In an age where adult fitness and health wearables, such as the Garmin Vivoactive tracker, have become the norm, new companies are introducing wearable baby monitors that connect to smartphone apps.
These wearables can provide information to parents about their baby’s breathing, skin temperature, sleeping patterns and heart rate.
Sproutling offers an ankle strap that uses pulse oximetry technology, which is also found in the finger clip used by doctors to monitor heart rates. The Owlet integrates this technology into a baby sock that can monitor the baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate. Interestingly, Mimo has actually produced a onesie that has this technology woven into it. The onesie connects to a Nest Thermostat to change room temperatures for the baby. All of these devices stay connected with Bluetooth technology, rather than batteries or Wi-Fi.
All parents worry about their baby’s safety and health. One of the greatest fears for parents is sudden infant death syndrome. Even though the risk of a baby dying from SIDS is low, the Owlet’s website shares disturbing tales of babies who almost lost their lives, and the marketing material states that having an Owlet is not just about a fancy accessory but an absolute necessity.
“Sound and video monitors only work if you’re constantly watching or listening to the monitor,” states Jordan Monroe, Owlet co-founder, whose son wears Owlet’s smart socks. The Owlet automatically sends an alert to parents when their baby has stopped breathing.
Some people, however, feel that this sort of technology introduces more anxiety than reassurance. The reviews are mixed. Some parents have discussed feeling more calm and assured by the use of a baby wearable, while others have talked about feeling more panicky and worried, constantly checking for alerts.
Mandy Gurney, a nurse and midwife who runs the Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, thinks that babies already have too many gadgets surrounding them already. “I would say simple is best. Really the only time a child needs a sleep app is if they have specific sleep problems that need an overnight sleep assessment by a specialist unit. For the majority of parents, a much cheaper way to find peace of mind is to follow the guidelines set out by The Lullaby Trust for safe sleeping.”
Baby wearables worth the price?
These baby wearables are certainly not cheap. The Sproutling sells for $259, Owlet costs $249 and Mimo costs $199. In regards to the price, Monroe states, “We must deliver a quality product, and that costs money. Most hospital-grade pulse oximeters cost thousands of dollars.”
The co-founder and CEO of Mimo, Dulcie Madden, says that baby wearables should be placed in the same category as car seats or smoke alarms.
However, some argue there may be something wrong with all this baby technology. With Sproutling’s website telling parents to “just outfit each baby with a Sproutling, and keep an eye on one screen”, where does hands on parenting fit in the equation?
Madden states that her product gives parents “actionable insights, while not overwhelming them. We’re providing parents with information and letting them choose what they do with that information – only they know what’s best for their family.