“Do we need an owellete?”

“My friend said to get an owelette….do we need one?” a parent asked at a recent prenatal class.


This question has become so common that I preemptively bring it up when talking with expectant parents.   If you haven’t heard, there are all these new gadgets to track your baby….from an owellete (which monitors baby’s oxygen levels), to bluetooth-enabled body stickers that constantly monitor your babe’s temperature….you can track a million parameters about your baby nowadays.

How many wet diapers did my baby have last Tuesday? Let me ask Siri!   What color was baby’s poop three Mondays ago?  Let me show open my excel worksheet…..we are a culture obsessed with data and tracking.


If you can know these things…why would you NOT want to know?  It doesn’t hurt the baby and it gives us peace of mind…right….right?!?!


Parents are concerned about their baby’s health and well being.   It stands to reason then that if there is an app or product claims to keep baby safe or put your mind at ease then….why not?  As a pediatrician and father of four, I can think of several reasons why not.

First, there is no evidence that these commercial monitors protect babies against SIDS.  I totally get it, SIDS is very scary and we want to do everything in our power to prevent SIDS.  There just isn’t any evidence that monitors you can buy on amazon (or even medical grade apnea monitors if you can believe it!) stop SIDS.  Why?  They do a bad job detecting true apnea.  Instead, monitors false alarm, parents run in hearts pounding to find their baby wide awake (because….LOUD!).  The happens a few times and the parents turn the monitor off or simply ignore it- it’s unreliable & bad data.

The second reason I recommend avoiding these monitors is because of message it sends to parents: YOUR BABY IS AT RISK.  You must protect your baby from everything at every moment….if you’re not monitoring it you are an unfit parent.  How dare you allow your 6 month old to have a fever overnight without getting a text notification?  You let the humidity creep that low (or high) in your baby’s room last night….what were you thinking?  These are the messages we parents are presented with by companies out to make a buck (or hundreds) off misplaced parental anxiety.

This “at risk” attitude is simply not the case…human history supports that the default is healthy & low risk.  How would we as a society have made it this far if we’d needed this sort of monitoring for our young to survive over the millennia?   Babies are healthier and safer than ever before.   We know how to protect babies from SIDS.  Your baby has a built in alert for fevers (fussing).

I tell my families to look for three things if you are concerned something is wrong with your child….1) Is she about as happy as usual?  2) Is she breathing slowly and easily?  3) Is she eating about like normal?  If the three are a yes then take a deep breath and dig a little deeper… but rest easy that you aren’t going to miss something by not having 24/7/365 access to your baby’s data.



Have you been made to feel your baby is at risk?  What has helped you deal?
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