Before my son was born I was given a lovely baby book full of blank pages waiting to be filled with weights and heights and first words. I had every intention of using it, of filling it with reflections, precious moments and milestones. However, seriously ill with postnatal psychosis, for obvious reasons, it remained empty. My son's hospital-issued blue book was the only record I had of that first year. Or so I thought.
A few weeks ago, the centre manager of the childcare my son attends, handed me a portfolio that somehow, amongst the chaos of those first 12 months, hadn't been passed on to me. It was full of pictures of my son as a baby, entries of his days in the nursery, the foods he liked and didn't and the toys he enjoyed playing with.
Flicking through the pages gave me the chance to discover things about my son that I'd missed while I was so unwell - there and not there, all at once. Given I can't remember much at all of that first year, it was the most wonderful gift to receive.
I often reflect on that time and wonder what I would have done differently had I not been so ill. Would I have taken the traditional approach, filling that baby book with handwritten entries and printed out photographs? Or would I have gone with a more modern option? How do parents, in an increasingly digital world, keep track of their baby's development?
Here are just some of the options available.
Create a Gmail account for your baby when they're born and send regular emails to it, like a digital journal. You can attach photographs, document anecdotes on the day they happened and write longer entries on important dates like birthdays. This option results in a wonderful chronological record of your child's life that they can access when they're older.
Like most things in modern life: yes, there's an app for that. The Tinybeans journal (free to download for iphone and Android) stores pictures, videos and notes, provides an easy way to chart developmental milestones and enables parents to create photo books, also.
New mum, Anna, has just started using the app. "I like how they remind you to upload your 'Tinybeans moment' every day," she says. "The ladies in mothers' group rave about being able to automatically share with grandparents, too."
One line a day
If you're after a more classic baby book option, but still want to keep it simple, Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project, has released an additional volume: The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal for Mothers. A five-year journal, it's the perfect way for busy mums to record something brief about their child every day - no scrapbooking required.
Other mothers are simply choosing social media as a way to record their children's development. Mother of four young boys, Elyce, says, " I write a blog for them, but lately I've just been relying on Instagram as a visual diary for the boys to look through when they're older."
And then, of course, there's Facebook. Most parents naturally turn to this social network after their baby arrives, posting photos, funny anecdotes and important milestones. However, there's also a scrapbook option for a more personal record.
Mum of two, Jac, discovered this function by accident and now uses it regularly. "You tag your child in a photo or post and it goes into their scrapbook," she says. "It's a private album. Every night when my memories come up I tag the boys so eventually I'll have everything on there. And it stays in order of date so I can flick through and see them growing up."
Details on how to create a digital scrapbook can be found here.
If you're an avid user of Facebook and/or Instagram when it comes to documenting your child's life, but would like something in the more traditional format, there's My Social Book. Status updates, entire photo albums, comments from friends and family and wall messages can all be collated in a hardcover book – a permanent keepsake for your little one.