Is There a Need for At Home Infant Monitors?

People living at higher altitude, such as here in Summit County, where the elevation is above 9,000 feet, commonly have lower oxygen saturations than people residing at lower elevations. It has been suggested, but not proven, that hypoxia (low oxygen saturation) may be a contributing factor to SIDS. Does this mean parents at high elevations should constantly monitor their healthy babies at night? The simple answer? No.

A study from 2015 states that “residence at high altitude was significantly associated with an increased adjusted risk for SIDS.”1 However, one of the authors from that study, Dr. David Katz, a cardiologist at the University of Colorado Denver, states that “the absolute risk of SIDS remains very low, and … this is in no way a call to abandon residence in or visits to high-altitude” locations. The authors stress ’that even at high elevations, the risk of SIDS is still low. Even above 8,000 feet, a baby’s chance of dying of SIDS is only 0.079 percent.” 5

The Owlet is a new infant physiologic monitor built into a sock that monitors heart rate and oxygen saturation. It connects to smartphones and is advertised to alert parents when something is wrong with their baby. However, their website clearly states the $250 device is “not a medical device,” and is only intended to provide a “peace of mind” for parents. It is “not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.”4 Healthy infants sometimes have desaturations less than 80% without consequence, and these monitors could lead to over-diagnosis and instill unnecessary fear into parents of healthy babies.2 An American Academy of Pediatrics policy states “home cardiorespiratory monitoring should not be prescribed to prevent SIDS.” Multiple studies have been unable to provide a need for their use on healthy babies.3

We bought an Owlet to try for our clinic, and were not impressed. One employee had a difficult time getting it to stay on her newborn; whereas another employee said it didn’t hold a charge very well, and the alarm would sometimes go off without reason.

Healthy babies are healthy babies! There are proven practices that decrease the risk of SIDS—supine sleep position, safe sleeping environments, and elimination of prenatal and postnatal exposure to tobacco smoke.3 Currently, there is no proven need to purchase and use infant physiologic monitors, such as the Owlet, on your healthy babies!


Kayleigh Belsey, PAS-II

Midwestern University Physician Assistant Program

Clinical Rotation- June 2017


  1. Katz, D., MD, Shore, S., MD, Bandle, B., MPH, Niermeyer, S., MD, MPH, Bol, K. A., MSPH, & Khanna, A., MD. (2015). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Residential Altitude. Pediatrics, 135(6). Retrieved June 25, 2017, from
  1. Bonafide, C. P., MD, MSCE, Jamison, D. T., MBA, BSEE, PMP, & Foglia, E. E., MD, MSCE. (2017). The Emerging Market of Smartphone-Integrated Infant Physiologic Monitors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 317(4), 353-354.
  1. Apnea, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and Home Monitoring. (2003). Pediatrics, 111(4), 914-917. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from
  1. Http:// (n.d.). Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  1. Pappas, S. (2015, May 25). Sudden Infant Deaths Linked to Elevation. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from 

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