It's common for parents to use baby monitors to keep an eye on their little ones, but researchers are now saying some of these devices don't have any medical benefits.
Modern "wearable" baby monitors are used to not only capture video of tots, but also measure babies' vital signs, including oxygen levels and heart rates. It also allows parents to track this information on their smartphones.
However, a review carried out by the Journal of the American Medical Association says there is no evidence that these "smart" monitors are accurate, and worse still, the devices may lead to false alarms about babies' health and safety, when in fact there may be nothing wrong with the child.
"There is no evidence that [baby monitors] help kids and there's some evidence of potential harm," said Dr. Christopher Bonafide, the lead author on the review, who also noted that the devices create undue stress for parents, leading to unnecessary hospital visits and tests.
"I worry about the unnecessary care and even potential harm to babies that can be associated with alarms from these devices," Bonafide noted. "There's not a role for these devices in the care of healthy infants."
According to Live Science via Yahoo, researchers examined the features of five baby monitors that have been introduced over the past two years: MonBaby, Baby Vida, Owlet, Snuza Pico and Sproutling. These monitors came with smartphone apps.
They encountered a problem wherein the monitors would sound an alarm when the baby was actually fine.
"An upset, crying one-month-old baby could have a heart rate that exceeds 180 beats per minute, which would cause a heart rate alarm on the Baby Vida monitor using its predetermined heart rate alarm settings," said Bonafide, who noted that this heart-rate level is not concerning in that type of situation.
However, "a concerned parent might be compelled to seek care from a physician for reassurance, potentially leading to an EKG, chest X-ray, blood test, and admission for monitoring," he said.
"That baby would be subjected to unnecessary discomfort, radiation and exposure to sick, contagious kids in waiting rooms," he told Live Science. "The parents might miss work, feel anxious, and then be stuck with a significant hospital bill."
Researchers also looked at the devices' manufacturing information online and found that although their websites didn't claim that their products could diagnose, treat or prevent disease, they did find an advertisement for Owlet that mentioned sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suggested their device could notify parents that something is wrong with their baby.
Bonafide told Live Science that parents should be cautious as, "there is absolutely no evidence that using a vital sign monitor at home can prevent SIDS, and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them," adding there is no evidence the monitors can accurately measure a baby's health.
"Parents are wondering about these monitors because they care about and love their babies, and they want to do everything they can to keep them healthy," Bonafide said. "Monitor companies have capitalized on that to some degree, promising 'peace of mind' and offering to alert parents if something is wrong with baby’s health."