — helpful when introducing foods individually to avoid allergic reactions. There is also a notes column where you can add your baby’s reaction to the food. As I was concerned about baby’s intake, I was actually recording my estimate in ounces of how much Del ate at that meal!
- Diaper Tracking. The Trixie Tracker diaper recording interface is pretty smart. It allows you to record diapers as either “regular” (wet) or “poopy,” then presents them as either blue bars or brown bars on a charted timeline. Aw! Blue and brown! So sweet! This is potentially *very* handy for moms working with lactation consultants or doctors in the early weeks of breastfeeding to check and ensure that baby is getting the nutrition he needs through the breast. According to studies presented to us by our midwife, in those early days of beginning breastfeeding, baby’s diapers tell a much more accurate picture of successful breastfeeding intake than weight gain alone.
- In addition to tracking wet and soiled diapers, Trixie Tracker also allows you to track “leaks,” which I frankly am in the dark about. Perhaps our diapering system was so effective that we never had need of this? Perhaps I’m actually *not* the most obsessive compulsive information-seeker in the whole world, so I can’t comprehend the need to scientifically analyze leak patterns in diapering methods? But I can only imagine that this feature has proved useful to mamas out there, or it wouldn’t be included in the software.
- Diaper tracking is also useful for those attempting EC or Elimination Communication, which was one of our goals with Trixie Tracker. More on how to tweak Trixie Tracker for EC purposes below.
- Just look at all those healthy diapering moments in Del’s chart below. A simple glance also reveals a) how healthy his bum is through frequent diapering of wets and good old-fashioned awareness facilitated by cloth diapering (no rashes - evar!), and b) why we are having a hard time getting our EC practice down! Man that kid pees alot!
- Sleep Patterns. Here the Trixie Tracker makes some assumptions that will work well for some mothers, and perhaps a little bit not so well for most Attachment Parents. To enter sleep habits, you must first say that you “put your baby down” and then record when she actually fell asleep. For us, this simply represented an extra step and a bit of a nuisance, as we don’t ever “put Del down” by himself awake! Oh, the horrors! It’s easy to get used to simply clicking again and saying that baby is asleep at the same time as you “put him down,” however, or otherwise tricking the system through various entry types available.
- For moms with babies or toddlers who have successfully learned to fall asleep by themselves (my oldest learned at about age 2) an interesting feature is the ability to record a “failed attempt” — you can record that you put them to bed, but if they don’t fall asleep and instead are up and about, you can still keep the record of the attempt without recording any actual sleep.
- Bottles, Pumping Times, Medicine Tracking and Dosage. Although I did not have need of them, you can also record bottle feeding times, breastmilk pumping, and medicine dosing through Trixie Tracker. A glance at these features shows that they’re well thought out and thorough. In fact, for caregivers of aging parents at home, the medicine tracking feature might be worth a look see!
Overall, I liked the ease of the Trixie Tracker interface, and the charts were clear and well laid out. To access the mobile interface, which is optimized for the iPod but works for any mobile PDA phone, I had to actually scroll down to the bottom of the screen and choose “View Trixie Tracker in Mobile.”
The data tracking is robust and flexible, so it’s possible to track a number of different situations, and tweak the system to suit your purposes. It’s also fairly easy to “skip a day” and go back to it, without disturbing the patterning features.
Speaking of patterning features, the really outstanding aspect of the system is its sleep patterning algorithms, and the fact that you can get a sneak peak at other sample sleep patterns to compare with yours. By clicking on “Sleep”, and then “Prob” you can view the Sleep Probability Distribution chart for both your baby and a random sampling of others’ babies. The more days you enter, hypothetically, the sooner a sleep pattern will arise.
As you watch this unfold, you can also begin to try to work with your baby to fit her sleep rhythms, always keeping in mind that these patterns are mostly for her health and well-being and that she is the leader!
Jeska, a reader of hdb, fellow AP mama and all-around well-informed parent, pointed out that too much scheduling can lead to a sense of frustration when schedules are not met. So just a shout out — remember you’re doing this for your own sanity and that baby knows best, not the clock!
Trixie Tracker - The Con’s
The biggest con we encountered with Trixie Tracker was not a negative due to their design, but a simple negative of the task we attempted in the first place.
It would be easy to make the argument that you can get a sense of baby’s patterns well enough either in your head or on a single sheet of paper designed around your particular goals. Some excellent examples of plans that include instructions for how to track your baby’s patters are:
- Sleep Logs
- The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night (aff). Recommended by William Sears in 2002 and still a bestseller according to Amazon, I picked up a copy after checking it out at the library. I really like Elizabeth Pantley’s attitude toward parenting and the book is extremely well organized. As Little Del’s nap periods have gotten healthier on their own, and his nighttime nursing truly is no bother (and worth it for the nutrition), I never did get to implementing her strategies (yet), but she’s tested it with many moms who say it’s been a lifesaver.
- The Baby Sleep Book (Sears Parenting Library) (aff). Although less well organized in general, this sleep guide by well-revered Sears family contains some easy-to-copy charts and a 10-Day Sleep Log that works well right off the page.
- Elimination Logs
- Breastfeeding Log for the First Week. This chart is similar to the one that our midwife gave us to use, and helps track elimination during early breastfeeding to ensure baby is eating well.
- Infant Potty Training (aff). If you’re trying out elimination communication, sample logs and full instructions for the program are available in this book, alongside convincing stories of potty “training” around the world.
When using the log found in the Baby Sleep Book, for example, it was just much easier to make a quick jot on a piece of paper than the various taps and keystrokes necessary to enter a single entry in Trixie Tracker. And, considering that we were trying to track sleep, breastfeeding, solids *and* elimination, we began to feel that our day was ruled by doing nothing but tracking it!
Of course, the way around this might be to track only one or two aspects of baby’s life at a time, or to begin with one, get a sense of a pattern and then add in whichever related aspect you want to track in tandem. For example, how do baby’s breastfeeding times affect his potty times?
This brings me to the second weakness of Trixie Tracker in my mind, and it’s a big one: The automatic charts, a great strength, will not show any of the data concurrently. For example, you can see a whole week of nursing charts on one page, but you can’t display a page of all of baby’s patterns for one day, lined up, sleep next to nursing next to diapering, etc.. As most parents know, different aspects of baby’s life impact others, so to truly understand what’s happening with baby you need to look at them together. This is something that could be easily added to the Trixie Tracker program to add benefit, and was definitely missed as I tried to examine little Del’s data.
Using Trixie Tracker for EC Logs
Elimination Communication is one of those things that requires a sense of how baby’s patterns interact. Sleep, eating, and elimination impact each other, and if you’re working to “potty train” and go diaper-free early, you need to understand just how that dance plays out. Notwithstanding the weaknesses I mentioned above, It is possible to tweak Trixie Tracker to log your successes, or lack thereof. What I did, was use the “leak” and “no leak” setting for something entirely different: “leak” meant in diaper, and “no leak” meant on the potty! Ta-da!
I’m sure that veteran EC’ers would probably say that a complicated logging system is overkill, and true success comes through observation and communication, not charts. But if you’re getting started and trying to get a sense of things, or if you find that personally a software charting system really clicks for you, I wanted to offer up the idea.
My Final Verdict on Logging Baby Patterns
Ultimately I chose not to subscribe to the Trixie Tracker service once the generous two-week trial period expired. In fact I was so overwhelmed by the data entry that I stopped after the first five days! But I did garner some valuable data, so I do feel that it’s worth a try for moms serious about observing schedules.
Whether it’s easier to log baby’s sleep and feeding patterns on paper or on a screen probably comes down simply to style.
- Trixie Tracker’s charts are certainly impressive and very easy to read, and if you want a no-brainer for sleep scheduling it seems a good bet.
- On the other hand, if you like the flexibility and speed of a quick jot on paper, and you like to organically work things out in your head, paper is probably fine for you.
For myself, I garnered the information I needed to get a sense of what was going on. Most importantly, I realized that Del is a very active baby, with short naps and a short night’s sleep compared with other babies his age. I also realized that he is still nursing regularly, but his nursing periods are relatively short.
I’m just listening for his little swallows, trying so hard to remember to drink more water (my weakness), speaking with breastfeeding experts for reassurance, feeding solids three times daily and crossing my fingers waiting for our next weight check. Meanwhile Del’s motor skill and social development are coming along fabulously, the most important part!
Trixie Tracker helped me to get a sense of rhythm going for Del’s naps, and lately we have a pretty good nap, potty, eat, potty cycle going. Now it’s simply a matter of keeping that awareness of time and patterns going in my head. If nothing else Trixie Tracker got me *seeing* what was happening, and awareness is always the first step.
Happiness and light,