Smart baby monitors promise peace of mind, but some doctors warn otherwise

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Imagine a smart baby monitor that tracks your baby's heartbeat or breathing and sends an alarm to your smartphone if something goes wrong. It sounds incredible to a new parent looking for a better night's sleep, but some doctors say think again.

Becoming mom to Harlow Mae was the best thing that ever happened to Indy mom and The Mae Salon owner Korie Lance. But Korie remembers how scary it was to bring her baby girl home from the hospital three years ago.

"You're nervous about every little sound and move that they make. It's just, you're just paranoid."

And she had every right to be.

In 2015, the CDC reports 1,600 babies in the U.S. died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. So Korie and her husband invested in a Hi-Tech wearable baby monitor.

The Levana Powered by Snuza baby monitor clipped onto Harlow's diaper in order to keep track of her breathing. Korie explained that if the monitor detected Harlow wasn't moving, it was supposed to sound an alarm on Korie's smartphone.

Hi-tech wearable baby monitors are taking over the newborn market. These are smart socks, buttons, and diaper clips that promise to keep track of baby's vitals like heartbeat and breathing. The technology isn't cheap either.

But before you pull out your wallet, the American Academy of Pediatrics tell parents, "Do not rely on home heart or breathing monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS."

"I wouldn't waste your money," added E.R. Physician Dr. Jeremy Gagan at Community Health Network.

While these devices don't market themselves as capable of diagnosing or preventing any diseases or conditions, gadgets like the Owlet Smart Sock do offer parents a “peace of mind.” But Dr. Gagan says none of these wearable monitors are FDA approved.

"A proper FDA approved device is going to go through rigorous testing and proven to meet a certain set of parameters and these don't necessarily do that," he explained. "If the device goes off, we can't tell you why it went off. So what we end up doing is a series of tests typically, watching your child, maybe you spend 3-4 hours in the emergency room just watching to see if anything changes."

Dr. Gagan worries that much time in the E.R. can expose baby to all kinds of germs. But his biggest concern is for parents. He thinks these monitors can make you more anxious and sleep deprived, waiting for something to go wrong.

That's exactly what happened to Korie. She tried the hi-tech baby monitor for one night and then took it off Harlow.

"It was the worst night," she recalled. "It created more anxiety and more paranoia."

However, new mom Stephanie Sjogren has a different take. She claims the Owlet Smart Sock woke her up in the middle of the night, when her premature son suddenly stopped breathing. His formula had come up through his nose.

"I could see all the white in his nose," said Sjogren. "I mean in my opinion, it saved his life. I don't know if I would've honestly woken up, because he wasn't making any noise. Cause he couldn't get air in. He couldn't breathe."

If you are worried about your newborn, Dr. Gagan recommends keeping in touch with your pediatrician; someone who actually knows your child.

"Check with your pediatrician. Check with your specialist. And go through the proper channels to get an FDA approved, really, the right device."

If you do decide to use one of these new devices, Korie says don't forget to trust yourself. Her motherly instinct worked out just fine.

"You were given that child for a reason and they were given you for a reason. And you have to trust that instinct, your intuition, and knowing that you know what's best."

A spokeswoman for Owlet sent us a statement responding to doctors' concerns about Hi-Tech wearable baby monitors. It reads in part:

"Due to innovations developed by Owlet to lessen false alarms, many users will use the Owlet Smart Sock for several months without ever getting a false alarm, greatly reducing the risk over diagnosis. Additional product enhancements and features include use of wireless technology to eliminate cords as well as a smartphone connectivity integration that fits parents’ lifestyle. We have conducted third-party accuracy studies that will be submitted to the FDA as part of our 510(k) application for FDA clearance, for a medical version of the product. Owlet's customer satisfaction is similar to products like Netflix and the iPhone. Additionally, 83 percent of Owlet parents report better quality sleep when using the Owlet."

MonBaby representatives also sent us a statement

"The MonBaby monitor allows parents to conveniently follow the safe sleep guidelines made by the AAP(American Association of Pediatrics), which recommend putting the baby to sleep on the baby’s back. It was not designed and is not intended to prevent SIDS or be used as a medical device – simply put, it allows parents to add another layer of monitoring that is not available through existing audio and video monitors."