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Infant "Wearables" and Safety

Baby in Crib

Parents worry about the health of their babies. It's a fact. So, it's understandable when they see a product that promises to help them monitor and care for their infant they would be interested. This is likely why we have seen an increase in the sales of baby "wearables" — small electronic devices that monitor the baby's vital signs and deliver the information — and alerts if something is wrong — right to Dad's or Mom's cell phone.

"I have quite a few patients ask if they should go out and buy one," says Nathan Bexfield, MD, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health Care's Pediatrics department. "I tell them all the same thing: These are devices that have not been tested for safety, and they have not been proven to prevent SIDS."

That's right — these devices promising to make your baby safer have no proof they actually do that. Last month, a review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found there is no evidence "supporting the safety, accuracy, effectiveness or role of these monitors." In addition, the JAMA article points out that the monitors could cause undue stress and lead to unnecessary hospital visits and medical tests. Bexfield's concerns go even further — he thinks they could put babies at more of a risk.

"I feel like this may be something that lulls parents into a false sense of security," he says.

The problem is that while there is a clear protocol on how to safely put a baby to sleep, parents still are not following it. Many still put their babies to sleep on their stomach because they fall asleep faster. Some may be placing fluffy blankets in the bed because of worries their babies are cold. "With these monitors they may think they can get away with doing unsafe things," says Bexfield.

The National Institutes of Health issued clear guidelines on the best way to put an infant to sleep and reduce the risk of SIDS.

  • The baby should sleep in the same room, but not the same bed, as the parents
  • The crib should have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet and be free of extra blankets, pillows, toys and crib bumpers
  • The baby should be placed in the crib on his or her back to sleep wearing snugly fitted sleep clothes

It is also important that babies do not get overheated when sleeping, as this has been shown to contribute to SIDS as well. Good air circulation in the room is key as well. "Having a fan on at a low speed in the room where the baby is sleeping is a good idea," says Bexfield.

Beyond ensuring safe sleep, parents can improve their child's health without electronic intervention by following advice from their pediatrician. "Breastfeeding and making sure your baby is vaccinated — and vaccinated on time — will do more than any device ever could for your child's health," says Bexfield.