Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the leading cause of death for babies under 1 year old. For many parents, the constant threat of SIDS can be a source of anxiety — at least it certainly is for mom Ali Dodd.
Ali lost her 11-week-old son, Shepard, on April 6, 2015, when a day care worker left him unattended in a car seat for two hours. Now she regularly advocates for safe sleeping practices in day cares and at home.
When a safe sleeping device known as a “Owlet smart sock” made the news for alerting parents of an abnormally high heart rate, we reached out to solicit Ali’s feedback on the device.
As previously reported by Dearly, the smart sock is a baby monitor that uses “pulse oximetry to track an infant’s heart rate and oxygen levels.” If something appears abnormal, the system will send an alert to your phone.
Ali has been in contact with Owlet for years. She told Dearly that she regularly uses the device for her new baby and she recommends it to her friends. But she warned that the technology might not suit everyone:
“[Owlet] allows me to close my eyes at night, but it isn’t for everyone. It can increase anxiety when the technology is in the pockets of parents who have experienced loss. For most parents, it helps us get through the night, but there are rare stories of parents who have lost sleep checking their phones.”
The Oklahoma mom told Dearly that when parents ask for advice on the Owlet, she asks them first about their relationship with their smartphones:
“Can they wait for an alarm to go off or will they be constantly checking their phones? And how do they deal with anxiety?”
Over the course of her research, she’s learned that the sleeping sock is still controversial for many health care professionals:
“It’s currently not recommended by pediatricians, I found this early on after Shepard died. One of the ladies at the health department told me that she can’t recommend that parents use the sock. Some parents think the device can replace supervision or a safe sleep environment. It can’t replace supervision, but it can alert you if something is wrong.”
As a health professional herself, Ali noted that she’s been able to see the positives and negatives of using the device. For her family, it is a solution that works.
Despite all of the controversy, Ali noted that she wouldn’t be able to sleep without the monitor. She also appreciates that the once small company always contacts her personally when she has questions and concerns, and it aims to teach parents about safe sleeping practices.
Jane Putman, a spokesperson for Owlet, told Dearly that the company is constantly working to improve the product, including finding ways to help parents reduce anxiety and to ease the concerns of the healthcare professionals:
“Overall, we’ve found that Owlet parents sleep better because of their Owlet Monitor. In our customer surveys, “peace of mind” and less anxiety are very frequent responses about customer experiences. […] We’ve designed the product with parents in mind (in fact our co-founders are all dads!), and in fact, one of our mottos is “love more, worry less” — in line with our mission to empower parents with the right information at the right time, and outside of that, to be running silently in the background. […]
We have a 45-day peace of mind guarantee for parents who do decide to return the product.”
Ali told Dearly that she’s thankful that Owlet is moving baby monitoring technology forward.
“It takes the uncertainty out of parenting. We didn’t have anything like this when I was a new mom,” she said.