When you’ve had a baby in the NICU, you can become very attached to those monitors, am I right? How can you not? It’s a constant throughout the NICU, truly helping keep your baby alive. It’s attached to your baby day and night, tangling you in it’s wicked wires and startling you with it’s ever present beeps and alarms.
For many parents, the thought of taking their baby home is most frightening because there will be no monitor, and that’s hard to come to terms with.
Naturally, when it’s time to take baby home, most NICU parents wonder about home monitoring. Believe me, your doctors would not be sending your baby home if they weren’t confident it was safe, but many NICU parents still want something to monitor their baby. And fortunately, the monitors available out there just keep getting better and better.
So, if you’re wondering which monitors will offer you the peace of mind you’re looking for, read on.
SHOULD I USE A HOME BABY MONITOR WITH MY NICU BABY?
This is a hotly debated topic, and the pros can’t even agree, but here’s my perspective:
Your neonatologists will only send your baby home when your baby is safe to go home. So unless they prescribe a home monitor, you shouldn’t feel you need one at all.
But I know NICU parents (heck, parents in general!) and most parents these days want monitors.
So: ALWAYS follow your doctors orders - they know your baby better than any monitor ever can.ALWAYS follow safe sleep practices - no monitor should ever be used instead of safe sleep practices!
And then, be honest - are you going to obsess over a baby monitor in a bad way? Then don’t go there. Or are you going to be a total mess without a way to observe your baby while he or she sleeps? Go ahead and consider one.
WHAT TYPE OF BABY MONITOR IS BEST?
Unlike in the NICU, when the monitor is relied upon to keep your baby safe, home monitors are more for parental comfort and reassurance. So the one to use really depends on your comfort level and your budget.
Some offer information more similar to what you’ve seen in the NICU, so those tend to be NICU parent favorites. Those include monitors that offer heart rate, oxygen level and breathing tracking.
Other monitors just offer a basic way to hear and / or see your baby when you’re in a different room. Let’s look at the four I hear NICU parents talking about the most, and at least it will give you a basic idea of the current home monitor options in 2019. You can take it from there!
The Owlet is the monitor I’ve been keeping my eye on the longest, because it uses the technology most NICUs use - pulse oximetry. When babies are in the NICU, the pulse-ox is the red glowing light that typically wraps around the foot or hand and gives readings of the baby’s oxygen level.The parents I’ve interviewed who have used this monitor have had nothing but good things to say about it. They like the fit of the sock that the baby wears, they like the fact that it can be used with or without the phone (alarm will still ring even without using the app on your phone - the base station makes alarms too) And they love that it’s a vital sign they are very used to tracking in the NICU.It is pricey, but after everything NICU families have been through, most find it well worth the investment.
This monitor offers lots of convenient features, but it’s just a way to watch and hear your baby; there is no vital sign monitoring. You can use the monitor to remotely pan, tilt or zoom the camera without having to go back into the nursery. If you have a fussy baby, you can press a button to play lullabies. Need the camera to move from your bedroom to the nursery? No problem: this freestanding monitor can be set on top of a dresser or grip onto shelves and brackets. You can also unplug it and use it in another room for up to three hours on a single charge. And there’s a room temperature display.But the most impressive feature is its 1,000-foot range—the highest of all cameras on this list. That means you can hear your little one’s every chirp even if you’re hanging out in your backyard.
The Cocoon Cam Plus is a unique monitor in that it monitors baby’s breathing without having any equipment attached to the baby - it’s all through the camera which can detect visible breathing. I haven’t had any experience with this monitor although I had several parents ask me about it.So I turned to this article on Fathercraft for some great insights into how it works, what the users loved, liked and didn’t like about it. I’d recommend giving this a read if you’re interested.
The Nanit is one heck of a high-tech monitor, and it’s great for parents who really love data. According the the Nanit website, “This bundle includes everything you need to monitor and track your baby, their sleep, and their breathing motion. The Nanit Plus camera sees everything happening in and around the crib, with stunning clarity. And with Breathing Wear, that same camera can monitor your baby's breathing motion, simply by reading the customized patterns on the fabric. Also included is the multi-stand, for taking your Nanit to the bassinet, grandma’s house, or wherever your baby travels. You’ll have your baby’s sleep data at your fingertips when you wake up each morning. And with science-backed sleep advice, it’s like having a personal sleep coach in the palm of your hand.”
I have no personal experience with this monitor either, but I want to mention it here because the parents who do use it seem to love it - the reviews I’ve read here and here seem great. And the Nanit website even offers recommendations on how to adjust the sleep coaching advice to be appropriate for preemies, using adjusted gestational age as opposed to actual birth date so you don’t get frustrated by unrealistic sleep expectations. I love that!
A few things to consider when choosing a good video monitor in 2019
Do you want something that you can take with you, or do you want something mounted to the wall?
Screen size / Resolution:
How big do you want your screen to be, and how good do you want the resolution to be? You have lots of choices here.
How far will you need to get from the nursery and still have clear monitoring?
Do you want to be able to adjust the video camera remotely?
Do you want to be able to talk to your little one through the monitor, which can help calm & soothe without going in the room?
Some monitors have significantly better battery life for the monitor portion of the setup.
Who ever thought we’d be living in a world where we need encryption for our baby monitors? But if you don’t want anyone else to sneak into your monitor’s “feed” and see what’s going on in your baby’s room, you might want to consider this feature.
Besides watching your little one, some cameras also monitor the room’s temperature and your baby’s vitals.
Bottom line, and I can’t say this enough - I am not giving medical advice here; you absolutely should talk with your baby’s doctor. And know yourself - if a monitor is going to make you crazy with worry, don’t do it.
But if living life without a monitor is going to make you crazy with worry, you’ll be in good company with thousands of other parents who feel better using one.
Just never, ever forget that safe sleep practices are your absolute most important way to keep your baby safe while sleeping.
Did you use a monitor at home? Why, or why not? Was there a monitor you loved for your NICU grad? I’d love to hear about it, and maybe even add it to the list if it’s worth adding!