Could a Baby Breathing Monitor Save Your Child's Life?
Keeping tabs on an infant's vital signs won't prevent SIDS — and could even be dangerous, experts say
If you’re a new parent shopping for baby gear, you may have come across cardiorespiratory monitors touted as a way to keep tabs on your newborn’s heart rate and breathing. Monitoring these vital signs, say manufacturers, can lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
That’s the claim. Here’s the truth: There is no proof a breathing, or apnea, monitor can protect an infant from SIDS. “From a scientific point of view, and according to physicians, the Federal Drug Administration and consumer safety boards, unless a child has a particular breathing issue, your average baby does not need a breathing monitor,” says neonatologist Luis C. Marrero, MD, of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Paterson, New Jersey.
According to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement on home monitoring, “parents should be advised that home cardiorespiratory monitoring has not been proven to prevent sudden unexpected deaths in infants.”
Even newborns who’ve had episodes of apnea while still in the hospital rarely need to go home with a monitor. (Apnea in an infant generally means the child stops breathing for 20 seconds or longer for no obvious reason, according to the AAP.) “Data shows if they’ve outgrown the apnea before they leave, there’s no need to monitor them at home,” says Marrero.
Related: The Sleep-Safe Baby Guide
How to reduce the risk of SIDS
The AAP statement stresses that “pediatricians should continue to promote proven practices that decrease the risk of SIDS.” Marrero agrees. “One thing parents should understand — and we [pediatricians] always worry about when parents have monitors, even when they aren’t breathing monitors — is it’s still important to follow the AAP guidelines for preventing SIDS.”
The best way to protect a newborn from SIDS is to put him to sleep on his back. In the 20 years since the Back to Sleep campaign (now called Safe to Sleep), which urged parents to place infants on their backs rather than their tummies at naptime and bedtime, the incidence of SIDS has decreased by 50 percent.
Here’s what else you should do according to Safe to Sleep and the AAP:
- Use a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet in your baby’s crib.
- Don’t put pillows, blankets, sheepskins, crib bumpers or soft toys in the crib.
- Dress your baby in a one-piece sleeper.
- Set up your baby’s sleep area near your bed but don’t bring your baby into your bed to sleep. And don’t let your baby sleep on a couch or chair, alone or with someone else.
- Never smoke or allow anyone else to smoke around your baby.
Related: Is Co-Sleeping With Your Baby Safe?