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Aren't health-tracking devices for babies a little over the top?

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Do babies really need health monitoring devices at home?

You might love your Fitbit, but does your baby really need a health monitor? Wearable devices are giving parents an extra bit of comfort — but at what price?

The advances in technology during this generation are mind-numbing. So it's no surprise that tech is making its way into the nursery in a new way. Forget video baby monitors or smartphone-enabled night-lights — now you can track Baby's vital signs from the other room.

High-tech onesie

Getting Baby ready for naptime? Now you can leave him to sleep in peace, without worry. The Mimo baby monitor is a tech device that slips into your baby's onesie and delivers important data to parents or caregivers. The built-in sensor and microphone transmit information on Baby's temperature, position in the crib and movements to a smartphone — and provides an extra set of ears via Bluetooth-transmitted sounds. This device might provide an extra measure of comfort, especially with a medically fragile infant.

"In the case of the Mimo baby monitoring system, devices such as this may provide peace of mind to parents who have health concerns for their baby," says Robert Weiss, L.C.S.W. and author of Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Parenting, Work, and Relationships. "But what about just the average, no-health-concerns kid? Can these monitoring devices actually do more harm than good to over-anxious parents?"

Peace of mind, or more anxiety?

Deborah Gilboa, M.D., aka "Doctor G.," is a family physician, parenting expert and mom of four. "As a mom of four, I completely understand the anxiety new parents have about a baby's safety while sleeping," she shares. "As a doctor I know how rare SIDS is, and how effective putting babies down on their backs in a crib without soft bedding and animals is to prevent that terrifying possibility. The problems with these kind of monitoring devices is that they have not been proven — except in studies paid for by the companies that make them — to actually prevent infant death and they have been proven to increase parent anxiety and sleeplessness," she adds. "I do not recommend these devices to my patients, and I would not use them myself."

We wondered if a parent's anxiety over such devices might be transferred to their children. "Severe anxiety in a household can be just as damaging as things like depression, alcoholism, neglect and even outright abuse," says Weiss. "But even less-severe anxiety in a parent can sometimes be problematic. Yes, of course we want children to learn that the world can occasionally be dangerous. But if we overreact to these dangers, we can teach our kids that risk-taking is to be avoided at all costs," he adds. "This can stunt their emotional development."

Big Brother?

Some are concerned that allowing this new level of surveillance into our homes sets a precedent for the future. Mom Heather McGibbon shares that using Mimo has been incredibly helpful to her, since her infant son struggles with both erratic sleeping patterns and stomach problems. To her, that's worth the price of potentially losing privacy. "They claim they're not viewing or selling my child's information, and I have to take their word for it," she says. "Sure, it's a scary world we live in with all the surveillance going on." Others feel that this technology in the cradle is too invasive. "While I can see the potential benefits, as a mom I wouldn't feel any safer with this device in my daughter's crib," shares Sarah, mother of two. "I would still feel the need to go in and check on her."

If a wearable health-tracking device gives you peace of mind, then you certainly should take advantage of all the technology available to you as a parent. What works for one parent won't work for another, and we are lucky to live in a society with choices and options. "No parent is perfect," adds Weiss. "If you sit around stressing about whether you are or are not raising your kids exactly right, your child will sense your uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. And that's not such a good thing."

More on infant and toddler health

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Benefits of co-sleeping with your children
Parents share why they don't vaccinate

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