Are Wearable Baby Monitors Truly Effective for Giving Parents Peace of Mind?

The anxiety of something bad happening to your baby is a genuine fear many parents face. It’s the reason mothers and fathers are glued to their baby monitors or silently entering the nursery to check if their child is breathing. In recent years, it has also meant investing in an infant wearable that provides a baby’s vital statistics, including heart rate, blood oxygen level, movements and waking times during the night.

This new monitoring technology promises to offer parents peace of mind — but does it? Does having a baby’s vitals at your fingertips reassure, or does it feed our anxiety even more? As Kate Wehr, a freelance writer and mom in Montana, puts it: “I was the super-anxious mom who had to check everyone’s breathing multiple times a night no matter what monitoring we used.”

With more wearables hitting the market and, having the $299 Owlet Dream Sock approved by the Food and Drug Administration, we reached out to experts: What can these devices tell parents? Do they help keep babies safer? And do they soothe parents or foster their obsession with their little one’s every move? Here’s what to know.

What’s the appeal of a wearable?

Like how adults can track their health and sleep habits with devices, infant wearables offer parents insights into how well their baby is sleeping and other health statistics. For parents concerned about medical emergencies, such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), being able to observe their baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels provides an extra layer of security. However, questions about the data’s accuracy and how false alarms occur have been raised. Also, the effectiveness of constant monitoring is still unsure, which explains why it took FDA years to grant approval.

What to know about the Owlet sock

Recently, Owlet announced the FDA’s approval of its updated version, the Dream Sock, which fits around an infant’s foot. It is promoted as “the first and only non-prescription baby monitor with FDA-cleared live health readings and health notifications for healthy babies between 1 to 18 months,” according to the company.

The approval has come after concerns over how the now discontinued Smart Sock, a precursor to the Dream Sock, was being marketed. Although some parents reported less anxiety, there were complaints that nonstop monitoring increased their stress. The new Dream Sock, claimed by Owlet to be “as accurate as medical-grade baby monitoring technology,” will provide parents with notifications “based on preset, clinically validated levels.”

Can wearable baby monitors prevent SIDS?

The FDA notes the Dream Sock is not intended for infants with cardiovascular and respiratory conditions and that its safety and effectiveness for preventing SIDS/SUID haven’t been established. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends following its guidelines over using monitors but does not ban them outright. However, some experts point out that parents’ mental health suffers from continuous tracking and false alarms, which can lead to desensitization and tuning out real alarms. Although infant wearables can be recommended for children at high risk, for babies with no underlying health issues, they offer little value beyond providing an extra layer of security for parents, indicates Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician and child health expert at Kansas City-based Pediatric Associates. Yet, parents should seek advice from their physician before using any new products.


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