“Sleep when baby sleeps”, heard that one before? It’s the advice I got from lots of people before our little one was born. I was looking forward to some of that shuteye as soon as she was born. Ohhh the lies!! Unfortunately for us, baby’s favorite activity was being awake.
But when she finally did doze off, she looked like the most peaceful baby on earth.
Ahhh newborn bliss!
The anxiety-laden part of me started to wonder if maybe she looked a little too peaceful.
Wait, she IS breathing right?
I’m sure I’m not the only mom who finds an excuse to worry even when you’re pretty sure there’s nothing to worry about.
To aid in my quest to get just a little of those precious zzz’s myself, I figured the best thing would be to look into baby movement monitors. I figured, if nothing else, it would give my mother in law the opportunity to practice her favorite “they didn’t have one of those when I had kids, and they grew up just fine“-speech that she’s been perfecting ever since we announced our pregnancy! 😉
Baby movement monitors are becoming more and more popular. But do these 21st-century gimmicks actually work? Are they even needed?
Spoiler alert: we decided to get the Snuza Go (second hand of course! You are reading this on Frugalcrib after all).
Finding the Best Baby Movement Monitor
There are many monitoring devices on the market. You have the “under the mattress” monitors, the “clip on the diaper” monitors, and the “sock” monitors. The basic idea is the same for all of them: to detect breathing.
Some of the devices can do more than others, but the main point remains that it should act as an alarm in case your baby stops breathing. But what exactly are the differences between these movement monitors? Let’s have a look at the most popular options (Owlet vs. Snuza vs. Angelcare) currently on the market!
Owlet Smart Sock
The best-known monitor is probably the Owlet Smart Sock. It’s also the most advanced and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive. You put the Owlet sock on your little one’s foot, it wirelessly connects to a base station. This, in turn, transmits heart rate and blood oxygen levels in real time to an app on your phone.
All this technology is very cool but it comes at a cost. Literally. It’s by far the most expensive option at an MSRP of about $300. There’s even a “Complete Baby Monitor Solution” which includes the Owlet and a baby monitor camera for another $100 bucks or so. At least they made their tracking app (Connected Care) free last year, but it’s still only for iPhone users.
As of writing this, the Owlet has a 3.9-star rating on Amazon, 63% rate it 5 stars and 16% are 1-star reviews. The most reported complaint seems to be about reliability.
Snuza (Hero/Go) Baby Movement Monitor
Representing the “diaper clip-on monitor” category we have the Snuza. It’s a simple device which you clip onto the front of your baby’s diaper. It checks whether the baby breathes and/or moves consistently. If movements are very weak or fall below 8 per second, you’re alerted by loud beeping. There are two very similar versions: the Go and the Hero. The only difference between the two versions is that the Go will alert you by beeping, while the Hero will alert you by beeping and vibrate to try to wake up the baby. Both versions can usually be had for less than $100.
In the end, we purchased a used Snuza Go from eBay for next to nothing. This version has no app connectivity, no vibration, and no pulse ox monitor. Yes it is basic, but it’s intuitive, reliable and simply works. We’ve had zero (false) alarms the first 5 months or so of our daughters’ life. After that, she started rolling around too much in her sleep and it would sometimes knock the Snuza off to the side giving us a false alarm, so we stopped using it.
Do we recommend it? YES! I loved seeing the little light flicker with each breath my baby took so I didn’t have to hover over the crib nervously to check if she was still breathing.
Angelcare Baby Monitor
The Angelcare Baby Monitor is a device that you put under the baby’s crib mattress. It’s supposed to detect subtle movements and will sound an alarm if there’s no movement detected. Now, I would think a mattress is way too thick and a baby’s breathing movements way too weak to be detectable, but judging by the reviews, it seems to work OK though.
Depending on sales, it’s usually the cheapest of the bunch at or below a hundred bucks or so.
As of writing this, the Angelcare monitor has a 3.8-star rating on Amazon. The more expensive Angelcare Pad + Camera has pretty bad ratings though (3.2-star average with a whopping 32% 1-star reviews), with people commenting on poor reliability, quality, and ease of use.
Can Baby Movement Monitors prevent SIDS?
Just look at the Amazon reviews! Countless stories of mothers who were warned of what turned out to be true medical emergencies. It’s anecdotal evidence, so take it with a grain of salt… but still. Surely there must be scientific evidence supporting these claims too!?
I decided to dive a bit deeper into whether there is any evidence that these monitors can prevent SIDS. To my surprise, I found a paper published by doctors working for Owlet in an actual scientific journal. Woohoo! Here comes the evidence!
To my disappointment, the paper mostly talks about the demographic characteristics of the parents, not much about whether the Owlet is any good at detecting actual medical emergencies. Out of more than 100,000 Owlet’s in use, they report that only about 80 parents contacted them after “clinically relevant red alerts”. But there’s no mention of how many false alarms occur, or even how many true positives occur!
As for the other baby movement monitors, I couldn’t find any evidence either.
One researcher put it this way: “medical professionals and consumers need to be aware that such devices have no proved use in safeguarding infants or detecting health problems, and they certainly have no role in preventing SIDS.”
Even though most of these baby movement monitors have glowing reviews on Amazon, the FDA says you should use caution. These devices are not FDA regulated and have not been tested extensively. No rigorous scientific study has been able to prove that it can prevent SIDS.
The take-home message here clearly is: don’t just rely on a monitor device. Adhering to safe sleep practices are the only proven thing you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- No co-sleeping
- Sleep on back
- Firm mattress
- No bumpers, no toys, no objects of any kind!
Fetal Doppler 2.0
Remember the handheld fetal doppler device we discussed some time ago? Many of the same arguments were used against that device too. There’s little to no evidence it’s beneficial. It might give you a false sense of security. It might make you anxious. Et cetera.
Yet, we still bought the doppler. Used it a few times (it was fun!) and put it right back on eBay afterward. Just know what you’re really buying is some piece of mind, not a true medical device that’s proven to be beneficial.
So yes, even as a rational person, knowing it probably won’t help prevent SIDS, I still bought a Snuza. The Snuza put my mind at ease, made me slightly less paranoid and made it so that I could sleep a few hours at night, and that‘s what made it worth it for me.
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