Baby wearables can cause undue alarm to parents, new research says

A study just released by the Journal of the American Medial Association (JAMA), cautions against using baby wearables as it has not been adequately proven such devices save lives. On the contrary, they may lull parents into a false sense of security or lead to unnecessary hospital visits.

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The wearables market today is not only limited to adults. There is a full raft of devices that claim they make the job of taking care of your little ones a bit easier. They do this by by keeping tabs on anything from your baby’s movement to monitoring their breathing and body temperature. But the JAMA study says, some popular baby monitors may actually do more harm than good.

“These devices are marketed aggressively to parents of healthy babies, promising peace of mind about their child’s cardiorespiratory health, but there is no evidence that these consumer infant physiological monitors are life-saving or even accurate, and these products may cause unnecessary fear, uncertainty or self-doubt in parents,” said lead author of the article, Dr. Christopher Bonafide.

The study takes the example of suddent infant death syndrome (SIDS), in the US the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age. A number of wearables, such as the Owlet Baby Care smart sock and the Monbaby button-sized baby monitor, claim they will inform parents if their baby stops breathing.

Because these wearables do not claim to diagnose, treat or prevent disease, they do not need the stamp of approval of official government health regulators. Instead, they say, the devices simply track babies’ heart rates.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has actually issued a policy statement asking parents not to use “home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS.” Detecting stopped breathing doesn’t help you detect or predict SIDS, the organization notes.

Authors of the opinion piece caution parents against purchasing and using such devices, claiming they have no proven value. They are also calling for more collaboration between the clinical research community and baby wearables manufacturers.

“Innovation in the way we monitor kids is pretty valuable,” Bonafide said.

“The problem is these companies have bypassed all of the steps that exist to really protect the public from harm from these devices.”

Owlet published a response to the JAMA piece, saying, “our mission is to help parents take a proactive approach to their baby’s health and wellness. By giving parents the right information at the right time, we empower them to make informed choices.

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