Unapproved Baby Monitor Smartphone Apps Can Unnecessarily Alarm Parents

By Kristine Hartvigsen on March 20th, 2017

Few things are as anxiety-producing as bringing a new baby home from the hospital for the first time. Many new parents feel woefully on their own. They check and recheck the baby to make sure he’s breathing. They wake the baby up checking on her temperature. The prospect of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) hovers over them. It seems impossible to relax.

It’s easy to see how newly marketed smartphone apps that claim they can remotely monitor the baby would be attractive. Many suggest they can reduce the risk for SIDS. However, a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) cautions parents against putting all of their confidence in a smartphone app.

“There is no evidence that consumer infant physiologic monitors are life-saving, and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them,” the JAMA article stated. Physiologic sensors linked to smartphone apps can overstate their ability to accurately measure heartrate, blood oxygen saturation, respiration, and body movement. They also can trigger false alarms on normal, healthy babies, sending worried parents to emergency rooms.

The apps can detect changes that really aren’t clinically important, leaving parents to make medical decisions based on information they aren’t medically trained to interpret. Quality standards for the devices also are unclear.

“To date, manufacturers have sidestepped the cost of regulatory oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by avoiding any direct assertions that their monitoring devices can prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but such a claim is implied," an article on Medscape.com stated.

Despite declines in recent years, SIDS still represents one of the leading causes of infant mortality. An estimated 3,500 babies in the U.S. die from SIDS annually. Instead of using non-FDA-approved phone app monitors, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents of healthy babies use proven prevention techniques, such as placing infants on their backs to sleep and removing all pillows, bumpers, toys, stuffed animals, or loose bedding from the crib. AAP also endorses breastfeeding to reduce risk and “co-sleeping,” or keeping the baby in the parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months of life.

In cases where a baby’s medical condition warrants monitoring, the AAP advises using only monitors that are FDA-approved as medical devices. Parents should ask their physician about all monitoring recommendations as well as tips for vigilant caregiving.

This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.

  ©2017. Ob Hospitalist Group, Inc. All rights reserved. View our linking and republishing policies.