Parents, before investing in a baby monitor, read this!

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Many parents swear by the baby monitors they believe it is like a boon to new parents who have little or no idea about parenting. Baby monitors help you to keep a track on your baby’s movements, needs and help to avert SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome. However, a recent study showed that the popular monitors that promise to keep parents informed about their babies’ vital signs scored poorly in a test comparing them with actual hospital quality monitors. The monitors which were touted against the hospital monitors are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and produce an alarm via parents’ cell phones if the baby’s heart rate or blood oxygen levels move into danger zones, according to the study in JAMA.

When the researchers observed the functioning of the monitors it was seen that at times the alarm rang when there was nothing a wrong and sometimes missed instance when blood oxygen levels were too low.

Of the two monitors, the Owlet Smart Sock 2 performed better. But it still often sounded the alarm when there was nothing wrong and sometimes missed instances when blood oxygen levels were too low. The other monitor, the Baby Vida, performed even worse, completely missing unhealthy vital signs.

Monitors press the wrong button

“There are lots of reasons parents should probably not be using consumer vital sign monitors,” said study leader Dr Chris Bonafide of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to Reuters. “There is no evidence that these monitors prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). And the issues with accuracy make me concerned that they could not just be unhelpful but that they could also create problems.” Bonafide started wondering about commercially available monitors after treating a child brought to the emergency room because of a false alarm. To get a sense of how well the current generation of vital-signs monitors worked, he and his colleagues hooked 30 infants up to a hospital monitor on one foot and one of the consumer monitors on the other.

The two baby monitors that were chosen for the study were Owlet Smart Sock 2 and Baby Vida. The Owlet device missed 9 occasions in which the baby’s oxygen saturation was alarmingly low, accurately caught low oxygen saturation 71 times and falsely sounded the alarm 26 times. The Baby Vida missed 102 occasions in which the baby’s oxygen saturation was too low, but it never sounded an alarm when nothing was wrong. It did, however, often falsely display low pulse rates.

However, an email issued by Owlet CEO to Reuters Health said the most accurate method of assessing oxygen saturation involves testing blood that’s been drawn from an artery. Owlet is designed for in-home use, with healthy babies while they sleep, to provide parents with information about their child’s well-being. Owlet sensor accuracy has been validated in studies performed by independent laboratories and when compared to arterial blood gas measurements the sensor performed well within international standards for pulse oximetry. The accuracy and performance of the Owlet Smart Sock is something that we take very seriously.

The manufacturer of the Baby Vida did not respond though. But the lead researcher still worries that the devices might give parents a false sense of security when babies are truly sick.

The take-home message for parents: Even if you are investing in a baby monitor make sure you don’t become complacent and keep a check on your baby’s vital signs like breathing, skin colour etc to pick up a danger sign soon enough.

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