When we had our first little one, I’ll admit I was pretty clueless about babies. Aside from bottles and onesies, I had almost no idea what a tiny human might need — so when it came time to create a baby registry, I made sure to bring along my best friend who already had a toddler to advise me. I still remember wandering up and down the aisles with that laser scanning gun, pointing it at packages of pacifiers and diapers for what seemed like an eternity.
When I got to the aisle with the baby monitors, I was a bit surprised by how pricey they were, so I registered for a super basic, sound-only monitor. Weeks later at my baby shower, as I opened my umpteenth present, there it was. It was fine, but nothing special.
That trusty little monitor lasted until Baby No. 2 was about 6 months old before finally going kaput. But instead of running out to buy a new one, I decided not to replace it. True, it sometimes stressed me out a little bit to not hear my little one, but I also didn’t want to spend the money on another monitor when I knew we weren’t going to have any more babies.
Ahem, fast-forward eight months and things had definitely changed.
I was pregnant with Baby No. 3; and since we already had all the basics, I decided to spring for the video Wi-Fi-enabled baby monitor, complete with all the bells and whistles. I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to check on my baby anytime I wanted, without even getting out of bed. Life was about to get so much simpler with this sanity-saving monitor. I mean, the ads promised it would!
Needless to say, that state-of-the-art monitor was pretty cool … until it wasn’t.
In the beginning, I had fun checking my phone to see what my baby was up to. I could listen in if she started to fuss while resting comfortably from the couch. It was like MAGIC.
But as time went on, I found myself becoming increasingly obsessive about checking on her.
Since the monitor was Wi-Fi-enabled, I could see my baby from my phone — no matter where I was. As a result, I found myself checking on her nonstop. I never felt like I could fully relax, because I had this strong compulsion to continually grab my phone, fire up the app, and make sure she was still OK.
The monitor would also send me alerts on the air quality and any movement during the night, so my sleep was often segmented, interrupted by alerts and any little noise. Getting a good night’s sleep was basically impossible. My baby also slept terribly, waking up at least four times on a good night, but usually more like six to 10 times.
During the daytime, I felt like a walking zombie — and a complete mess.
My husband would often suggest that I turn off the monitor, but I’d feel anxious at the mere thought of it. The urgent need I felt to make sure my baby was OK whenever she was away from me was exacerbated by the fact that I could check on her 24/7.
Until, at last, we took a vacation — and I finally broke the cycle.
We had planned a week-long trip to a small island up in British Columbia, and because the Internet connection there was pretty spotty, I had to relinquish my precious monitor. The room we were in was lofted, so my husband and I slept upstairs while the kids slept downstairs. Because of the loft situation, and the fact that we slept with a sound machine, we didn’t hear as many of the little noises in the night (though we could obviously hear real cries). While this scenario definitely made me nervous at first, I quickly realized it was probably the best thing that ever happened for both me and my baby.
By the end of the week, my daughter — who had previously been waking up four to six times a night — was now sleeping for 12 consecutive hours. It was glorious.
Because I was no longer being woken up by every slight stirring my baby made, I wasn’t rushing in to rescue her immediately … and slowly, but surely, she had learned to soothe herself.
And so, as soon as we returned home, I ditched the monitor — and never looked back. Not only was my little one still sleeping through the night like a champ months later, but I also watched my anxiety improve dramatically in the process. I’m still close enough to her room to hear any prolonged cries, but without the monitor to alert me constantly, I’m able to sleep through her mild fussing.
In the end, that fancy monitor — with all its impressive bells and whistles — was a reminder that sometimes, too much of a good thing really is too much. I mean, I couldn’t believe that the one thing I thought would save my sanity ended up costing me so much of it. Don’t get me wrong: Technology has certainly brought us some wonderfully helpful parenting tools, but state-of-the-art, WiFi-enabled gadgets are not the be all and end all. After all, our parents managed to do just fine without them, didn’t they?