Baby clothing that could help parents keep an eye on infant vital signs may soon be on the market. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin have developed a wearable baby romper (pictured above) that comes complete with sensors that are designed to immediately indicate if a baby stops breathing — which is a common marker of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, another team of inventors, a group of university students from Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), recently took home first prize in the third-annual Texas Instruments (TI) Analog Design Contest in Europe for their take on SIDS detection baby clothing. The first outfit, the baby romper, is designed with stretchable circuit boards made of polyurethane (PU) that are ironed into the romper. When worn, the sensors are supposed to monitor baby’s breathing in the chest and stomach areas. The second suit, developed for the Texas Instruments competition, was also made with fabric and sensors that monitor a baby’s health for issues related to SIDS, such as halted breathing. It also includes a wireless charging system that keeps the pajama sensor system continuously powered, but stays safely tucked away under a crib mattress. Is high tech clothing, the future of SIDS prevention? Is this even a safe idea?
Intelligent baby clothing may become a new trend, but it’s not the final say in SIDS prevention or protection. For one thing, though researchers have been studying SIDS for years, they’ve yet to put a finger on a direct cause of this problem. If you don’t know what causes something, it’s really hard to know what might prevent it. Secondly, I worry that SIDS clothing may make parents think they can pay less attention to their baby, which is not true. Thirdly, though clothing and other SIDS prevention gear may be available (or soon available) the FDA points out that the number one best way to prevent SIDS is still simply to make sure you place your baby on his back to sleep. The FDA notes that any product meant to, “Cure, treat or prevent any condition are considered medical devices, and are subject to FDA regulations” and as of yet, the FDA has never ever approved of a product to “prevent SIDS.”
In fact, a couple of years ago, the FDA specifically asked manufacturers to stop marketing their products with anti-SIDS claims, not only due to false advertising, but due to the danger of these products. For example, the FDA says there have been 13 infant deaths in the past 13 years associated with sleep positioners, which are often touted as “anti-SIDS,” and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has also received many reports of infants being found in dangerous positions after being placed in a sleep positioner.
Sometimes we really disagree with the FDA and some of the kooky decisions they make. However, on the topic of SIDS, we agree with the FDA. Back to sleep is the number one best way to help prevent SIDS. Your baby should always sleep on his back — at night and at nap time. Other known ways to help prevent SIDS include:
- Removing all soft bedding and stuffed toys from a baby’s sleeping space, as these pose suffocation risks.
- Using a well-fitted mattress in your crib, as babies have been known to slide down and get trapped in even small, yet tight spaces.
- Do not drink alcohol while caring for your baby. SIDS deaths increase around New Year’s, and it’s thought to be due to caretakers drinking.
- Breastfeeding is an excellent way to lower your baby’s risk for SIDS.
- Dress your baby in cozy, but not overly warm clothing. Overheating is thought to increase the risk for SIDS.
- Consider co-sleeping but do it safely. Unsafe co-sleeping, for example, co-sleeping while drunk, while on medication, in an unsafe bed, if you’re significantly overweight and additional factors may contribute to SIDS risks, but research also says that safe co-sleeping may actually help prevent SIDS.
Above all, be informed and present. Did you know research says that typically, multiple factors play a part in a SIDS death? Making sure you know about SIDS risk factors and prevention methods is key for a healthy baby, as is simply being an attentive parent. Know when your infant seems under the weather or too warm. Don’t get overly stressed and protective (babies are heartier than you think), but do pay attention to your child, even if you also decide to try out some of this new high tech clothing.