Bringing home your newborn is both a joyous and nerve-wracking experience. It’s like being handed a tiny little miracle. Yet you know there are a million different scenarios and situations that could lead to the loss of that miracle – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, fever, rare illnesses, the flu, and so much more. Wanting to protect your child, or doing anything and everything in your power to do so, is normal and natural. But is a high-tech baby monitor truly the best way to do it? A recent study says: probably not.
“Parents are wondering about these monitors because they are about and love their babies, and they want to do everything the can to keep them healthy,” Dr. Christopher Bonafide, a co-author of the report and a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said. “Monitor companies have capitalized on that to some degree, promising ‘pease of mind’ and offering to alert parents if something is wrong with baby’s health.”
Unfortunately, high-tech monitors may offer parents the peace of mind they offer – at least not to parents of healthy infants. There is no evidence that vital monitoring is able to prevent SIDS or other life-threatening conditions, and the monitors may even cause undue stress for parents and infants. For example, the researchers found that monitors would sometimes set off an alarm, even when the baby was okay.
“An upset, crying one-month-old baby could have a heart rate that exceeds 180 beats per minute, which would cause a heart rate alarm on the [baby] monitor, using its predetermined heart rate alarm settings,” Bonafide said.
This could potentially lead to all sorts of complications for both babies and parents – everything from undue stress to exposure to illnesses and financial troubles.
“A concerned parent might be compelled to seek care from a physician for reassurance, potentially leading to an EKG, chest X-ray, blood test, and admission for monitoring. That baby would be subjected to unnecessary discomfort, radiation, and exposure to sick, contagious kids in waiting rooms. The parents might miss work, feel anxious, and then be stuck with a significant hospital bill.”
This is not to say that the monitors do not have a place in the market or a viable purpose. Parents with infants in the NICU, or those that have recently come home from the NICU, may still benefit from the monitoring of vitals and extra reassurance. Further, these high-risk infants may be at an increased risk for complications from small and minor changes – such as an elevated heart rate – so their elevation to the 180 beats per minute could actually indicate more than just their being upset. So, if parents believe their infant may benefit from a high-tech monitor, the best option may be to discuss the use of one with their child’s pediatrician.