There is a new baby monitor that is getting a lot of buzz recently – the Sproutling. It is this little ankle bracelet (getting your little rule-breaker ready for a life of crime, no doubt) that monitors your baby’s position, breathing, skin temperature, and so forth coupled with a smart charger that monitors their environment. It also comes with an app for your mobile device that tells you how your baby is doing, based on patterns and environmental conditions where the baby is in their sleep cycle, and more. As a mom, I am both in love with and horrified by this new product.
Why I am in love – in short, I am a completely paranoid parent. Not a helicopter parent, but insanely scared of SIDS, breathing problems or something being wrong with my baby. I was scared before I had my first, but both children have proved my somewhat irrational fears very likely.
My daughter was induced, had fluid on her lungs and spent her first night in the nursery. I don’t think I slept for two days since she was born at night and we were watching her overnight. Then she had jaundice, which required those lovely light belts. And she wasn’t gaining enough weight. We were in and out of the doctor’s office for a solid week. I could barely sleep – always checking to see if she was breathing. It was exhausting, overwhelming, and so hard for both of us. At just over a month old, when I started to be able to not drag her into the bathroom with me – the unthinkable happened.
It was so quick, I thought I imagined it at first. We were playing on her little tummy time mat, she was laying on her back and looking at the little toys hanging over her. Then she stopped moving, and started to turn blue. I picked her up and she immediately started moving and the color came back to her face. I thought I was crazy. I sat there holding her, making sure she was ok for 10 minutes. I finally picked up my phone and called her doctor. I called for my husband (in the other room the whole time) and told him what happened. She was acting ok, hungry, but I was in shock.
The pediatrician told us she had to be admitted to the hospital. I didn’t understand why, more out of just plain shock that we had just gotten out of the woods with her other problems and now she was going back to the hospital. We spent a week in the hospital, testing for a myriad of things, but mostly to see if she had acid reflux. They put a catheter down her nose for 24 hours, I barely wanted to put her down in that awful cage-like contraption to sleep. I spent most of the time in the rocking chair by her bed instead of the bed they had in the room for me.
We also found out that she had milk protein allergies, I apparently had the same problem when I was a child. I had to clean out my system even more since I was nursing. Between her allergies to pretty much everything I ate, and her acid reflux, we figured out why she was so sickly looking. She had turned blue (called an ALTE event) because of her acid reflux, they hold their breath when the acid gets too much for them.
After that traumatic experience, it took me months to be comfortable with her sleeping, we had video monitors to keep an eye on her once she got into her own room, always had her head tilted up and walked on eggshells. Eventually, I calmed down, the medication helped her and she eventually went on the same formula I was on when I was a baby – Nutramigen, a predigested formula made of gold (based on the price). She is now a healthy three year old and I still check to make sure she is breathing at least once a night.
My son was also a handful. I committed to trying nursing again, it wasn’t my favorite after how miserable my daughter and I both were, but I knew it is supposed to be the best. That flew out the window when my son started projectile vomiting at 12 hours old. I made the nurse wake up his pediatrician to ok the use of the gold-dust formula I had already started stockpiling in the event that would happen. He saw a gastroenterologist (at the same practice we frequented with my daughter for a year) within his first week. I thought I had it figured out.
We resisted putting him on the medication we had my daughter on, if they go on it too soon, it could cause complications that would require surgery. We resolved to put him on it after the one month mark – when the complications are no longer a concern. We had a night nurse to come sit with him a few nights a week, and I learned to sleep a teensy bit easier.
At exactly one month old, I put him down for bed in the bassinet by my bed. I sat down in bed, and heard the most ungodly noise coming from his bassinet. I looked down, he was purple and struggling for breath. He looked like he had swallowed pool water and was trying to clear his lungs. He was also coughing up clear liquid. My husband and I struggled to get him to breathe while I called 911.
We were taken by ambulance to the best pediatric ER in the area – which also happened to be “county” hospital. Once they figured out that he didn’t have any life threatening (ha) illnesses, we were discharged to the step down unit. Which – for someone who spent my daughter’s hospital stay in a private room – a freaking nightmare. We were in a room with three other children with various illnesses, one of which I gathered was being observed for meningitis. Everyone was coughing – it was November and flu season. I spent the night fighting to be sent to another hospital and holding my son in my arms and as far away from the other people in the room.
Finally, working with his gastroenterologist, we got him a room at a nearby children’s hospital to get the same testing done on him that they did with my daughter. They also did a sleep study, mapping his brain waves while he slept. As my husband had to be home with my daughter, I spent the nights with my son. We don’t have family nearby, so it was pretty lonely, and I remember being scared to even go downstairs for a sandwich in the vending machine, as he would be left alone while I was gone.
Needless to say, that was several more months of not sleeping. Once we got home, I found a monitor that clipped in his diaper that went off if he stopped moving (basically breathing) – the Snuza Baby Monitor. It wasn’t a fail-safe, but it gave me a little piece of mind. He wore it till he was about 7 months old, when he could flip on his own and the darn thing went off once a night because he worked it off. It helped with my fears of breathing, but it wasn’t a replacement for an even better video monitor and the constant bed checks.
With the advent of this new technology, I like the idea of a little more “intelligent” monitoring equipment. I was a nervous wreck with both kids, and this MIGHT have made me feel a little better about closing my eyes.
What I don’t like is that I feel it might be a replacement for the basic learning curve you have to work out when you are a parent. If you need an app to tell you it is getting too loud for the baby to sleep, I think you might need to work on your common sense. Telling a parent to lower the temperature in a baby’s room so she sleeps a little longer might lead to parents freezing or overheating a room to squeeze out ten more minutes of sleep. If you need an app to learn your baby’s circadian rhythms, then you start to just phone in the whole parenting thing.
As much as I need my sleep, and would love to have someone tell me when the baby will nap so I can plan my day, I also enjoy getting to know my kids. I like to see what combination of swaddling, singing, and cuddling will get Boogie to take a nap. As much as I go in their room to see if they are breathing, I also go in there to take a look at my beautiful child, sleeping peacefully. I have even been known to pull them out of bed to hold them if I wasn’t there to put them to bed.
Parenting is not a spectator sport (and I know people love to be commentators). Even if an app can get to know your child, and figure out their needs and wants, isn’t it starting to take away the human element? Everyone needs peace of mind, but I want to know more about my kids than a baby monitor.
But sometimes, maybe momma DOES know best.