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5 Reasons Why This Pediatrician Wouldn’t Buy Respiratory Monitor For His Baby

New study questions reactions to false alarms from baby monitors

Should you buy a newborn baby respiratory monitor?

Will it give you peace of mind? Will it prevent a bad outcome in your child?The answer is probably…no and no.Newborn technology innovation is driven largely by cashing in on the fears of parents. SIDS is the No. 1 fear of newborn parents. Of course, there will be those that try to capitalize on that fear.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against the use of these baby monitors in healthy infants, mainly because there’s no proof they work. A new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has come out strongly against buying “smart” clothing with vital signs monitors. These monitors attach to your baby’s socks, onesies, buttons … and continually check vital signs like breathing, pulse rate and oxygen levels. If there are any abnormalities, you are notified on your smart phone. The problem is the amount of false alarms that freak out parents.

I know I would be freaked out if we were still in the baby stage. My wife and I no longer have babies at our house (Hallelulah!), and fortunately we got out of that stage before this stuff became popular. We went with the video baby monitor with sound and the ability to talk back. But, even if they were available, I wouldn’t have owned a respiratory monitor. Here’s why:

  1. They won’t prevent SIDS. There has never been a study showing that a monitor, even a fancy hospital issued monitor prevents SIDS or any other negative health outcome. Particularly not in healthy babies.
  2. It “medicalizes” sleep and safety. Ok, so I made that word up. But sleep is a normal process. Safety is something you do your best at but you can’t control for everything.
  3. It would tempt me to do unsafe things with my baby thinking I had another layer of protection. Well, maybe not me because I’m the back-to-sleep-nothing-soft-even-crib-bumpers-and-stuffed-animals guy. But, someone might be tempted to.
  4. I know what prevents SIDS. And it’s not a monitor. (See No. 3 above.)
  5. I would be a nervous wreck. And not just me, but for my wife too. Every false alarm would literally lead to a whole night of missed sleep. I was crazy enough with the video monitor. Did you see that? Did she just move her leg a little?

So for me, it’s not time to be buying respiratory or other fancy monitors for your newborn. If you want to, whatevs. Go for it, but just know that it’s not completely benign.

About the author

Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.

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