Baby monitors are a wonderful parental aid … or are they?
Dr. David King, a pediatric researcher at the University of Sheffield in England, recently wrote about his baby monitor studies in BMJ (the British Medical Journal). They indicate that the information provided by newer, high-tech devices isn’t a reliable signal of danger, and that they don’t provide reliable information about your child.
"It's not a medical device; it's not registered as a medical device. It's just for fun, really," King said in an interview for NPR. "But if you look at the marketing so far, I don't think that's the message that comes across."
His point is that companies are very good at capitalizing on parents’ concern over their newborn’s health. High-tech monitors are developed less to impart useful medical information than to address parental anxiety by monitoring a baby's vital signs and sending them to a smartphone.
When King first heard a discussion about baby vital sign monitors on the radio, he told NPR, "I suspected there wasn't much evidence behind it, because I knew cardiovascular monitoring wasn't recommended in SIDS."
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death, is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of an otherwise healthy baby younger than 1 year.
Experiments in the 1980s and 1990s using monitors as an intervention for SIDS failed to reduce its incidence in healthy infants. They’re no longer recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups. "Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS," the academy says, because "there is no evidence that use of such devices decreases the incidence of SIDS."
The newer monitors include the Mimo, which costs about $200. It monitors a baby's breathing, body position, sleep activity and skin temperature via a sensor attached to a special onesie. But if you read its website terms of service carefully, you find this disclaimer:
The Mimo baby monitor system is not a medical device, is neither regulated nor approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is not designed to detect or prevent causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Mimo baby monitor system is intended to help you monitor your baby and is not to be used as a substitute for parenting or other adult supervision. Use of the services and any content is entirely at your own risk.
Promotional language for similar monitors suggests that tracking a healthy baby like Russia tracks spies is what all good parents do.
But some parents won’t know how to use data on an infant's heart rate and blood oxygen level as a way of ensuring a kid’s safety. What’s the point of information if you can’t apply it?
And, according to NPR, a big problem with SIDS monitors is false alarms, which serves only to panic parents.
As we’ve blogged, to reduce the risk of SIDS, put babies to sleep on their backs, keep soft bedding out of the crib and don’t let them sleep on couches.