When I finally gave birth to my daughter in June of 2007 after four years of infertility and loss, I’ll confess to being a bit neurotic about checking on my daughter while she was sleeping. Wait: check that. In fact, I was neurotic about checking on my daughter while I was still pregnant: we rented a fetal heart rate monitor and I probably checked for her heartbeat six times a day. But once she was born, I’d lie awake and watch her breathe next to me in the cosleeper. And moving her to her own room at eight months was rough; I must have gotten up to check on her several times a night.
Wearable technology wasn’t much of a thing when my daughter was born. I had a heart rate monitor that I strapped around my chest while working out (it sent the info to a watch), but that was about it. Today it’s a different world; I can use my phone to check my heart rate, and there are monitors you tuck into your bra to calculate how many steps you take a day. There’s Google Glass, or bracelets that can heat or cool your body, or a sweater that provides you navigation cues.
It was only a matter of time before this crossed over into wearable tech for babies.
Owlet is a sock that tracks a baby’s heart rate, oxygen levels, and temperature. I’m not gonna lie: I would have used this if it had been available when my kid was small. Sensible Baby offers a monitoring device you can slip into a pocket in a onesie to tracks the same vitals. The Sproutling baby monitor (still in development) sends your baby’s stats to your mobile device. Again, I would have used any of these.
In an article in Fast Company this week about obsessive tracking of babies, however, the author points out that these apps take advantage of parental fears.
But, to an extent, these apps take advantage of parent anxieties. “SIDS is the number one cause of infant death. That’s really scary to parents,” Jordan Monroe, a cofounder of Owlet, told Fast Company. Monroe has no kids, but while talking to friends and friends of friends with babies, he found that to be a common worry.
Those fears don’t come from a place of reality, though. According to the Center for Disease Control, 4,000 infants die each year from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. Only a fraction of those deaths occur because of “accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed,” according to the CDC report. And even SIDS–which causes about 2,000 deaths a year–might stem from underlying brain issues, according to recent research. Monitoring a child’s breathing with a high-tech bootie won’t cure SIDS.
This is likely true. But as a woman who parented after loss or, frankly, any parent that worries about their baby I think these products offer some reassurance. What about you? Would you use them?