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Five tech tools for new parents

The Web Albums app for iPad and iPhone lets you upload batches of photos at the same time.
The Web Albums app for iPad and iPhone lets you upload batches of photos at the same time.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LaborMate iPhone app keeps track of mom's contractions
  • Apple's iPad is easy to use with one hand while rocking a baby to sleep
  • Amazon's Subscribe & Save service helps keep the cost of diapers down

(CNN) -- When my wife woke me up before dawn about three months ago to tell me she was having contractions, one of the first things I did was grab my iPhone from the nightstand.

No, I wasn't ignoring my wife to check my e-mail or send a tweet. I picked up my smartphone so I could use a 99-cent app to track the duration and frequency of those contractions.

You might think that using apps and gadgets right before and after your child is born will take away from this life-changing experience. But for my wife and me, having the right tech tools enhanced the experience and made us feel more connected to our out-of-town friends and family.

Here are five tech tools that have come in handy for this new dad.

LaborMate iPhone app (99 cents)

Each time my wife signaled that a contraction was starting, I tapped the app's start button and when it was over, I hit stop -- generating a report that made it easy to track her progress. I could e-mail that data to our OBGYN, or if I was really bold, share it on Twitter or Facebook.

Using the app provided some order and calmness to what is often a chaotic experience.

The Total Baby iPhone app can keep track of everything your baby does.
The Total Baby iPhone app can keep track of everything your baby does.

Total Baby iPhone app ($4.99)

After our son Jack was born and we settled into the hospital room, nurses started coming in and peppering us with questions: How many times did the baby pee today? When was the last time he ate? Were you able to breastfeed? For how long? Are you sure this is your baby? (kidding).

Once we left the hospital, there were more questions. And they got harder.

At the first pediatrician visit, the doctor wanted daily totals for the number of dirty and wet diapers as well as more details on the frequency and length of breast- or bottle-feeding sessions. What were his height, weight and length at birth? When he left the hospital?

Total Baby makes it easy to keep track of every dirty diaper, bottle, nap and even bath. As a new parent, it's easy to obsess over these early details, and while this app can feed that obsession, it put me at ease to know that all the vital information about my son was only a few taps away.

We also used the app to keep track of upcoming and past doctor's appointments, to write down questions for the doctor and track Jack's growth.

Since I always carry my iPhone with me, I use the app to document milestones like Jack's first bath or the first time he smiled. Each entry automatically records the date and time, and you can add a photo to go with it.

One of the best things about the app is if you download it on multiple iPhones or iPads, you can use your home Wi-Fi network to sync the data. We downloaded it on two iPhones and an iPad, so regardless of which gadget we use to update the app, it only takes a few seconds to sync so we have the latest data on all of our devices.

Apple iPad (starts at $499)

After more than two months as the father of a newborn, I'm now convinced that Steve Jobs had new parents in mind when he designed the iPad 2.

There are many nights where my son won't fall asleep unless he's cradled in the crook of my arm. That leaves me with one free hand -- not enough to flip through a book or use a laptop. The iPad is the perfect size and shape to balance on my lap or chair armrest and manipulate with my free hand.

My iPad has become my mobile command center to entertain and inform myself and to share news and photos of my son with friends and family.

I'll catch up on news and social-networking feeds through apps like CNN, New York Times, Twitter and Flipboard. When I want to watch TV without disturbing the baby, I'll plug in my headphones and use apps such as HBO GO, SlingPlayer, CNN and ABC.

And of course like any new parent, I'll use Google to get answers to burning questions like "Why does my baby have hiccups?" or "When does the umbilical cord fall off?"

The iPad is also great for storing and displaying pictures. When relatives visited, I set the iPad to slideshow mode and propped it upon the living room table to use as a digital picture frame.

To make loading photos onto the iPad easier, I bought the $29 iPad Camera Connection Kit to transfer photos and videos from an SD card and my iPhone. It's easier than dumping photos onto a computer, but you will need two hands.

Web Albums iPhone/iPad app ($1.99)

Like any new parent, I was eager to share photos of our son on Facebook, but I didn't always have my computer handy. There's no official Facebook iPad app (yet), and the iPhone app only lets you upload one photo at a time.

The Web Albums app for iPhone and iPad lets me upload batches of photos to Facebook at the same time and create and easily manage my Facebook photo albums.

The app also let me upload multiple photos and manage albums on Google's Picasa service. It even saves photos for offline viewing and the app features a nice slideshow function.

Amazon has a free but unfortunately named Amazon Mom club that offers great discounts.
Amazon has a free but unfortunately named Amazon Mom club that offers great discounts.

Amazon Mom & Subscribe & Save

We heard lots of opinions on the best place to buy diapers and other baby stuff. We joined Amazon's free but unfortunately named Amazon Mom club (the account is in my name) to get discounts on lots of stuff.

For diapers and wipes, we signed up for Amazon's subscription service called "Subscribe & Save." The service delivers items to your door at set intervals of your choosing. You can cancel at anytime or change the type of diapers or wipes.

For instance, with the Amazon Mom discount, a shipment of 234 Pampers diapers costs about $31, or 13 cents a diaper. That's about $12 less than Target.com.

What are your favorite apps and tech tools for new parents? Post a comment and let us know.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Etan Horowitz.

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