Do you find yourself checking on your baby every few minutes? A newborn can have you tiptoeing into the nursery frequently just to ease your mind, but rest assured it’s completely normal if you do.
Anxieties within those first few months can take their toll. When it comes to breathing, especially if your baby has respiratory or cardiac problems or was born premature, it can be a cause for concern.
But your worry can be eased — you no longer have to get out of bed to ensure your baby is still breathing easily.
Baby monitors have stepped up the game and now offer a variety that didn’t exist when we were young. Let the breathing monitor keep track of whether your baby is safe and breathing well.
We’ve put together this guide to help all you worried and sleepless moms find the best baby breathing monitors to suit your needs.
What Does a Baby Breathing Monitor Do?
While you usually breathe at a steady rate, your newborn may not. Periodic breathing refers to when young babies show pauses in their breathing patterns. While it is usually normal, especially for preemies, or when a baby is in a deep sleep, it can be distressing for a parent (1).
You might hear your newborn take a few shallow breaths, then pause before starting to breathe again. If this is the case, a breathing monitor can help differentiate between the normal sleep and breathing patterns and those that are dangerous.
It closely monitors your baby and alerts you when irregularities surface. This usually entails pauses in breathing, and/or lack of motion, lasting longer than 15 to 20 seconds.
Periodic breathing usually fades away on its own with time. But this special alarm system can provide parents with a bit of extra relief and support in these early days.
When to Seek Help for Irregular Breathing
Whenever you have a question that deals with the health of your baby, you should address it with your pediatrician. Health issues can progress fairly rapidly in a newborn, which is why it is crucial to seek help quickly if you are worried (2).
While these symptoms are not all-inclusive, they are some of the more prominent signs:
- Breathing pauses that happen more and more often.
- Your baby has a blue tinge around the lips and mouth.
- Your baby’s skin is blue in tint, even while breathing at a normal rate.
- You notice lethargy or baby not responding as usual.
- Rapid breathing as a common occurrence.
- Or any other symptom you as the parent deem abnormal.
All of these symptoms can be frightening if your baby is experiencing them. Furthermore, they could be a sign of a more serious issue, such as sleep apnea. Try to keep calm and contact your doctor or 911 center immediately (3).
Should I Use a Breathing Monitor?
If your baby is full-term, normal weight, and healthy, your doctor probably won’t recommend getting a breathing monitor.
Any “apparent life-threatening event” (or ALTE) or “brief, resolved, unexplained event” (BRUE) may be grounds for keeping a better watch with a breathing monitor (4).
Premature babies with a history of breathing troubles and slow heart rate may need this device. Sleep apnea or chronic lung disease would also probably require it.
Other rare medical conditions may prompt your baby’s doctor to advise monitoring of their breathing. These conditions include respiratory distress syndrome, transient tachypnea, and persistent pulmonary hypertension as well as those infant with a cardiac history (5).
Make sure you discuss your breathing monitor with your pediatrician. There may be a particular one they recommend, which will best suit your needs and the needs of your baby.
Choosing the Best Breathing Monitor
While picking out a breathing monitor can be a particularly complicated task, there are a few factors to help break it down. These should be your main considerations when narrowing down your choices.
1. Monitoring Vitals
Obviously, if you are shopping for a breathing monitor, it needs to do an excellent job at monitoring the breath. Yet, there are other vital signs that units can monitor. Some will also keep track of your baby’s heart rate or their movements in general.
There are related activities it can monitor as well. Some units will let you know what the temperature is in the nursery. Others can even track your baby’s sleep data.
Depending on the vitals most important to check, you can choose your monitor accordingly.
2. Style and Function
There are also video/audio versions, similar to other baby monitors. These are the three main types:
- The clip-on version: This is a popular style because it’s easily portable, though false alarms can be a common occurrence. It’s simpler to use than other varieties.
- Under-the-mattress sensor pads: You may view these as “high tech.” But for those with premature little ones who are on guard against SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and other fears, being able to track each movement might be necessary.
- Video/audio monitors: These are more similar to other baby monitors, with the addition of breath detection. If it’s important to keep an actual eye and ear to sounds and movement coming from the crib, you may want to stick with what’s familiar and choose one of these.
Also, consider the portability of the receiver. Some receivers can be clipped to your belt, to keep your hands free. Consider what you need or want to do while the baby is sleeping, to narrow down your monitor choices.
All of these considerations will help you choose a good quality breathing monitor. However, remember to check with your pediatrician before making a purchase.
The Best Baby Breathing Monitors of 2020
Now that we’ve gone over what to look for and indicated those that might need a monitor, let’s look at our top choices. This list should help you understand what each unit is all about and arm you with the confidence you need to take the next step.
1. Snuza Hero SE
The Hero is a great little monitor, and popular for a few reasons. One of these being that it can be clipped over the baby’s diaper. This makes it easy to use, even on hot summer days when your baby isn’t wearing a sleep sack or pajamas.
The size makes it easy to travel with because it isn’t bulky and you’ll be able to monitor your baby’s breathing, no matter where your travels take you. This would have been useful for me since my family is spread across the country!
One unique feature is that the device will vibrate to stimulate your baby if there is no abdominal movement for 15 seconds. At the 20-second mark, the device will sound an alarm.
There are no wires or cords to create a safety hazard. Plus, the device is made of medical grade plastics to prevent any skin reaction. This would be a good option for babies with extremely sensitive skin or allergies.
A rechargeable battery is included.
- Clips directly to the diaper.
- Small size is perfect for travel.
- Stimulation feature.
- Made from quality materials.
- One-year warranty comes with the machine.
- Some parents reported false alarms.
2. Owlet Smart Sock
The Owlet Smart Sock can track heart rate and oxygen levels. Using lights, sounds, and app notifications, you’ll be informed about your baby’s breathing status throughout the night or during naptime.
The monitor comes with three separate washable socks, though extras are available for purchase. These socks wrap around the baby’s feet and then connect to the base station via Bluetooth. Socks fit newborns up to 18 months.
Real-time readings are sent to your phone, while heart rate and oxygen levels can be accessed on multiple phones at the same time. This means you, your partner, and other family members can keep an eye on your precious bundle.
The breathing monitor is latex free, for the safety of those with allergies. Plus, the sock makes for a secure monitor, with minimal false alarms.
Unfortunately, the free version of the app doesn’t have all of the advertised features. You will need the premium, paid version to get everything.
- Monitors heart rate and oxygen levels.
- Comes with three socks.
- Can access stats from a smartphone.
- Latex free.
- Can connect to multiple devices at once.
- Signal extends to 100 feet away.
- Must use paid version to access all reports.
3. Cocoon Cam Plus
Pediatrician recommended, the Cocoon Cam offers breath monitoring with HD video and night vision. It connects to a free app for your smartphone. You will be notified via the app of any changes that occur in your baby’s movement and breathing.
You will be alerted if your baby is still for more than 20 seconds. Plus, you’ll receive notifications of when he or she is just beginning to wake. Even if you’re resting whenever your baby does, you can rely on the app to alert you of issues.
This system doesn’t use any clips or pads to monitor the baby. The secure HD video camera does all the heavy lifting. Through the camera, you can see and hear your baby.
Plus, you can use the system to talk back with your baby. This feature can help you soothe him or her from anywhere in your house.
The monitor needs the “bird’s eye view” to work properly and must be mounted over the crib. This would have been a problem for me, living in rental housing. Yet, if you are free to drill holes in the wall, it could be an option for you.
- Two-way communication.
- Free smartphone app.
- HD camera and night vision.
- Reliable alert system.
- Non-invasive — nothing is attached to your baby.
- Must be mounted to the wall.
- Some users reported a lag time between what you see and hear and what’s actually happening.
4. Sense-U Breathing & Rollover Monitor
This monitor works in conjunction with your smartphone to monitor your baby’s breathing while sleeping. It includes an alarm for both lack of breath and rapid breathing. It will also notify you if/when your baby rolls onto his or her stomach.
In addition to breathing and rolling, it will also monitor the temperature of the room and the humidity levels. This bonus feature will help you make sure your baby isn’t getting too cold or too hot.
The easy clip-on unit can be attached to sleepwear, onesies, or even the sleep bag. The signal is picked up on your smartphone via Bluetooth. The corresponding app you need for tracking is free for Android and iOS.
You can get your baby’s statistics right from the cloud. This makes it easy to review with your doctor or pediatrician.
Plus, you can also share the data with friends and family easily. I know my family loves getting any kind of updates where the babies are concerned!
- Monitors breathing, rolling, and room temperature.
- Easy to connect via Bluetooth.
- Free tracking app.
- Easy to clip-on and use.
- The range of 50 feet may not be suitable for those in large living spaces.
- Some parents reported false alarms.
5. Babysense 7
This straightforward, highly-sensitive monitor is designed for the parents who are simply interested in making sure their baby is moving regularly, without all the special features.
It uses two ultra skinny pads under the mattress which supply an adequate amount of coverage. These pads can detect even subtle movements, abdominal and otherwise, from the baby.
If the baby is still for 20 seconds, you will get a warning alarm sent to the control unit. This is a particularly helpful monitor for anyone worried about SIDS, like parents of preemie babies.
There are no loose wires in the crib to worry about, plus, the sensors do not emit any radiation that could harm the baby.
- Helps monitor for SIDS.
- No dangerous wires in the crib.
- High accuracy reports due to two, full-coverage sensor pads.
- Highly sensitive.
- Not as many special functions as other monitors.
- Some parents say it works much better with a thin bassinet mattress than a standard crib mattress which is thicker.
6. Snuza Go
The Snuza Go is the baby brother of the Snuza Hero. The biggest difference between the two is that the “Go” doesn’t have the stimulation feature that the Hero has.
It clips to the diaper, just like the Hero, and will send out an alarm when the baby has not been breathing for 15, 18, or 20 seconds (parent’s choice of setting). A green light indicates all is well, while an orange light communicates that your baby’s movements are weak or infrequent.
Remember, to avoid false alarms, you should clip with care. It is handy to travel with due to the size as it can be slipped into most bags with ease.
- Free protective case included.
- Small and lightweight.
- Budget-friendly option.
- Straightforward design.
- No bells and whistles.
- No stimulation feature like its big brother.
7. NANNY Baby Monitor
NANNY was originally only available in European markets and is relatively new to the United States. The sensitive pad slips under the mattress in the crib. It is solely a breathing monitor, with a loud alarm accompanied by flashing lights if no abdominal movement is detected for 20 seconds.
The alarm is quite loud which can be startling if it is a false alarm. However, the NANNY only alerts you to irregular breathing patterns.
It is a battery-operated device and runs on lithium-ion batteries that are rechargeable. Two are included. The package also includes a breastfeeding apron, free of charge.
- Loud alarm system.
- Runs on rechargeable batteries, two are included.
- Highly sensitive mat.
- Free breastfeeding apron included.
- Only a breathing monitor, no audio or video feed.
- It does have false alarms.
Out of all the concerns new parents have to face, lack of breath from the baby is one of the biggest. These types of monitors may give you peace of mind during this trying time.
While we’ve listed some of the reasons you may want one, only you and your doctor will know what’s right for you.
The biggest thing to remember is the breathing monitor’s sole purpose is to ring the alarm bell. They can’t do anything in the event of an emergency, so we recommend always having a plan, and everybody being aware of it, including babysitters.
If we had to choose from the above, our top pick as the best baby breathing monitor is the Snuza Hero SE. The stimulation feature makes it unique, it travels well, and the clip is convenient.