Night Knight: The Worry Alarm for New Parents

Night vision photo of my baby boy yawning.

It’s time to come clean. Are you really sneaking a peek at your cute sleeping baby, or are you checking to see that he’s still breathing?

Thank you Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for freaking out new parents every night.

The part I hated with my first child — a shallow breather — was holding the back of my hand up to her nose and not being able to easily detect anything… or thinking maybe I did, but not being quite sure, and so I’m there hovering over my baby for a full minute.

Today, with my newborn boy, I’m past most new parent worries. My worst crime is coming to bed late a few times and checking that my wife has properly set him down on his back… using an old digital camera equipped with night vision, of course.

So, with that introduction, let’s take a look at Night Knight by UpSpring Baby. It is a motion alarm for your infant. Attach the circular 2.5" unit to the baby’s tummy, and if he stops moving for 23 seconds, an alarm sounds. We’re talking subtle movements such as the rise and fall of a chest due to normal breathing.

On the plus side, you could jump in and save your baby in an emergency. That’s assuming you and your spouse have passed an infant CPR course.

On the down side, if there was a false alarm and the baby is fine, he’s probably crying his head off now because his tummy is screeching.

Photo of the Night Knight motion sensor on a baby's tummy and a close-up of the unit. It is green and circular, 2.5 inches wide.

The Night Knight attaches on the outside of a baby shirt by sealing to a base plate that is positioned underneath the shirt. The whole thing weighs less than 3 ounces.

There are no wires. It is powered by two AAA batteries and has a low battery warning. That warning consists of an orange flashing light and buzzing sound that activates when there are 10 hours of use left on your existing batteries. I see what they were thinking, but that’s a lot of wasted juice. Why wouldn’t a 1 or 2 hour advance notice suffice?

As for the 23 second activation period, my labor and delivery nurse wife says that sounds right. A neonatal cardiac monitor in her workplace has a motion sensor that is placed on an infant’s ribs. It activates an alarm after 20 seconds.

It seems premature infants are prone to apneas and bradycardias — a pause in breathing accompanied by a slow heart rate. The first thing a nurse does is touch the infant, such as rubbing a foot, to stimulate resumption of breathing. That is to say, many of the alarms she encounters are not full-blown "events" that degrade into an emergency. (Caution: I’m in no way giving anyone medical advice.)

In some cases, a premature baby will be sent home with an apnea monitor (a belt-like gadget) that records chest movements and breathing rate, and has an alarm.

But all of that is a far cry from the average parent who won’t ever know the trauma of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I wonder, how much would a new parent pay to alleviate this fear? The Night Knight’s suggested price is $70, although the gadget hasn’t reached market yet.

A product with a similar purpose — BébéSounds Angelcare Movement Sensor — retails for about $80, complete with a traditional sound monitor and two parental receiver units. Motion is detected by having your baby sleep on top of a sensor pad.

So… what’s the verdict? Is a baby-isn’t-dead reminder product worthwhile for peace of mind, or is it merely taking advantage of inexperienced fear? More importantly, tell me I’m not the only parent who has placed an ear to his baby’s face in the middle of the night.

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Comments

19 Responses to “Night Knight: The Worry Alarm for New Parents”

  1. Kelly K says:

    We bought and used the Angelcare monitor for a while… until I was off the C-section drugs and we could co-sleep safely. It was a bit of a relief, but I still worried and would also check my son in the middle of the night. The big PITA about the Angelcare is that it goes under the crib… so no good for someone using a hammock style sleeper… and when you pick up the baby and forget to shut it off it wakes up the whole house.

    I think there is definitely a place for these things. I see it more as trying to actually prevent deaths than taking advantage of fears, so I say any improvements in design and creation of new reliable products is a great thing.

    April 11th, 2008 at 1:57 am

  2. adriennej says:

    We used an Angelcare monitor- and found the reassurance for our apnea-prone family well worth the cost.

    The extra sleep (during time that otherwise would have been spent fretting) was great too.

    I don’t think I would like the Night Knight for the same solution. It just looks uncomfortable and scary for the baby. At least the shrieking Angelcare monitor is a few feet and room(s) away from the baby.

    April 11th, 2008 at 4:45 am

  3. K says:

    We have a family bed and when H was little enough for me to freak out about whether he was still breathing or not, he was never out of arms reach. I frequently would put my hand on his chest so I could feel the rise and fall and I always wondered how new parents who put their babies to sleep in other rooms got any sleep. I couldn’t sleep unless I knew he was right there, still breathing.

    April 11th, 2008 at 6:27 am

  4. Chief Family Officer says:

    A colleague lost her 4-month-old daughter to SIDS about a year before my oldest was born so SIDS was a very real fear to me. But honestly, my son woke often to nurse, even during the night, especially in the first six months, that a monitor would have been overkill (sorry for the bad pun).

    I have to wonder about the effects of strapping an electronic device right on your baby, too….

    April 11th, 2008 at 7:26 am

  5. Allison (CodeCrafter) says:

    You are most certainly not the only parent to put an ear to their baby’s face in the night.

    I freaked out a lot early on when my son would sleep peacefully, probably compounded by the fact that he didn’t sleep peacefully very often. But we set up a crib as a sidecar to our bed and co-sleep so my son was never much farther then arms reach.

    If we had decided to have him sleep in the room that is his I might have needed one of these devices just to keep my sanity so I don’t think they are really bad products. I’m glad they are there for the parents who feel the need to use them for their own peace of mind.

    April 11th, 2008 at 7:32 am

  6. Erica says:

    It seems so far that I’m in the minority, but I think for the most part that these products are unnecessary. There are almost always exceptions to the rule; I think that certain babies, such as those who are pre-term or have some sort of health issue that makes ceasing breathing a definite possibility, would benefit from these devices. The “average joe” family, however, doesn’t need to strap things to their children to make sure things are okay at all times. I think it does capitolize on our fears. Watch tv commercials with the purpose of noticing the “fear capitolization” techniques and you’ll see that it’s everywhere (If we don’t buy this germ-killing spray, our whole family will catch the plague! I see those bugs on my phone!). Although we can prevent a lot of bad things happening to our kids through good parenting and updated knowledge, we can’t be touching them and keeping them safe every moment of the day. And that’s my two…well, it seems this is long; make it ten…cents.

    April 11th, 2008 at 8:21 am

  7. Christina says:

    Heck, my daughter’s 19 months now, and I still go in and check. Fortunately, she’s such a good sleeper I can actually put my hand on her chest or back to make sure it’s moving, without waking her. Usually.

    I would buy a product like this, but my husband would probably laugh at me.

    April 11th, 2008 at 8:22 am

  8. Erica says:

    Oh yeah: AJ, the picture is adorable. Can I print it and pretend it’s my kid??

    April 11th, 2008 at 8:22 am

  9. Marianne O. says:

    I agree with Erica… these products are marketed through fear, and promote overprotecting our kids.

    Besides, the reality is that these monitors don’t save the lives of healthy full term babies (though they can be useful for preterm or otherwise compromised babies).

    To quote the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
    “…there is no evidence that the presence of apnea and/or bradycardia identifies a group at increased risk of SIDS, that home cardiorespiratory monitoring can provide warning in time for intervention to prevent sudden death, or that intervention would be successful in preventing unexpected death. Given the lack of evidence that home cardiorespiratory monitoring has any impact on SIDS, prevention of SIDS is not an acceptable indication for home cardiorespiratory monitoring.”
    http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;111/4/914

    I’m boggled that companies market these monitors for healthy babies when decades of studies have failed to show any physical benefit. As for the stress-relieving benefits… well, I suspect the products create as much fear as they relieve.

    April 11th, 2008 at 8:44 am

  10. lindsey says:

    I’m on the fence with this one. My husband and I both didn’t sleep well when my son was an infant because we were constantly getting up to check the bedside bassinet.

    I know most things like this are marketed towards scared parents, but I can’t discount them completely. We would have gotten many more hours of sleep had we had one of these.

    April 11th, 2008 at 9:18 am

  11. Sara says:

    For the first few weeks of his life, I checked on my son all the time, as though through the act of my will he would be breathing and healthy. I think every parent does that, healthy baby or no. Once he started sleeping somewhat predictably, waking up on a semi-regular routine to nurse, I actually moved him out of our bedroom. I found I could not sleep well with him right next to me. Every little deep breath, sigh, cough and sniffle would wake me up. When we moved him to his own room across the hall around 8 weeks, I slept much better. I was over my initial breathing fears for him, and of course the baby monitor was plenty to wake me up for his midnight snacks.

    April 11th, 2008 at 10:50 am

  12. The Opinionated Parent says:

    I think this one looks a little silly if not dangerous, but we love our Angelcare monitor. We co-slept for 2 months but after that it was fantastic to have the reassurance of the constant ticking (if we had it set that way.) Even until he was 22 months and moved to his big bed, we loved it because it told us if he was crammed in a corner or had climbed out and was in danger. I did hate when I forgot to turn it off, though.

    We have now moved it to my three month old daughter’s room, but she still sleeps in our room so hasn’t ever used it. I’m sure when we move her in there we’ll love it just as much. Just one less thing to worry about!

    April 11th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  13. Cindi says:

    My two sons both slept in bassinets right by my side of the bed! Yes, I checked them quite often. Either the nose way or checking for the chest breathing. I kept them (one at a time), so long in our bedroom, the doctor kept telling me to get that baby in his own room!!!!! I was afraid of my baby suffocating on his spit up, so they slept on their sides. Go figure…..Cindi

    April 11th, 2008 at 4:41 pm

  14. Mama Peach says:

    I wouldn’t use it. We have followed all of the APA’s recommendations for prevention of SIDS. My daughter slept in a bassinette next to me for the first 7 weeks of her life (recovery from my c-section was horrendous and it was easier to have her near).

    Honestly you could have your child in your bed or at an arms reach and they could still die from SIDS. Some children succomb to SIDS closer or past the 2-year age mark. Is a 2-year old really going to go for an electronic toy strapped on?

    My best friend recently came home with her 32-week preemie. He is on an apnea monitor that has all kinds of alarms for various things. Totally necessary in his case. But SIDS is SIDS because they really don’t know the cause, and I do feel products like this are playing on every parents worst fear.

    Similarly, I would hate for a parent to have a false sense of security when using a product like this, and not adhere to the recommendations for the prevention of SIDS. Would this prevent SIDS? Highly unlikely. Like a previous commenter, I think this thing would be going off all the time, waking baby and parents, making sure nobody in the family got a truly good night’s sleep.

    The whole product feels like a false sense of security to me. And I haven’t really been a ‘checker’ …mostly because my daughter would wake up at the door opening. Of course if I heard anything unusual on my monitor, which can be set to extremely sensitive (the Phillips LCD, thanks A.J.!) I was in there like a flash.

    Me checking on her isn’t going to help prevent SIDS, common sense and motherly intuition will help prevent SIDS.

    April 11th, 2008 at 6:12 pm

  15. JS says:

    I have OCD, and in the back of my mind I think I can somehow control things that are really out of my hands. I have no doubt that I will constantly be checking my baby, forced to by that nagging feeling that if I don’t, something will happen.

    I would gladly pay 70 dollars for a little bit of relief from those thoughts. And I think, more than anything, thats what these products are aimed at. I don’t see any of their advertisements trying to scare people into thinking they need this. Just that it is available, and fills a need, for people who are worried.

    Since I will be a first time mom, I’m sure I will still be checking occasionally, but something like this would definitely cut down on those checks that are driven by my compulsion, rather than actual fear.

    April 12th, 2008 at 8:39 am

  16. Amanda says:

    We used the angelcare monitor with our youngest who was a dedicated tummy sleeper. It made me feel better, but still, I feared that she could move off of it. This seems to solve that issue, but I’ve since read that once a baby truly stops breathing (SIDS-style) that it’s not as though you can just start them up again. Scary thought!
    Amanda
    librarycollective.blogspot.com

    April 12th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

  17. Mama Peach says:

    I’ve been thinking about this on and off all weekend. I guess, in the end, if this type of device makes some parents feel better/safer/more secure, it is worth the 70 bucks. It’s all about doing what we feel is right as parents. I still stand by my previous comments, however I can see how there would be a market for such a product.

    April 13th, 2008 at 8:51 pm

  18. gertie says:

    I consider myself a very laid-back parent, and normally I would say that a product like this is just silly–maybe even dangerous (false sense of security, etc.) In this case, however, I can understand a parent buying this product, and I wouldn’t think any less of them. Keeping your newborn alive is the most sudden, intense, important responsibility that a person will probably ever have to endure. It is a scary time. If this product brings a parent the little bit of reassurance that helps them cope, then it’s worth the $70.

    April 13th, 2008 at 9:59 pm

  19. Marianne O. says:

    Amanda raises a good point…

    “There is considerable evidence suggesting that by the time a baby stops breathing, the sequence of events leading to SIDS is so far advanced that it’s too late.”
    http://sids-network.org/experts/apneadiff.htm

    I guess this would sound really scary to some people. To me it’s reassuring. My family lives free of monitors and alarms because, after following all the SIDS-prevention guidelines, we can let the baby sleep knowing that we’ve done all we can.

    This is coming from someone with diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I do understand why parents worry. However I feel strongly that we need to make an active effort to resist the Western culture of fear.

    April 14th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

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