Singapore-developed app to help parents with caring for newborn babies

iPhone screenshots of the Home But Not Alone app.
iPhone screenshots of the Home But Not Alone app.PHOTO: ITUNES

SINGAPORE - Parents with newborn children will soon be able to refer to a mobile application developed here with input from hospital midwives, clinicians and university researchers.

Called Home But Not Alone, the app - which is planned to be free - seeks to provide information on post-natal care to new parents who are not confident in caring for their newborn on their own and may be stressed out as a result.

Topics the app covers range from breastfeeding to bathing a baby, and are delivered through documents, videos and audio clips.

The app also tries to answer questions by parents and address myths regarding the care of babies.

For instance, the app debunks the belief that you can give babies water to drink at any age. But research has shown that babies should not be given too much water to drink until the age of six months. This is because babies become full if they drink a lot of water and will, as a result, be unwilling to drink milk.

Home But Not Alone was made by a research team from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the National University Hospital, led by Assistant Professor Shefaly Shorey from NUS' Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies.

Parents moving between the maternity ward and the home setting often find it quite stressful, noted Prof Shorey in a media briefing on Monday (June 5).

"New parents, especially, feel overwhelmed by the amount of information given to them by their healthcare providers during their short stay, and some have difficulties retaining the information," she said.

So, the app aims to alleviate some of that stress by delivering post-natal care information to them.

The Home But Not Alone app was piloted over six months from December 2015 to May 2016. A total of 126 people, or 63 couples, received educational support through the app during the trial. These couples were then compared against 62 couples who were in a control group.

Parents in the control group received routine maternity care provided by the hospital.

Parents were surveyed after four weeks of access to the app and a majority of them became more confident in taking care of their babies.

"It's good because you are no longer just looking at Google for information but you have professional information," said Mr Zhang Han, 34, an assistant manager who has a one-year-old baby.

Mr Zhang and his wife used the app when their baby was in her first six months and found useful information on how to swaddle their child as well as what to do with baby rashes.

The research team behind the app is looking to test the app with leading hospitals before releasing it to the public.