Wearable tech for babies: Newest trend for helicopter parents

The latest baby gear launched at the Consumer Electronics Show takes the urge to hover to a new, high-tech level.

wearable tech for babies
Baby Isaac—asleep, supervised and gadget-free. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

The baby monitor was the second gadget that my husband and I threw in the garbage (the first was the Diaper Genie that, once filled, was so gross we pitched the whole thing). The monitor was low-tech and picked up signals from the suburban houses around us. We overhead things that I’m sure our neighbours would have been mortified to know we heard. So, rather than being tuned in to every sniffle and squeak baby Isaac made while he was sleeping, we did things the old fashioned way—we waited until we actually heard him cry.

If your baby is of a certain vintage (born after 1937, when the first two-way baby monitors were invented), chances are your baby monitor either eavesdropped on your neighbours or alerted you if your baby started crying. Nanny cams came out shortly after our daughter was born, but by that time we were living in a 900 square foot house, and if you have ever lived in a small space, you know that sound carries, making a baby monitor unnecessary for us. So, we did things the old fashioned way again—we watched and we listened. But if the baby gadgets announced at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last weekend in Las Vegas are any indication, my low-tech parenting just got a whole lot more old fashioned.

Innovator Chris Bruce was at CES 2015 with his wearable baby tech device, Sproutling (think FitBit, but for babies). A band, charger and iPhone app work together to track your baby’s sleep, temperature, heart rate and even moods, and then the data is delivered to your smart phone. Parents even get predictions on when the baby will wake up and the preferred conditions that would create the best sleeping environment.

“In reality, baby monitors are really a poor extension of parents’ eyes and ears,” Chris Bruce, CEO and co-founder of Sproutling told TechTimes. Bruce got the idea for the product after his second child was born, and wanted a way to check on his baby without waking him up.

In addition to Sproutling, Bluetooth pacifiers and baby bottle holders (to monitor movement and fluid intake), wireless thermometres that track and deliver temperature data to your smart phone and a device that attaches to swim goggles to determine whether or not your toddler has stayed underwater too long, all made their debuts at CES 2015. If Sproutling’s success is any indication (the second shipment of the US$249 gadget has already sold out and the product won an Innovation Award at the show), wearable tech for babies is feeding tech-savvy helicopter parents desire for more and more information.

Don’t get me wrong—babies are mysterious little creatures and my newborn days aren’t so far behind me that I haven’t forgotten the anxiety of wondering how much they’ve eaten, whether or not a sound sleep meant SIDS or whether or not they have a fever. Parents are supposed to worry—to a certain degree—about their babies, and that means physically checking in on them when they’re sleeping and keeping them within arms reach when they’re swimming. However, a big part of me thinks strapping smart technology to our babies makes us stupider parents by hijacking our natural instincts. Besides, data doesn’t make us better parents—time with our kids does.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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