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The actual apps that every new parent needs

Ditch the baby apps. These are the tools that'll keep you going.

By Jessica Sillers · May 5, 2022
Hero image with a woman holding a sleeping baby while looking at a phone

Baby showers are a great way for friends and family to help you get some of the stuff you'll need for a new baby. While I may not be able to hand you a pack of burp cloths through a screen, as a third-time mom, I can offer something that'll help make new parenthood a little less hectic: app recommendations.

These aren't baby apps—I've tried those, and the focus on diapers and feedings felt more like extra pressure than relief. The apps I'm suggesting here integrate with the rest of your life to lighten your mental load and make you feel functional as a person as well as a parent.

Time tracker

So many words of wisdom about babies have to do with time: "don't blink," "cherish every moment," "the days are long, but the years are short." Some days, I'm just asking, "Where did the time go?"

You don't need to cherish every moment to prove you love your baby—in fact, it's nearly impossible. But knowing where your time is going can help you understand how to balance it all. Getting a sense of how much of your day is spent on childcare, work, errands, and other activities can help you plan more effectively and even (gasp!) carve out time for yourself.

I'm a fan of Toggl: I use it to balance caring for an infant and getting back to work—and it comes in handy for pediatrician appointments too.

Jessica's breastfeeding project in Toggl

Take your pick: The best time tracking apps


If you're not using a digital calendar, now's the time. I live in Gmail and Google Docs, so Google Calendar is a natural fit for running my schedule. If you have a partner, make sure you pick an app that allows for calendar sharing, so you can both update your schedules in real time. 

Here are some tips to up your calendar game when the baby arrives. They won't all be applicable to everyone, but hopefully they spark some ideas:

  • As soon as your baby is born—or even before—add the deadline for adding your little one to health insurance (some providers only give you 30 days after the birth).

  • Note when you'll get the baby's birth certificate and SSN, so you can check in if they haven't arrived yet.

  • Add deadlines for tasks like submitting daycare forms.

  • Add a six-month reminder to open a savings account.

  • Color-code to find what you need more easily: appointments in one color, deadlines in another.

  • Think ahead to the holidays. Will you need an infant pumpkin costume? Plane tickets for Thanksgiving? Give yourself a nudge to plan ahead of time.

  • Don't forget long-term stuff. Dentist visits are supposed to start at their first birthday. Kids need new passports every five years. Things like that—Future You will be grateful for the assist. 

Calendars are, of course, important for the responsible stuff, but don't underestimate how they can help remind you of happy milestones too. Example: create a recurring event to take the monthly baby photo (it's cheesy, yes, but honestly so fun to see how they grow).

Take your pick: The best calendar apps

To-do list

You're already going to lose some sleep with a baby in the house—the last thing you need is to lose more because your mind is racing. A to-do list lets you brain dump the jumble of "mail birth announcements, get oil change, call gutter cleaner, buy paper towels, clean out fridge" and the thousand other things on your list.

The best to-do list is the one you'll actually stick with. Besides to-do list staples like Todoist or Remember The Milk, some of my mom friends also enjoy niche task apps, like Toss for clutter control at home.

Take your pick: The best to-do list apps


Sometimes a simple notes app is a lifesaver to catch the stuff you need to figure out later. Keep a running list of questions for the pediatrician (eye goop, tummy time, teething). As your baby grows, it can be fun to write down the new words they learn or cute things you want to remember for the baby book (the way she fist-pumped when she tried sweet potatoes for the first time).

A peek into my own notes app shows I'm keeping lists on:

  • Books to read (I have four lists, actually, sorted by genre)

  • Outlines and snippets of a novel I'm writing

  • Cheap rewards I enjoy when I need a pick-me-up

  • No-cook dinners

  • Freezer meals

  • The Sunday Success System a Pinterest mom swears by

  • The rules to the drinking game my husband and I invented for our favorite Food Network show

Some parents even take the art of note-taking to new levels. I'm part of a writing group with other parents, and several moms mentioned using their notes app and swipe-to-text to write articles one-handed while the baby napped or fed.

Take your pick: The best note-taking apps


One benefit of working from home is that I get to spend a lot of time with my baby. But as much as I love snuggling my daughter, sometimes I need to get adult stuff done.

If you don't have the next-level coordination of feeding a baby one-handed and typing with the other, a good speech-to-text app can be a solution to combine adult projects and childcare. Whether you're outlining a meeting agenda, adding things to your grocery list, or composing an email to a friend, it lets you snuggle with a sleeping baby while still getting things done. (But also, take some time to just snuggle.)

Jessica's baby on her lap at her desk
A real-life look at a typical day working with a 5-month-old.

Parents in my group recommended Otter and Google Keep for voice-to-text, but your phone will also have a built-in option if that's easiest.

Take your pick: The best speech-to-text apps


Birth is often a grueling process, whether you spend hours pushing or undergo the major surgery of a C-section (I've done both). For me, fitness wasn't about getting my body back aesthetically—even taking a flight of stairs was tough after giving birth. I wanted to build back strength and healthy function.

Runkeeper is by far my favorite fitness app. I like the smiley-face spectrum to measure how I feel about a workout, not just how far or fast I can go. The guided "My First 5K" program offered a supportive, encouraging voice at a time when I needed it the most. 

And fitness apps aren't only for people who give birth (my husband also tracks his exercise as a way to tend to mental and physical health). All parents need time to take care of themselves, whether or not they're going through physical recovery, and a fitness app can really help.

Not ready to move your body after birth? Try meditation instead.

Take your pick: The best meditation apps

File and photo storage

When my first kids were born, I didn't think about a shared folder for baby files and photos, and I wish I had. Case in point: we just finished my second child's baby album—days before her third birthday.

A shared folder on Google Drive or an album on Google Photos would have made preparing the baby book way less overwhelming. (Here's how to decide between Drive and Photos.) Cloud storage can also be a good digital home for important medical documents, scanned copies of birth certificates, and other documents you'll need quick access to.

Start by creating a folder with your child's name. Then create subfolders to find what you need quickly. Some examples:

  • Photos (0-3 months, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on)

  • To print for grandparents

  • Important documents

  • Medical

If you haven't done it already, let this be your reminder to snap a photo of the list of specialist referrals from your pediatrician, the warranty on the crib, the car seat label with the expiration date, or anything else you don't want to dig for every time you need it.

Take your pick: How to pick a cloud storage app

Making it all work

These are the tools that help keep me on track with a baby, but everyone's life will be different, so think through your schedule, and see if you can spot any other tools that might make things easier on you. And if you're a working parent, you can use automation to keep your work and personal life in sync.

Having a baby upends your world. So besides the obvious essentials for a newborn, consider what you can do to take care of the other new arrival in your home: you, as a new parent. 

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