Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Cry Translator

I've just read about the most incredible development - an iPhone app that translates your baby's cries (unsurprisingly it's called the Cry Translator). It claims to recognise the broad meaning of a baby's cry within seconds, letting you know whether your little one is hungry, sleepy, annoyed, stressed or bored.

There was an interesting quote in The Telegraph -
Parenting experts said they feared the technology on the Apple phone could discourage mothers from relying on their instinct and experience.
Siobhan Freegard, of the website, told The Sun: "Learning to interpret cries is part of the bonding process and forms the foundation for good communication."

I absolutely agree with Siobhan Freegard about the importance of learning to interpret your baby's cries, but I'd love the know the original context of her statement. It feels quite negative in this context, but as a stand-alone comment it could equally be in praise of the new product. Siobhan? Care to comment?

In any case, here is my view - not as a "parenting expert", but as a mum with two toddlers and friend to dozens of other mums.

When my little ones entered my world, I didn't instantly understand what they were trying to communicate. Like many mums I know, I tried to follow my instinct but rarely felt I was getting it right.

The first few nights, every time Madeleine cried my maternal instincts and my body told me that I absolutely must feed her (and when I did she stopped crying), but experienced parents and midwives told me that I was absolutely wrong and that she most definitely should not be fed again. I'm not alone in being given "professional" advice that conflicted with what I felt was right, and being made to doubt my own judgement at such a crucial stage. Perhaps because I doubted my judgement, or perhaps because I just didn't have an innate ability to understand my baby's cries, for the first couple of months I felt a little panicky and flustered every time she cried, and found myself floundering around trying everything I could think of. Nappy? No. Burp? No. Lights too bright? No. Hungry? ...

We had a major breakthrough when my friend S handed me her dog-eared copy of The Baby Whisperer. Tracy Hogg has a brilliant crib sheet for deciphering a baby's cries, encouraging mums to stop fussing around trying everything they can think of and instead just observe their baby for a few seconds. Following her crib sheet, I started to listen properly to Madeleine's cries, look at the shape of her tongue (e.g. curled when hungry), and suddenly it all became clear. Almost overnight I was able to very quickly work out whether she was hungry, overstimulated, tired, bored, etc, and as a result there were far fewer tears in our house - from both of us!!

The crib sheet in the Baby Whisperer was put together based on a lifetime of experience with lots of different babies. I don't know what the Baby Whisperer's success rate is, but I know it worked for me and my life was miles better for it.

When the Cry Translator iPhone app was tested, a staggering 96% of the babies stopped crying when their carers followed the translation and suggestions given by the app. Mind you, it was in a controlled environment, but that is still a remarkable success rate.

Personally I think this little app, though pricey, has the potential to transform those first few weeks for any new mum, and even for experienced mums with a new baby and different cry - in the same way that The Baby Whisperer transformed my life. In a way it's just a portable high-tech version of Tracy Hogg's advice, and gives new parents another tool to help them understand their new baby, enjoy more tear-free time with their new little family. After a few days following Tracy Hogg's advice, my interpretations of Madeleine's cries started to get quicker and more accurate. Her crib sheet soon became positive reinforcement for me as a parent - I would think "ah, she must be hungry", then quickly check the list and find that my guess also matched what Tracy suggested, feed her, and feel pretty fantastic about myself and my ability to finally get what my little girl was telling me. After a couple of weeks I felt completely in tune with her. 

My gut feeling is that this new iPhone application may well help new mums and dads build their self-confidence as parents, and trust their instincts just as The Baby Whisperer did for me, and that can only be a good thing.

I'd love to know what other mums and the parenting experts think - just leave your comments below, and please forward this onto your friends.

Just a word about the comments - if you're going to slate it please consider the feelings of mums and dads who may be struggling with a crying baby. Some of the comments on the Sun's article were quite insulting and made me feel a bit, well, sad.

I look forward to reading your comments!

PS - Click here to download the Cry Translator from iTunes (UK) - If you do decide to try it out, please come back to this blog and let me know how you got on!!

P.P.S. - If you've come across this blog because you're looking for support or advice, some good sources outside of your friends and family are big parenting communities like Netmums , and your midwife or health visitor. If you need immediate advice or support, I would recommend calling the Cry-Sis helpline, 08451 228 669. 

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  1. First off, deepest sympathies to those struggling with a crying newborn but when I first heard of this i-phone app, my first instinct was to see it as a blow to new mummy's confidence in trusting her own instincts to look after her baby. I am a big believer in Mummy knowing best and surely this app would make you possibly question your own instincts?
    Interesting post though x

  2. Yup, agree with comment above. Instant "you need stuff to be a good mum. Don't trust yourself" message. That's hardly a good start.
    A hundred thousand years without it. The message to struggling Mums should be support & learning to read their child.

  3. Interesting comments. I guess I am coming at it from a different perspective because the people who should have been offering their support were instead making me doubt my instincts.

    The thing about the Hundred Thousand Years argument is that society and the shape of families have changed drastically. New mums would have been involved in caring for babies in their community and extended family even from a very young age - as you still see in many societies. Most women nowadays have very little exposure to new babies in everyday life.

    My take is this: by the time they were of childbearing age, women would have had so much experience with babies that caring for their own just came more naturally.

    Is it really instinct? Or is it practice?

  4. I see where you are coming from and there is no doubt that families/communities have changed but I do think it's more instinct than practice. But practice does come into play as well - we learn from our baby don't we?

    My first born son was the very first newborn I had ever held and my instincts served me well. I think it's easy for instincts to be overwhelmed by outside influences and lost along the way.

    I just can't help but feel that the app would destroy a new mummy's own confidence in her instincts.

  5. If anyone wants to read more about YummyMummyNo1's side of the Instinct Vs iPhone debate, check out the YummyMummyNo1 blog