Are Baby Breathing Monitors Worth It? Everything You Need to Know

are baby breathing monitors worth it?
Considering wearable or no-contact baby breathing monitors? Here's everything you need to know about tracking baby's most vital sign.

The rise of baby breathing monitors is perhaps one of the greatest symptoms that being a first-time parent is the heaviest responsibility anyone ever gives us as people. From one day to the next, you’re responsible for the survival of a tiny human.

As a first-time mom or dad, we’re filled with fear as we ponder the terrifying possibility that our baby could- for any reason- stop breathing. Their breath seems to be the one thing keeping us going through the sleepless nights, the struggles.

That said, monitoring our babies isn’t new, of course. Even baby breathing monitors aren’t new. The question is: are they necessary? or even worth it? We’ve gathered everything you need to know about baby breathing and monitors that track this vital sign and why it speaks to parents so much.

Guide to this post

This Cubo Ai post is purely informational and is not meant to be taken as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s breathing, consult your pediatrician.

Want to know more about which baby monitor is for you? Check out the top baby monitors of 2020.

Breathing Baby Monitors help moms sleep at night

When should I worry about my newborn’s breathing? (and when can I stop worrying about SIDS?)

The thing to know about newborn breathing is mainly that it’s very different from older children and adults. This can be the cause of a lot of parents’ panic when trying to establish some sort of pattern to listen for. Here are some main differences:

  • Babies breathe more through their nose and their little breathing pathways are easily clogged or obstructed.
  • While our chest is hard, theirs is flexible and pliable since it’s mostly made of cartilage.
  • They’re still learning how to breathe and getting used to those muscles. This can lead to a few abrupt stops, false starts, and other irregularities.
  • Immediately after birth, amniotic fluid and meconium remain in the airways.
  • The space in their lungs is limited, so the amount of oxygen they can hold is quite small. This means they take more breaths per minute to continue to keep that oxygen flow to what they need.

One common worry parents have when caring for their first child is that their baby breathes quite fast. So, what’s worrisome and what’s normal? Let’s take a look.

Normal Newborn Breathing: How do I know if my child is breathing too fast?

Counting your baby’s breath can be an easy way to tell how they’re breathing for a little while, but it’s not sustainable when you’re up in the middle of the night worried. The average newborn respiratory rate is roughly 30-60 breaths per minute. While they sleep, just like ours, their breathing slows down. Theirs to about 20 per minute. Six-month-old babies on the other hand take about 25-40 breaths per minute while awake. Adults meanwhile can take as little as 12!

This is why infant breathing looks so fast to us; it really is! Normal newborn breathing can also stop abruptly or pause for even 10 seconds at a time! This can look terrifying but it can also be totally normal until about 6 months. After that point, most irregularities can be traced to allergies or a cold. If your baby is way above these breath counts or you have any reason for concern, check with your doctor.

Breathing Irregularities to Look Out For

  • Whistling noises: if your baby’s breathing sounds like a whistling noise, it could mean there’s a blockage. Your pediatrician can instruct you on how to properly suction mucus to give your baby comfort and prevent bigger blockage.
  • Hoarse crying: This sound can also be the sign of a mucus blockage, this time in the windpipe. Look for inflammation and prepare for nights as croup can get worse at night time.
  • Barking or deep cough: depending on the sound of the cough, this could be the sign of a blockage in the lungs. To be sure, ask your pediatrician to take a listen.
  • Wheezing: Whether it’s blockage or narrowing of the airways, wheezing means your baby is very uncomfortable. This could be caused by asthma, pneumonia, or a respiratory virus. If you hear wheezing, it’s better to check it out with a doctor and be sure of the next steps so your baby can breathe comfortably again.
  • Snoring: there are a few reasons why your baby could be snoring. Rule out mucus and if it persists look into a chronic issue or their tonsils.
  • Stridor: defined as a high-pitched constant screech coming from their mouth or nose, stridor usually means there’s something in their windpipe. Get this looked at to clear anything that can severely affect your baby’s oxygen levels.
  • Grunting: defined as a low pitched noise that you can hear suddenly from time to time, grunting is most alarming while your baby is ill and should be looked at immediately.

The Most-Common Age Range for SIDS

Let’s get a hard fact to read out of the way: SIDS can happen anytime during a baby’s first year. This isn’t very comforting because parents like to know that there’s a window of time when they can finally stop worrying about tragedies.

Statistically, the majority of cases happen in the first 6 months and specifically in the first four. Of course, there are things you can do to help your baby have a safe sleep environment.

Knowing all of this, you can approach your baby’s nights in a new way. Informed and with accurate expectations, understanding what to look out for and what’s entirely normal. Now, let’s talk about these monitors that offer to help out with this observation.

Do breathing monitors prevent SIDS?

Wearable monitors have become more and more popular in the market and the reasons why range from more awareness about SIDS to children with special needs getting technology that helps them. Whatever your reason, whether you’re particularly worried about being there for your baby while they sleep while not totally losing your mind or you have other needs and wishes, here’s a breakdown of wearable (and non-wearable) baby breathing monitors. What are they? How much do they cost? What types are out there? What do parents think of them? When should I worry about my baby’s breathing?

Let’s go through it all.

What are wearable baby monitors?

Wearable baby monitors are devices that you can put on your baby, normally around their wrist, ankle, foot, or even as a swaddle in order to monitor their breathing and other vital signs. Their technology is the same as that of the Fitbit or other fitness and health devices that track your pulse and other signals of changes in your body. 

They became popular as a way for parents to be notified and aware of their baby’s oxygen levels and breathing while they’re in their cribs alone. Seeing as SIDS is a big fear for most parents, these kinds of devices offer some peace of mind.  

Do breathing monitors prevent SIDS?

There are no descriptions out there saying that these breathing monitors actively help prevent SIDS. Sudden Death in babies is still vastly mysterious to researchers and physicians. Though there are many practices that help babies be safer, nothing is guaranteed. This, perhaps, is why parents hold on to the little bits of peace of mind they can get and that looks different for different parents. Do what’s right for you!

The best prevention to take is every logical one. Establishing a safe sleeping environment for babies, having the right tools to make sure baby’s sleeping positions are optimal, and having a baby monitor that alerts you when something looks suspicious are great! At the end of the day, though, parents still need to step in when the time is right. 

As far as when you should worry about baby’s breathing, you can check out this article about SIDS peak age and more.

Types of wearable baby monitors

There are different types of wearable devices for babies, with varying degrees of invasiveness. Some monitor using video others with a clip-on device. In the search for wearables, here are the top most-common kinds.

  • Clip-on 
  • Contact-free smart technology via camera
  • Wearable pulse oximeter compatible with smartphone
  • Sensor pads

All of these types come with different features that make them more or less desirable to parents, like how portable they are, whether they’re battery-powered, how much contact they have to have with their baby, and other factors. 

Levana Oma Sense Breathing Clip-On Monitor- Photo by Dear November Days

Common Favorites: breathing monitors of 2020 

MonitorType of wearablePrice in USDRating (out of 5)
Levana Oma SenseBattery-operated clip-on device119.993.7
Sense-uBattery-operated clip-on device/ smartphone compatible99.994.1 
BabysenseUnder the mattress sensor pad OR Under the mattress & camera sensor bundleMattress sensor 129.99Bundle 149.99Mattress sensor 4.0

Bundle 3.9
Miku baby monitorNo-contact breathing monitor- camera sensor399.004.2
Owlet Baby MonitorWearable Sock Sensor OR sock & camera bundleSock 299.00
Sock & Camera 339.99
Sock 4.0
Sock & Camera 4.2
Nanit Baby MonitorWearable swaddle + Camera (no monitors on baby, the camera reads swaddle’s pattern for breathing)Bundle 379.004.4
Cocoon MonitorDISCONTINUED THIS YEAR
MimoBreathing and activity wearable onesie monitor.349.952.4 

Snuza
Wearable abdominal movement sensor/ alarm103.994.4
AngelcareMovement alarm and wireless sensor pad
OR
Breathing/Movement tracking + Camera bundle
Movement alarm and sensor 89.99

Bundle 194.93
Movement alarm and sensor 4.1

Bundle 3.9

Baby breathing monitor reviews: what parents think

For the sake of sharing parent opinions on these products, we added one 5-star rating and one 1-star rating from their respective Amazon product pages which can all be seen as of the date of this post’s publication. 

We’ve also added the percentage of 5-star and 1-star ratings to get an idea of the rate of satisfied to dissatisfied customers who bought the monitors on Amazon.

Levana Oma Sense

Best Review (49% 5-star ratings)Worst Review (17% 1-star ratings)
“After spending a while researching sleeping monitors we decided on this one and don’t regret it. Helps me sleep at night and doesn’t over complicate things. Simple and easy to use. Accurate and doesn’t have false alarms.”“My baby has sleep apnea so I got this to monitor her breathing while I slept for a bit, it says it will notify with noises after 15 seconds of inactivity, the one I recieved did not do this, my baby gasping or struggling to get a breath in was what made me aware of her having difficulties not the machine that I put on her, and I attached it in the right way so it could detect it. Whenever my daughter was having issues it never issued a sound because she was moving her arms and body struggling to get a breath. I would send this back but I no longer have the box it came in, absolute waste of my money.”

Sense-u

Best Review (59% 5-star ratings)Worst Review (11% 1-star ratings)
“My original review of this product was very poor. It had connectivity issues and false alarms constantly. It would read for 5 min and then go off. The breathing portion would always only read about 9-12 breaths/minute. It just didn’t seem right. The company reached out to me, offering a refund and replacement. I declined refund but wanted to give the product another shot. They sent a new one within a day! I’m glad I tried again. After using for 3 nights, I haven’t had to mess with placement of the product and haven’t had one false alarm. My first review was 1 star, but their customer service is great and has no issue making things right. This monitor works great, so long as you get a working one.”“I was super excited about this, my 3 month old will only sleep on his tummy which scares me so I basically stay up all night making sure he’s breathing, finally bought this so I could get some sleep, and it got here today and it won’t work, there’s a light that supposed to come on when you’re pairing with your phone and it just never comes on. We changed the battery and again nothing happened,We emailed them this morning and they still haven’t replied us, we will be returning this and we’re very frustrated with the whole experience”

Babysense (Under the mattress monitor)

Best Review (62% 5-star ratings)Worst Review (14% 1-star ratings)
“Absolutely the best baby movement/apnea monitor on the market. As a nurse and first time mom, I have been very anxious about SIDS. Despite that it’s rare, I can’t imagine being among the small number to experience it. We coslept with our daughter for the first six months and used the Snuza which worked great. However, once we put her in her crib, and she was able to roll over, the snuza was no longer helpful. The baby’s positioning greatly affects your ability to hear the Snuza, especially from a distance/over a monitor.

However, the BabySense does not have that issue. I sleep so well knowing my girl is safe. Even once she is a year, I will likely keep the babysense in place. At that time, she is likely to try to climb out of her crib, and the babysense would just as easily alert me of that. Buy this product! You will not regret it!”
“Followed directions to the TUsed 1/2” plywood as directed. First night was horrible. Wife said “remove it or yourself”!!!!Went off 4 or 5 times within the night, keeping the baby and has scared to death due to the alarm and all were false alarms.Do not even try this product, complete crap.”

 Miku baby monitor

Best Review (72% 5-star rating)Worst Review (12% 1-star ratings)
“Is it expensive? YesDoes it work? YES we used the owlet sock monitor for my son from newborn until he was 10 months old and outgrew it. The owlet was a huge comfort, worth every penny, but it also gave lots and lots of false alerts and will not last more than a year because the O2 reader will no longer work once your babies foot reaches a certain thickness.

I image its life is even shorter for babies with chubby feet. This monitor has never given us a single false alert and he will not outgrow it, until I am ready and comfortable that he no longer needs it. My son is transitioning from a swaddle, and we are using a Merlin magic suite to help with this process. I cant even see him breathing with the suite on, but by golly, this monitor sure can! My son also makes very poor sleeping decisions and prefers to sleep on his face. We got a breathable mattress and along with this monitor, I can sleep soundly and so can he.

I am an extremely anxious mama, but honestly, I trust this monitor. It does exactly what it says it will and its “eyes” work better than mine do. Again, yes its expensive, but you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s so worth the peace of mind and the many restful nights you have to come!”
“The packaging was impressive but that’s where it stopped. After following the installation instructions to a T, and multiple emails and calls to Miku over the course of a week, and multiple troubleshooting attempts, they were unable to resolve our issue and referred us back to Amazon for a review. The night vision was sporadic at best, rendering the monitor useless. I expected much more for the price and after reading reviews, but was sorely disappointed. We’ve returned the monitor for a refund. It was the last thing we wanted to have to worry about with a 2 year old, and a new baby on the way.”

Owlet Baby Monitor

Best Review (67% 5-star ratings)Worst Review (9% 1-star ratings)
“We brought our preemie home from the NICU on oxygen and the owlet was a perfect way to monitor her her levels. We tested the smart sock 2 against the hospital grade pulse ox monitor and were very impressed. With our baby having the wireless monitor made our life quite a bit easier when dressing our baby and moving from room to room. When you have a newborn ANYTHING that makes baby care easier is worth it’s weight in gold.”“Our Owlet has been a dream that turned into a nightmare.Constant false alarms in the middle of the night, waking everyone, including the baby up. We had to replace the sock sensor, and the replacement has never worked. Customer support just keeps giving me more and more “troubleshooting” run around without making any actual effort to get me back up and working.The baby is now 7 months old and our Owlet has only properly functioned and been useful for a month of that time…”

Nanit – Swaddle

Best Review (79% 5-star ratings) Worst Review (9% 1-star reviews)
“I don’t often write reviews but I’ve tried everything and this one is pretty special and definitely unique. I’ve tried many, many swaddles, sleep suits and sacks. This swaddle is designed beautifully with an extremely soft, high quality cotton fabric. Unlike some others, it’s very easy to use and my baby LOVES it. No issues with comfort. I also had the Owlet and just couldn’t keep up with the charging and the specific way the “sock” had to be worn, so I gave up. This swaddle tracks breathing because the Nanit camera can actually “see” the pattern which has to be one of the most innovative things I’ve every tried. Using the monitoring takes almost no effort on my part. Just put on the swaddle, open the app, follow a few easy instructions and I’m watching my LO’s breathing. Incredible! I highly recommend that every parent at least give this a shot.” “I would love to give this zero stars. This is a complete joke. Every night we have used it, there have been multiple false alarms. It is anxiety provoking and not helpful. I called Nanit to get help and see if there was something they could recommend and they had literally nothing useful to say. I wish i could go back and never have bought into the breathing wear concept.”

Mimo

Best Review (21% 5-star ratings) Worst Review  (45% 1-star ratings)
“Difficult to setup, but the Mimo customer service has immediate response times during normal daytime hours. Product gives me piece of mind at night and a summary of the previous night to track trends in sleeping habits. The Mimo kimonos are soft and easy to care for, but we found that they run a little small. Since we started using this product in March, there have been many upgrades to the software and applications, making it more efficient. I have personally been in contact with the Co-founders and COO when I have had questions. I would recommend this, especially, to new first time parents.”“I purchased Mimo Baby 2 months ago and I can’t still use it.It can’t be set up with an Android phone so I’ve had to set it up with an iPhone of a friend of mine.The turtle does not work and Mimo support team has not been able to help me yet. They have tried to reset my turtle and they told me a month ago that they have sent me another turtle but I haven’t received it.”

Snuza

Best Review (73% 5-star ratings)Worst Review (8% 1-star ratings)
The Snuza is the best thing I have bought for my daughter! The only thing I regret is that I didn’t have it from day one. I waited and bought it after three days of not sleeping because I was watching her breathe all night. I bought another more expensive monitor and still couldn’t sleep because there was no way to test it to see if it was actually working. With the snuza, you can test it every single time before you put it on your baby by simply setting it on a flat service and waiting on the alarm to go off. That gave me the most peace of mind. You also don’t have to worry about it connecting to a base or WiFi in order for it to work. I have slept great each night knowing the snuza works which has made me a happier during the day and able to enjoy each little moment with my baby!We were so looking to using this device. We used it for one day and the batteries died. Brand new batteries after only one 24 hour period. We ended up return it for the only reason that we didn’t want to buying and replacing the batteries daily.

Angelcare

Best Review (62% 5-star ratings)Worst Review (16% 1-star ratings)
I feel so much safer same at ease having this monitor, in addition to the separate video monitor we already had. All the reviews about false alarms had me worried, but I’ve used it for a couple weeks now and I don’t think it’s ever had a false alarm.A few things to note- when my baby is at the edge of the crib (he’s a mover when asleep) it’ll alarm since the monitor is so far away. I’ve had to move the baby more centered in the crib when this happens. I fixed this by getting a cubby cove- then placed the monitor under the cubby cove, then a thin piece of wood, on top of the crib mattress. The monitor still works, which is fabulous!Yes- the beep when turning on is really annoying, especially when baby just fell asleep. I’ve remedied this by placing under a bunch of blankets to soften the beep, then taking out right away and placing on table near crib. It’s much better.There have been times that the one warning beep came on, and it was enough to wake up baby to breathe again. I don’t think it was a false alarm- I think baby probably paused his breathing so I’m grateful the monitor beeped to remind him!I’m really happy I got this monitor, and wish I bought it right after baby came home!Way too sensitive. Very annoying. Didn’t work at all. Alarm kept going off while I was watching my baby breathe.

Choosing for Yourself

Having the opinions and testimonials of many parents can help be helpful for you to ultimately choose whether you want a breathing monitor or not. Hearing from parents around the world and knowing their experience can allow for a more informed approach, but at the end of the day, you’ll choose what’s best for you. Is your baby’s breathing something that keeps you up at night?

Investing in a baby monitor that tracks what you need most can make a difference in your nights. In fact, other monitors like Cubo Ai Plus can detect covered faces and rollover events to proactively prevent dangerous situations.

cubo ai plus smart baby monitor

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Cubo Ai

Cubo Ai

Smart Baby Monitor, bird, techie, baby guru, and sleep-safety enthusiast. Cubo has a keen eye for detail, loves baby photography, and never sleeps on the job. You can find Cubo in thousands of nurseries around the world and here on the blog helping parents learn more about the topics they care about.

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