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App developed at Riley Hospital for Children helps new parents track babies’ life habits

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – You can download it on your phone right now—an app developed at Riley Hospital for Children lets new parents monitor their baby's crucial life habits.

The app is called NICU Companion. It was originally designed for parents of babies in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), but can be utilized by any new parent. In the NICU, the environment can be terrifying for new parents and lead to an endless number of questions.

"I remember not knowing if I could touch my baby, not knowing if I could put clothes on my baby," Riley NICU Family Support Director Susan Sears said of her triplets who were born prematurely, and ended up in the NICU.

Her past is what inspired Sears to begin developing the app. In it, the app tells parents what to expect in the NICU, and allows them to keep track of their child's daily responses such as a number of feedings, diaper changes, or moments of skin to skin contact. That data archive is crucial for any parent, NICU or not, and can be sent to any doctor with the click of a button.

"It will be good for when we leave, because I'm going to be a nervous wreck for a while when we go home," Christian Cox said of his newborn daughter.

Christian and Allie Thomas had their daughter Evalene in late March.

“We were at Reed hospital for two days, then they noticed she may be having seizures," Cox said, before Thomas added, “Told us she had a neonatal stroke, and she broke her collarbone when she was being born. And, brain bleeds, infection in her blood.”

Evalene was transferred to the NICU at Riley. The pair searched the internet for information and said it only led to them making their own false diagnosis. The app can direct parents to the correct info, as well as what they can expect the hospital to look and sound like. It can give a sense of what is normal, when surrounded in an uncomfortable environment. The app also has personal stories from parents who may have been through a similar issue.

"Familiarity and knowing other people gone through stuff like this, and worse," Cox said.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. Again, it’s not only for NICU babies. New parents can use the app to track their child’s habits and deliver the info to their pediatrician or specialist.

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