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I know it sounds crazy, but as a new parent, watching my kid learn to perform basic biological tasks is currently my favorite pastime. So when I first brought home the Hatch Baby Smart Changing Pad, which tracks your baby's weight, waste, feeding and sleeping, I was so excited I barely registered the price: $250 (about £174 or AU$344).
After a week of using Hatch Baby, though, two big drawbacks made me reconsider my initial impression. First off, tracking all that data is fun for about two hours. Then your kid starts fussing during a movie, and you have a choice: pause the movie to go change him on the pad, or just change him in your lap while you keep watching. A brand-new parent might pause the movie, but even two months in, I'm not letting a dirty diaper interrupt a brilliant Kevin Spacey monologue.
The second problem is this: once you use the device awhile, it starts to become clear that most of the smarts are on the free app. All you really get out of the $250 Changing Pad is a scale for tracking weight, and a comfy pad for changing your baby. And when it comes down to it, those simply aren't worth the price.
The Hatch Baby Changing Pad itself is a pretty simple device. Essentially, it's a comfortable changing pad for your baby. The two features that make it "smart" are a scale built into the bottom, and a small touchscreen on the front. Using these features, you can weigh your baby to track his or her growth. You can then send that information (or any other manually recorded eating or waste data) to the Hatch Baby app via the touchscreen.
The app is where the real smarts come in. From your iOS or Android device you can track your baby's patterns, and display them in helpful graphics. For instance, once you've been tracking your child for some time, you can check their daily schedule to get an idea of when might be a good time to run out to the store with them, or when you might want to be ready with a bottle, some wipes and a diaper. Ostensibly, this data will help you get a handle on what can be a crazy time in life.
The problem, as I mentioned before, comes with the actual data collection. It's not only during movies -- when you're waking up in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to do is pull out your phone to record the number of ounces your kid just ate. You can go back to add entries, but I quickly ran into the problem of partial or estimated data. That meant Hatch Baby didn't demystify my son's schedule any more than just living with him.
This problem isn't so much an issue of usability. Hatch Baby makes it about as easy to record all the information as possible. For many parents -- especially those with a premature baby or a child with other health concerns -- I understand the appeal. But for me, I just realized it wasn't worth the hassle.
The second problem I mentioned was the difference between the app and the device. The Hatch Baby app is well designed and easy to use. The good news for users is, you can download it for free. The bad news for Hatch Baby is, that will probably be enough for users.
Sure a scale is nice, but without other features like a heating pad or diaper dispenser to recommend the Changing Pad, the $250 price tag feels just a little outrageous.
The Hatch Baby app is fantastic. If you're really committed to the task of collecting all the information about your growing child, then you'll be rewarded with cool graphics and helpful data collection. And even if you stop using it after a week like I did, who cares? It's free.
The Hatch Baby Smart Changing Pad isn't so fantastic. It's a durable and well-designed changing pad -- comfortable for your kid and reliable in its smart features. It just can't justify the $250 price for anyone but parents with superlative commitment to empirically observing their child over time.
Think you're one of those parents? Take the test: download the app, use it for a week, and if you still think the added features of the device are worth the price, then buy it -- you'll love the Hatch Baby Smart Changing Pad.