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New App Helps Parents Interpret Their Baby's Cry

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LOS ANGELES (CBSMiami) - Hungry, irritated, poop in the diaper.

A new app could help parents interpret why their baby is upset based on how they cry.

The free app "ChatterBaby," which analyzes the acoustic features of a baby's cry, was released last month.

Does it work?

Fatema Bell and her husband put it to the test. Like many new parents, whenever her five-month-old son Johnathan began to cry, Bell wondered why.

"It's scary, you're responsible for someone's life," she said.

Bell said the "ChatterBaby" app was able to help her and her husband Johnathan identify what's bothering their son more quickly. They record his cries for five seconds and the app tells them the likelihood that he is fussy, hungry or in pain.

"For me, that just goes down a mental checklist of, you know, what do I need to do," she said.

The app was developed by UCLA statistician Ariana Anderson, a mother of four. She originally designed the technology to help deaf parents better understand why their baby was upset but soon realized it could be a helpful tool for all new parents.

To build a database, Anderson and her team uploaded two thousand audio samples of infant cries.

She used cries recorded during ear piercings and vaccinations to distinguish pain cries. To create a baseline for the other two categories, a panel of moms had to unanimously agree on whether the cry was either hungry or fussy.

"We're taking a five-second audio sample, we look at over 6,000 different acoustic features and we try to see which features associated with each state using artificial intelligence," said Anderson.

Anderson's team continues to collect data and hopes to make the app more accurate by asking parents to get specific about what certain sounds mean.

"I think that all of the apps and technology that new parents are using can be helpful but needs to be taken with a grain of salt," said pediatrician Dr. Eric Ball.

Ball pointed out that evaluating cries can never be an exact science.

"I do worry that some parents will get bogged down in big data and turn their parenting into basically a spreadsheet which I think will take away from the love and caring that parents are supposed to be providing to their children," he said.

"We're trying to make it in a way that parents have to interpret the results, not that we give them a yes or no answer," said Anderson.

Johnathan Bell said the app is helping him. He added while he may not rely on it 100 percent, he does use it to try to stop his son's tears.


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