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We have an AngelCare monitor that uses a vibration sensor to detect if our daughter is breathing while in her crib sleeping. Basically, if it detects no movement for 10 seconds, it gives a warning beep. At 20 seconds, it goes crazy; waking the entire house.

The trouble is that our daughter is ok every time it goes off. So, either 1: She got startled and is breathing again, or 2: it is a false alarm due to some glitch in the system, or vibration being absorbed by the crib, or something.

It seems bad to just turn the vibration sensor off; I mean, we did buy it to give us some security, but if it keeps going off, where's the balance?

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5 Answers 5

The simple answer to your question is No, it doesn't mean apnea. The monitor attempts to detect movement, and it goes off when it does not detect movement. The slight breaths of an infant could easily be missed by such a device, which consists of a pad beneath a sheet beneath your clothed child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against these monitors (here as well). They have not been found to reduce the incidence of SIDS. If your child is at risk for SIDS, your pediatrician will arrange for a proper apnea monitor which uses electrodes attached to baby's tummy rather than a mat beneath the baby's sheet.

Products such as these seem to prey on the fears of new parents. You are afraid to sleep because something could happen to your child while you are sleeping. This is understandable. Welcome to parenting! Every age and stage will bring new fears, and you must learn to deal with them, not by building in a false sense of security by avoiding every possible risk, but by accepting that fear is part of the job you have signed up for! The longer you do it, the better you become at it, but the fear will never completely go away. It's part of what makes parenting such a rich experience - you love your child so much that your are prepared to live with the fear that comes with his learning to take risks in the world. The first such risk - sleeping alone.

Still unconvinced? Think about this - The use of such a monitor means every time your child gets into a deep enough sleep that his movements are not detected for 10 seconds (and I will tell you that proper apnea monitors are not usually set that low!), the monitor wakes him up with a vibration. What quality of sleep is your child getting? At 20 seconds, the whole house is awoken - bad sleep all around.

To reduce the risk of SIDS, you are much better to follow the other recommendations of the AAP (see link above), like breastfeeding if possible, getting immunizations, not using bumper pads, sleeping baby on his back on a firm surface (though baby will eventually choose his own position). Also, be sure to give your baby tummy time when awake, as this will prevent "flathead" and help develop neck muscles which will allow the baby to adjust his own head position when blankets or other materials are impairing his breathing.

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3  
+1 "... prey on the fears of new parents." –  Dave Clarke Jun 16 '13 at 10:09
    
Our Pediatrician said the same thing about these products after we said we had one. One the the big benefits for us (for our new child) is that we did not feel the need to check on her every hour and actually got some sleep. That alone made it worth while. The number of false alarms was minimal (once every few weeks). –  dave Jun 17 '13 at 0:12
    
It is also worth noting that our daughter slept through when the alarm did occasionally go off. The new models have a split sensor so should be less prone to false alarms. For us, it was totally worth the cost difference between a normal monitor and the Angel Care. –  dave Jun 17 '13 at 0:22
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To be fair, you didn't need to check on your child every hour anyway. That kind of behaviour too is the result of people preying on the fears of new parents. –  James Snell Jul 14 at 11:54

My experience was a little diff as far as the angel care monitor. I have a micro preemie (24 weeker). She came home on no monitors or oxy so I bought an angel care for piece of mind. After a week she came down with a cold and before we knew the AC monitor went off 3 times in one night. It would go off briefly then pick her breathing back up. I viewed her breath deeply then very shallow for about 10 minutes. When I took her to the hospital the next day the docs noticed this unusual pattern, took her pulseox and she was admitted for 8 days with breathing issues. The Angel care monitor was my indication something was wrong.

I know this post was a few months ago but I wanted to share for anyone with the same dilemma as I found myself and insure if the monitor worked or was worth the purchase. And my pediatrician and attending docs all commended me on the purchase.... The pediatrician even before the episode. The long and short... They do work!! My daughter is now on a "real" apnea monitor and the only diff is the medical one gives specific numbers that allow medical proffesionals to monitor your baby.

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I am really surprised they sent a 24-week preemie home with no monitor. I am also surprised the apnea monitor from the hospital was the same style as an Angel Care rather than one with electrodes which are far more accurate. You were wise to be proactive. –  MJ6 Sep 23 '13 at 18:29

The angel care monitor saved my coworkers babies life. I bought it for our daughter when she was born upon my friends advice. I highly recommend the monitor. We've had the warning beep go off about 3 times in 7 months and a full alarm once. The full alarm went off when my daughter was sleeping jammed up on the side of the the bed. She was perfectly fine but the monitor wasn't picking her movements up because of her position. The false alarms have been infrequent and not at all bothersome. The piece of mind is great. I think my daughter gets a better sleep because we aren't constantly bothering her.

My friend recommended the monitor after it saved his daughter's life. When she was a week old she came down with a cold. My friend and his wife were making dinner, his daughter was napping, it was early evening. The alarm went off. When he checked on her she was turning blue and completely unconscious. He started CPR. She had become overwhelmed with phlegm and stopped breathing. His baby made a full recovery and is now a bubbly 1.5 yr old. He says she would have died as she was napping at a normal nap time with in breathing issues at the time despite the cold. They wouldn't have known there was a problem without the monitor.

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Check the sensitivity.

We have used one (for our own peace of mind) and been happy with it.

However - once the babies started moving they could move to a corner of the crib where it didn't detect movement.

If you worry about sleep apnea I would talk to a pediatrician, but most likely you are getting false alarm, and the Angel Care could be adjusted differently. Also, ours never woke up the babies (both very sound sleepers once a sleep), but if yours is giving false alarms AND waking everyone up, it might not be the best solution for you.

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There is an extremely important detail left out of these conversations on motion sensor monitors: the care that must be taken when setting them up and adjusting the sensitivity setting knob on the back of the unit (for Angelcare monitors). Most people treat these as "plug-and-play", leaving them at the factory setting or setting them at the typical recommended setting of 3. In fact, establishing the precisely correct sensitivity setting for each individual setting is crucial. Mattress type, presence of ceiling fans, bedding, baby weight, baby age, etc. - all these require different sensitivity settings. Further, as the baby grows and as changes are made to bedding, the sensitivity must be recalibrated. Such recalibration requires an analytical mind, patience and experiment. Unfortunately, most people don't have the experience or skillset to do this. It's not their fault, it's not that they're dumb, it's just that not everyone thinks like a scientist or engineer. I have found the Angelcare motion monitor to be extremely reliable, accurate and trustworthy, and I have no doubt that it could save baby's lives, but only in rare cases where the sensor have been setup and regularly maintained, which I doubt many people do correctly. Pediatricians know this, too - so they don't want to be liable for a lawsuit or at least a guilt conscience when someone uses a motion sensor improperly. As a Ph.D. engineer and a father of a preemie, I would swear on a stack of Bibles that these things can work fantastically in the right hands, but that 90+% of the time they are probably not being used properly. If Angelcare engineers wrote the proper procedures down, it would be a 50 page manual and would leave most people - rightfully - feeling like it's too difficult. Bottom line: these devices will work perfectly if you're willing to sit down with the monitor a few hours a month to recalibrate it, while you baby is sleeping. That means in the dark, on the floor, with a flashlight, after your baby has entered a deep sleep cycle, and with all room conditions at a normal, state. As newborns gain weight, recalibrate. Old enough for a blanket or pillow - recalibrate. Ceiling fan clockwise for winter - recalibrate, counterclockwise for summer - recalibrate. A/C off and heat on for winter - recalibrate. Etc., etc., etc. recalibration is done by moving the sensor to it lowest sensitivity and then stepwise gradually increasing the sensitivity until actual breathing movement (combined with room air movement) is detected (no more warning beeps). Then you start at the other end with the highest sensitivity and gradually reduce the sensitivity until you lose the movement detection (the warning beep starts). All the while, of course, you have to keep the monitor from going into full alarm after the warning beep by turning it off, then on again. Eventually, you should end up at a sensitivity level that is somewhere between these two threshold levels. Then you have to sit and wait and watch. In the morning, lift the baby off the mattress and time how long it takes for the alarm to sound. If it's much more than 20 seconds, then your setting is wrong. If you do all this calibration work and still get apparent false alarms, then you have due cause to ask your pediatrician for an order to get a professional home heart and respiration monitor (with chest sensors) to gather more data and see what's really going on.

But all these baseless claims that these devices categorically don't work and can only give false-assurance are completely wrong, in my experienced opinion. Frankly, they're just not designed and fabricated at the level that they work perfectly out of the box, under a wide range of (constantly changing) home conditions, for your average person.

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This answer might be salvageable as a useful answer to the question, but as it stands it's a giant rant. I think the general gist "The monitors can be useful in xyz circumstances when set up properly, but if they're not set up properly, you get false alarms like you see above" is not a bad answer (I don't agree, but it's a reasonable answer), but in about 90% less text and more directly applicable to the question, not just a rant. –  Joe Jul 21 at 19:12

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