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Ditch the Smartphone Apps to Monitor Baby’s Health

1:45

If you use a smartphone app to monitor your baby’s vital signs, a new research paper suggests that you may want to send those apps to trash.

The apps are linked to sensors in a baby’s clothing and are marketed as a way to help parents be aware of things like breathing, pulse rate and oxygen levels in the blood and sound alarms when infants are in distress. But they aren't tested or approved for U.S. sale like medical devices and there's little evidence to suggest these monitors are safe or effective, said Dr. Christopher Bonafide, lead author of the opinion piece in JAMA; an international peer-reviewed medical journal.

"I’ve been there myself, peeking in the door of my son’s room late at night, making sure I could hear him breathing," Bonafide, a pediatrics researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said by email to Reuters.

Marketing ads of the monitors stop short of saying they can diagnose, treat or prevent illnesses, however, they do promise parents peace of mind that comes from an early warning system when something is wrong with babies' health, the study authors write.

Promotions for some apps also play into parents’ fear of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), suggesting that parents can have peace of mind that their baby is just sleeping,

The AAP advises parents not to use monitors like the ones paired with smartphone apps for home use because there's no evidence this reduces the risk of SIDS.

Instead, parents should rely on prevention efforts proven to work, like breastfeeding and sleeping in the same room with their babies, the AAP recommends.

"Perhaps in the future there may be a technology that is in development to lower the risk of SIDS," said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a co-author of the AAP guidelines and pediatrics researcher at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey.

"However, we are not there yet," Feldman-Winter - who wasn't involved in the paper, - added in an email to Reuters.

Sometimes, we as consumers, assume that if something is for sale- particularly a health related item- that it has been approved or tested by a U.S. governmental agency. That’s not always the case. Smartphone applications can be created and sold relatively easily these days without any assurance the app actually performs as promoted. Parents of newborns are a good market for anything that promises to keep their baby safe.

New smartphone-integrated monitors currently available in the U.S. or expected to debut soon include Baby Vida, MonBaby, Owlet, Snuza Pico and Sproutling.

Some pediatric health experts express concern that using apps to monitor a baby’s health actually reduces the parent’s ability to know their own baby’s unique habits, body and cues that he or she may be in distress.

"We have lost sight of what babies need in order to keep them safe, and many parents and grandparents today do not realize that it is the presence of a responsive and vigilant caregiver that keeps a baby safe, but believe the job can be outsourced to a smartphone/video-monitor/technomattress etc," said Helen Ball, director of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab at Durham University in the UK, in an email. Ball was not involved in the paper.

Ball believes that the best way to keep our babies’ safe is to use our eyes, ears and touch to respond to and monitor for any health concerns.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-safety-baby-monitors-idUSKBN1582RA

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2598780

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