Parenting Advice

Baby Monitors: 4 Common Sense Tips

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By Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D.

Every parent strives to protect their baby, nourishing them, buying the appropriate gear, and yes, monitoring them around the clock. Today’s baby monitors make it easy to hover. Some devices detect heart rate, oxygen levels and fever. Others alert you if your child’s cry reaches a certain decibel level.

Unfortunately, in extreme cases such vigilance can have harmful effects. Not only are parents constantly preoccupied with their baby (meaning they never get a “real” break), but their children may endure unnecessary treatments. If a device that monitors respiration rate is faulty, or if your child is experiencing normal fluctuations in breathing that typically aren’t concerning, parents might end up in the emergency room fearing their baby is not breathing correctly.

The unpopular truth: The same technology that helps soothe nervous parents can actually put them on edge. With that reality in mind, here are 4 things I tell parents to consider before purchasing a baby monitor:

  1. Less is more. While it’s important to pay attention to cues that something is wrong with your child, usually simple sound or video monitors are sufficient. In fact, monitors that measure vital signs, fever and other indicators of well-being not only cause unnecessary worry, but studies suggest these high-tech gadgets are often unreliable.
  1. Watch the cord. Be mindful of where you place your baby monitor – and whether your child can reach the cord. It’s not uncommon for parents to attach monitors to the edge of the crib, and that can work as long as your baby isn’t able to reach the cord. Strangulation is a real safety concern, whether from blind cords or baby monitors.
  1. Beware of faulty Wi-Fi. Some of today’s most popular baby monitors work through a wireless connection. The rub: If you run into problems with your Wi-Fi, you might think there’s an issue with your baby. Perhaps even more concerning, without adequate Wi-Fi security, predators may be able to pick up your signal and see your baby.
  1. Room in. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents room with their baby for the at least the first six months of life, but ideally for one year. If you’re doing that, you’ll only need a monitor during your baby’s naps. You might even consider rooming in for those, too. If you do, you can skip the monitor altogether until your baby snoozes without a parent nearby.

Navigating life with an infant can be stressful and exhausting. In fact, most parents are still sleep deprived when their baby begins sleeping through the night. It’s hard to be an effective parent under those circumstances. So, any monitor that compromises sleep – yours or your baby’s – or stresses you out unnecessarily is better left on the shelf.

Related Topic: Picking a Pediatrician for Your Newborn

 To find a doctor or pediatrician at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Written By:

Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D.

Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D., is a pediatrician and the physician champion for childhood wellness for Henry Ford LiveWell. Dr. Leatherwood Cannon credits her love of helping people as the reason she became a doctor. She chose pediatrics because she is fascinated with children, their development and what she calls their incredible "bounce back ability.” She is currently writing a book and hopes to publish it in 2015. She considers her parents her heroes, noting that their hard work, sacrifice and belief in her have been the keys to her success.

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