The Gadget Will Not Save Your Child From SIDS

I, and every new parent I know, have a fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome , better known as SIDS. It is the leading cause of death in babies between the ages of one month and one year , peacefully killing 2,500 people a year in their sleep. And so we constantly check if our children are breathing.

Friends asked me if this obsession would subside over time. I have a third child, and I don’t worry as much as I did with the first. But if she slept for more than, say, half an hour, I still sneak into the room and stare at her breasts until I can make sure she is going up and down.

Can you blame the parents of babies for being paranoid about whether our babies are halfway alive? We don’t even have a clear idea of ​​why SIDS happens , so it’s hard to know what to worry about. The risk is unlikely, but every parent is told (often by law in the hospital where their baby is born) that we must always put babies to sleep on their backs and maintain a safe sleeping environment. So we take action every day by simply laying our babies on the floor to try and rebalance SIDS. It’s on our mind.

The current theory of SIDS is based on a ” triple risk” : the child has subtle brain or breathing problems; they reach a stage of development where their body functions are temporarily “destabilized”; and then the factor surrounding the child tilts the balance against the child. This factor could be secondhand smoke or sleeping on your stomach rather than on your back.

Can technology help us stop worrying?

I know that I am worried more than I need to; SIDS is rare. However, knowing this does not stop worry. That’s why I was intrigued by the advertisements I keep popping up on Facebook for a device that promises to disturb you about your baby’s breathing.

Owlet is wireless and fits into your child’s sock. The company says that if your baby stops breathing, the app will beep. You can check your phone at any time convenient for you (from the next room, on a date, from a business trip) to make sure that your child is still alive.

Sounds amazing . It also sounds like the pinnacle of obsessive parenting: do you really need to track your child’s every breath? This is probably not necessary. It’s also $ 249 and that’s the only reason I didn’t buy it. I bet if Target had $ 20 it would be considered standard baby equipment: car seat, crib, diapers, breath monitor.

Owlet isn’t the only gadget along these lines: Sproutling ($ 299), Mimo ($ 199), and Monbaby ($ 169) all offer, including their features, feature telling you if your baby is still breathing. Each of them works a little differently. Past and Monbaby feel the movement of the chest; Sprout checks your heart rate; The owlet monitors the oxygen in the blood just like these fingernails in the hospital .

So will these monitors help in a real emergency? The owlet says he will warn you if your baby stops breathing, but does not tell you what to do when he warns you. Not that I have a clear plan of what I will do if my peers in a dark room show a child who is not breathing. However, I can imagine my reaction: pick her up, stroke and stroke her, yell at her husband, call 911, and start artificial respiration .

Owlet does not consider this possibility. Their list of common questions includes just one correct example: “Does Owlet guarantee my child’s safety? No, … Your child’s safety is your responsibility. The rest of the main questions are about things like fitting and washing instructions. Buried in the tech support section, Owlet gives you a list of what to do if the device issues a red alarm . Basically, you should check the fit of the sock.

It seems oddly inferior for something marketed as a life-saving device: there are no instructions on how to use it to save lives. Either Owlet never thought about it (hey, SIDS is rare), or they are nervous about the fact that their product is not regulated or approved as a medical device . However, the fact that I sneak and check on the child is also not a medical device.

I asked David King , professor of pediatrics at the University of Sheffield, why he doesn’t think Owlet and similar monitors are helpful for parents. He wrote about this in an article in the medical journal BMJ .

“These devices have never undergone any meaningful testing,” says Dr. King. In other words, we don’t know if they can really save lives. He notes that studies in the 1970s and 1980s showed that monitors did not prevent deaths from SIDS, and perhaps could not. A 1988 review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences mentions several deaths during follow-up when babies could not be resuscitated. Just because you know that the baby has stopped breathing does not mean that you can do something about it.

If the device is useless, are we better off without it? Using and checking the monitor can make you more anxious, especially if there are false positives. The authors of a 1988 article noted that monitors increase parental anxiety, especially when one parent wanted to use the device and the other did not. Monitors of the day were expensive and bulky, with wires that could be accidentally disconnected. Monitors should be easier to deal with today, although I could see dating and dating controversies erupt over whether half of the couple should stop checking their baby monitor apps. so much.

The Owlet founder dismissed Dr. King’s concerns, noting that he was not a parent and therefore could not deal with the constant worry. “I’m not saying they should be banned or anything like that,” says Dr. King. He just thinks that parents should be aware that such a monitor “does not play a medical role,” and that device manufacturers should avoid hinting at it.

After all, is there a big difference between a breathing monitor like Owlet and a baby monitor that allows you to monitor your baby’s ascending and descending breasts? Sometimes we just need a different way to check in.

I cannot shake the thought that if a person is worried enough to buy and use a respiration monitor, they may be better able to use their nervous energy – either instead of one, or in addition to it. Here are some things that could really save your child’s (or someone else’s) life someday.

I won’t tell you to relax and not worry. SIDS is a real risk, and obsessive anxiety can even be a universal aspect of parenting . The best you can do is put risks in perspective. Car accidents are also a common cause of death for children and adults , but we click seat belts and just try to drive safely. So if you get peace of mind while checking your baby’s breathing from the app, go ahead and do it. And if you sneak in to watch their breasts rise and fall in the crib, that’s okay too.


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