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Strapping monitors to your sleeping baby could cause some problems

Why it matters to you

Nobody wants to unnecessarily bring a crying baby to the emergency room, and some devices could raise false alarms.

Parents always want to know what’s going on with their children, but those who use certain monitors to track their baby’s health are warned that these products come with some potential problems. Experts say smartphone-integrated baby monitors have not been proven safe, accurate, or effective, according to a review in The Journal of the American Medical Association. These devices connect to apps on your smartphone and display your infant’s health information, like his or her pulse, blood oxygen saturation, and respiration.

Many of the devices will sound an alarm if metrics indicate your baby is experiencing a possible health complication. This alarm system is a potential cause for concern, as false alarms can result in stress for parents, excessive trips to the doctor or hospital, unneeded medical testing, and costly medical expenses, Dr. Christopher Bonafide, a pediatrician and co-author of the JAMA review, told CBS News.

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Most manufacturers of these devices do not overtly state that these products diagnose or treat any illness or reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Utah-based company Owlet Baby Care sells one of the more popular smartphone baby monitors on the market: a wearable sock priced at $249. On the Owlet website, it states “the Owlet Baby Monitor is designed to notify you if your baby’s heart rate or oxygen levels fall out of range, but your baby’s safety is your responsibility.” The JAMA review warns against these types of wearables, as well as others such as onesies and diaper clips.

When some parents purchase devices like these, however, they are looking for peace of mind. The reviews of the Owlet monitor are overall positive, but product reviews also indicate parents are buying this product to keep their babies safe. “Very happy with the piece [sic] of mind owlet gives me now and look forward to relying on it once it’s time to put our baby in his own room,” one reviewer writes on Amazon. “Hope this awesome product helps save babies from SIDS in the future!” another reviewer writes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly advises against using cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy of reducing SIDs, The JAMA report indicates. Before purchasing a smartphone baby monitor, it’s a good idea to consult your pediatrician.