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Wearable Smartphone Baby Monitors May Cause More Harm Than Good, Pediatricians Warn

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Pediatricians warn parents to think twice before buying those "smart" clothing with vital signs monitors to track their baby's health.

Electronic sensors that are attached to babies' socks, buttons, and onesies are supposed to continually monitor a child's vitals such as the pulse rate, oxygen level, and breathing by notifying the parents on their smartphone of any abnormality.

An example of this device is the $250-Owlet Baby Care's smart sock, which is worn on one of the baby's feet to monitor the vital signs.

Not Approved By The FDA

Christopher Bonafide, from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, however, said that these baby vital signs monitors have not been green-lighted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are also no evidence that can prove the devices do not prevent potentially deadly problems in healthy infants.

False Alarms

Repeated false alarms from these monitors may likewise lead to unnecessary tests performed on babies. False alarms may happen if the babies set off the monitor when they kick or roll or experience what can be considered as harmless changes in their vitals that the device may interpret as life-threatening.

Babies sometimes experience sudden drop in their blood oxygen levels which could set off a monitor. Bonafide said that although these are just normal fluctuations, parents may think otherwise when the alarm sounds off.

Potentially Harmful Consequences Of False Alarms

Babies who are brought in because of these false alarms may need to undergo a range of tests and procedures such as blood tests and X-rays which are not just expensive but are also potentially harmful.

"I worry about the unnecessary care and even potential harm to babies that can be associated with alarms from these devices," Bonafide said. "There's not a role for these devices in the care of healthy infants."

SIDS

Marketing of the devices often involve fear for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which kills about 3, 500 babies in the United States per year. The American Academy of Pediatrics though does not advise parents to use monitors such as the ones paired with smartphone apps at home since there are no evidence that these reduce the risk of SIDS.

AAP Recommendation To Prevent Sleep-Related Deaths In Babies

The AAP instead recommends parents to rely on prevention efforts that have already been proven effective such as breastfeeding and sleeping in the same room with their babies.

Parents and their babies should ideally sleep in the same bedroom albeit not in the same bed for at least six months to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths among infants.

Babies Need Responsive And Vigilant Caregivers

Durham University' Parent-Infant Sleep Lab director Helen Ball said that many parents and caregivers today fail to realize the importance of giving responsive and vigilant care to keep babies safe. Many believe that it is possible to outsource this job to technology.

"One way in which monitors could hurt kids is by reducing the amount of care and attention they receive directly from their parents," Ball said.

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