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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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3 Answers

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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+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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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. –  Mary Jo Finch Sep 23 '13 at 18:29
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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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