Smart Baby Monitors: Risk Reducers or Anxiety Producers

Baby sleep monitors have been around a long time. With them, we can see and hear our little ones, even when they are across the house in their own room. As technology gets better and better, monitors have increased in their capabilities. The problem, though, is when parents over-rely on their monitors, and forget to follow basic safety guidelines because they put too much trust in technology.

The newest monitors, such as those made by Owlet and Sproutling, are technologically-advanced, intelligent devices. However, they are not considered medical devices.

Instead, they are marketed as consumer devices. This distinction means that unlike medical devices, consumer devices are not required to undergo rigorous tests that guarantee child safety. Many parents put all of their faith into these monitors, to let them know if their babies are still breathing.

However, these machines may not be as accurate or reliable as advertised. No monitor can prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) from happening, yet many parents think that these monitors will alert them in case of that emergency.

Fear of SIDS

For many parents, the number one fear regarding their children is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. It is a mysterious, terrifying disease that can take a baby’s life as they lie sleeping. There is no cure, and scientists cannot even agree on the leading causes of the syndrome.

The most commonly agreed upon theory is that there is a part of the brain in SIDS victims that is faulty. This region of the brain has trouble identifying when carbon dioxide levels in the blood are too high, and doesn’t communicate the emergency to the body and tell it to wake up. The result is that the child passes away in his sleep.

SIDS is the leading cause of death in kids that are under one year old. Two thousand children in the United States die from SIDS each year, but in the big picture, that is a very low rate. The vast majority of kids and families will not be affected by this terrible disease.

The New Monitors

Baby sleep monitors have been around for many years, and have ranged from just audio to high-quality video.

The newest monitors use advanced technology to keep tabs on your baby. Costing $250, the Owlet device, which fits like a sock, syncs to parents’ smartphones and alerts them if there is any change in the baby’s vital signs during sleep.

Sproutling’s device, meanwhile, is more of an ankle bracelet that promised to send a signal if anything is physically changing with your sleeping child.

The issue with these new monitors is that they are playing off of parents’ SIDS fears, even if they are not obvious about it. By suggesting that kids are either sleeping soundly or having problems while they sleep will make parents concerned about that part of their child’s day.

The Challenges

The problem with these monitors is that they will give false alarms. Babies between 2 and four months old, even healthy ones, have slight irregularities in their breathing and heart rate while they sleep. Those are not SIDS symptoms, and may contribute to anxiety.

However, these devices will send parents rushing to their children’s aid. As a result of these findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against at-home SIDS monitoring.

The Benefits 

Nevertheless, there are some benefits to using these newer, high-tech monitors. Checking on your baby regularly, including while he is sleeping, is highly recommended.

These monitors do add a level of convenience to a tired, busy parent’s life, as Mom or Dad can roll over and check the baby’s status on the smartphone app.

If parents use these monitors as directed, and not out of fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, they can be a welcome addition to the parenting arsenal. Also, as many experts point out, the risk of SIDS is extremely low.

This is especially true if parents avoid many of the risk factors that scientists say promote Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

SIDS Risk Factors

SIDS is a very complex, mysterious disease. No one knows for sure how it happens, or truly how to stop it. Many risk factors have been linked over the years to the possibility of SIDS, however. Parents can make sure to avoid these situations, whenever possible.

Sleeping on the Stomach

Babies should never be placed in a prone position on their beds, as this could increase the chance of suffocation during the night. Side sleeping is a no-no, as well.


Mothers should never smoke when they are pregnant, obviously, but also should not smoke cigarettes or allow smokers near their children after the baby is born. Respiratory conditions, asthma, and chronic lung disease can result from secondhand smoke, along with a much-increased risk of SIDS. Baby cribs should be bare.

Extra Items in the Crib

No extra blankets, quilts, stuffed animals, or loose clothing should be present in the crib. These items can get wrapped around babies, suffocate them, or cause overheating – a leading cause of SIDS.


Finally, infants should never share beds with anyone else – kids or adults. There are many other risk factors, but these are the major ones for parents to avoid.

SIDS can affect young children through their first year of life, but many children can roll over themselves at six months of age. Most SIDS deaths, therefore, occur before the child is about six months of age.

Final Thoughts

Baby sleep monitors have been around for decades. They can be a valuable tool for parents, but not in the fight against SIDS. The information the monitors can supply often lead parents to the wrong conclusions.

Parents need to continue doing their best to raise safe and healthy children. Know that SIDS is very real, but that the occurrence of it is infrequent. Use monitors for what they were designed to do – check periodically on your baby – and not to prevent SIDS. That is where parents need to follow the safeguards proven to help prevent SIDS from happening in the first place.