Top apps for lending a hand to new parents

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When a baby comes into the picture, new parents have their hands full -- so much so that constantly relying on a smartphone for anything may seem almost laughable. But between the feedings, naps and diaper changes, parents are strategically turning to apps that actually do lend a hand.

A casual poll of smartphone-owning parents by Live Science revealed that when they do use apps, they download ones they feel are important for their baby's health and happiness, as well as their own sanity. Here's a look at baby-health apps that parents may want to check out.

Of all the things that parents worry about, abnormal stool color may be near the top of the list. Certain color stools, such as those that are white, clay-colored or light yellow, could signal the baby has a rare liver disease called biliary atresia, or other problems, according to a color-coded stool guide by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. But to provide worried parents with a professional opinion, this spring the Johns Hopkins center debuted a free app called PoopMD that has color-recognition software, so parents can take a photo of what they're seeing and get feedback right away.

The app allows parents to send the poop photos to their pediatrician, and also prompts parents to check their infant's stool every two weeks between the baby's birth and age 2. However, the app's creators caution that it should be used only for educational purposes, not as a diagnostic tool. Parents who are concerned about their child's health should consult a pediatrician. [7 Baby Myths Debunked]

For checking a broader range of a baby's health, the free WebMD Baby app for Android and Apple devices allows parents to look up numerous symptoms. New parents told Live Science they swear by the easy-to-use tool, saying it instructs them on what to look for when a baby is sick, and helped them decide when to call the doctor.

For example, a high temperature may mean different things for a baby's health, depending on the baby's age. WebMD Baby suggests contacting a doctor for a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher if the child is older than 6 months. For babies ages 3 to 6 months, it's 101 F, and for younger than 3 months, it's 100.4 F. The app urges users who think a baby needs medical attention to call a doctor.

Parents can also use WebMD Baby to track a baby's feeding, sleeping, diaper-changing and growth, which may come in handy for doctor visits.

Another comprehensive tool to chronicle a little one's development is BabyCenter's free My Baby Today for Android, which has a personalized calendar, checklists, suggested activities and advice for parents on how to take care of themselves as well. On the Apple side, the $4.99 Sprout Baby app gets high marks from parents for its tracking tools and reminders.

As for helping baby to sleep, there are powerful white noise machines that work from wherever they sit, but a phone or tablet app can do the same thing on the go. Highly rated white noise apps usually have a free version and a premium one that offers more sounds and controls.

Ipnos Soft's Relax Melodies, available for iPhone and Android devices, lets parents combine sounds to create custom effects like a gentle lullaby and a cat purring. The free Android app Relax and Sleep also has this type of mix and match. TMSOFT's $1.99 White Noise Rainy Day Pro boasts the longest and best quality rain sound loop in Google's Play store. The free SimplyRain app has similar water sounds across multiple operating systems.

To keep your baby entertained while keeping your own health in check, apps can also come to the rescue. The free Baby Soother app for iPhones and iPads blends Fisher-Price and Baby Einstein. It plays music, motions and sounds that soothe fussy children ages 5 and under. Parent reviewers praised the app's relaxing effect, particularly for car rides.

And since babies see smartphones as colorful toys, their inevitable random tapping on the screen can close such apps and inadvertently launch others. While the obvious solution is to keep the device out of reach, that's not always possible. The Live Lock Android app disables the touch screen, keys and home button so videos play uninterrupted. When all else fails, splurge on an indestructible case.

Despite all the tools and info stored in the cloud, the most tech-savvy new parents say it's still important to trust their own judgment in caring for a baby. Smartphones have certainly come a long way, but no app can be a stand-in for that.

Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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