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The Kid’s Doctor: Baby nursery or high-tech hideaway?

There was a real baby boom this past summer! I’ve been seeing lots of new babies lately and learning how keenly many parents now monitor the well-being of their infants. In some homes today, the nursery seems more elaborate than an intensive care unit.

I can hardly keep up with all the technology new parents are talking about. They’re asking me questions about setting up heart rate monitors, pulse oximeters and respiratory rate monitors – all for their precious new babies, none of whom have any underlying problems.

So what did parents do before the introduction of all this “uber” technology? Ask your mother and father. They just listened for the baby to cry. Incredible, huh? No monitor or video monitor, just a crib in the nursery (usually close the parents’ bedroom). When the infant cried, you went to check on him or her.

The market for newborn monitoring devices has gone through the roof, and I’m sure there are more must-have tools to come. Of course, every parent wants the very best for their baby, but is all of this really necessary? Are parents being overprotective?

In my opinion, having the nursery as wired as an ICU is really causing parents even more anxiety as they constantly look and listen to see what their baby is doing: Check the oxygen monitor, watch the video monitor, listen for the baby’s breathing. It’s a wonder newborns don’t feel some “invasion of privacy” as their every breath, movement and squeak is carefully recorded. I only wish some parents with misbehaving teens were this connected.

Every new parent is fearful of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and this will always be a concern for parents. However, studies have shown that the best protection against SIDS is not a video monitor or a pad under your newborn to detect the child’s respiratory rate. If this were true, wouldn’t doctors be recommending such devices? The best protection is simply back-sleeping on a flat surface without blankets, pillows or toys in the crib.

SIDS is typically a silent event and can occur even when a baby is in the room with you, or has a video monitor focused on him or her. Being an anxious parent doesn’t cause or prevent SIDS. Being able to enjoy your newborn is important. Not being able to leave the nursery to go to the kitchen, or even leave the house without a video monitor streaming pictures of your infant just doesn’t seem psychologically healthy.

Save your money on the ICU nursery. Just buy a simple monitor so you can hear your baby cry if you’re in another part of the house or outdoors, and stash the money saved in a college fund!

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a pediatrician and co-host of “The Kid’s Doctor” radio show.