NPR Story
1:11 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Data-Driven Parenting: A Mom Who Tracks Everything

Many parents look to parenting books and blogs for tips on raising their children. Amy Webb prefers to collect and analyze her own data to direct her parenting style.

“I measure everything my kid does,” reads her recent column in Slate. “And I track it on spreadsheets. Really — every single thing. Even every poop. And it makes me a better parent.”

Webb is head of the digital strategy agency Webbmedia Group and is author of a book called “Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match.”

“As long as we were doing that, we figured why don’t we track sleep? Why don’t we track attentiveness?”

“I’m somebody who lives and breathes data. I’ve written a book about it — how I used data to find my husband. And, for me, data is a way to comfortably control situations that may not be otherwise controllable,” Webb told Here & Now.

Webb says she was older the first time she got pregnant, and worried about having a healthy pregnancy.

“I had had several miscarriages and I guess I had thought that I couldn’t control the miscarriage rate, but I could control what I was eating and how I was taking care of myself,” Webb said. “So my husband and I — because he was a big part of this too — we were very, very intent on making sure we had a successful pregnancy. And for us, that meant tracking every data point that we could to ensure that we reached the full term.”

Shortly after the birth of her daughter, Webb’s doctor encouraged her and her husband to keep notes on the baby’s feedings.

“We were measuring the liquid that we were putting into her, and then making sure that enough was coming out on the other end. That for us was sort of the gateway drug,” she said.

She and her husband were soon tracking other things as well.

“As long as we were doing that, we figured why don’t we track sleep? Why don’t we track attentiveness? Why don’t we try to figure out what’s stimulating her — you know, how she’s being stimulated — so that we can optimize her early development?”

“There’s a difference between data collection and helicopter parenting.”

The couple analyzed things like whether their daughter was more comfortable with white noise or silence when going back to sleep, and whether she cared for reading board books or just liked the tones of their voices.

After a while, their pediatrician did urge them to stop filling out the spreadsheets, but Webb decided not to listen.

“The reason is because we started to see real, tangible results,” Webb said. “At four months our daughter was sleeping through the night and at six months she was speaking. And she’s three years old now, and as a result I think of what we’ve done — and to be fair, some of it’s genetic — but she just turned three and she can read.”

Webb says she’ll continue to track her daughter’s data as long as it makes sense to do so — probably as long as she’s living at home.

“There’s a difference between data collection and helicopter parenting,” she said. “What we’re really doing is paying really close attention to her, but we’re giving her the freedom to do what she wants within a framework. And that’s kind of how I was raised, just in a less techie way.”

Guest

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