Buyer Beware: Baby Wearables Could Be Harmful

Wearable baby monitors, the kind worn on clothes to keep track of an infant's breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels and other vital signs, are coming under increased scrutiny on concerns that they could actually do more harm than good.

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty)

There's no actual evidence that these devices save lives, and in fact, they could actually be harmful, lulling parents into a false sense of security since their accuracy and safety haven't been adequately proven, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Manufacturers of the devices, like the Owlet Baby Care, which JAMA uses as an example, aim to provide reassurance to worried parents that their child is safe, asleep in their cribs. But these companies have avoided official judgment by government health regulators, because they don't claim to actually prevent infant health issues and sudden infant death syndrome.

For parents who are considering these devices in the future, it may soon be harder to get them. The Food and Drug Administration has said that it intends to regulate any devices and apps that could pose a risk to users if they fail to work as they're meant to. To get a nod from the FDA, which regulates medical devices like pacemakers, these companies will have to go through a research and approval process.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has already advised that parents do not use devices at home that monitor an infant's heart rate and breathing, JAMA authors note.

Althea Chang is Associate Director of Content Development for Consumer Reports and was previously a Senior Writer for Tom's Guide, covering mobile devices, health and fitness gadgets and car tech.