Doc: Infant-health technology no substitute for good parenting

Doc: Infant-health technology no substitute for good parenting
Teddy the Guardian takes babies' vital signs. Courtesy IDerma.

SEATTLE -- From diapers that detect urinary tract infections to a teddy that checks blood pressure, there are countless new technologies aimed at protecting children’s health. But, a local doctor warns tools like these cannot be substituted for conscious parenting and a primary care physician.

As technology progresses there are constantly new tools being offered to keep children healthy and safe.

To prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, students from Winona State University created a baby monitor that measures and logs data on a baby’s heartbeat and breathing. The sensor-filled pad is placed on top of a mattress in the baby’s crib. If the baby strays from the normal ranges for heartbeat, breathing, and movement, the pad alerts the parents via a smartphone or tablet. It can even notify the baby’s doctor.

New “smart diapers” can also be used to track your baby’s health. New York’s Pixie Scientific has developed a diaper that analyzes the child’s urine for important health factors. Parents simply scan a symbol on the outside of the diaper with the Pixie Scientific app to find out how well hydrated the baby is, how their kidneys are functioning and whether the baby has a urinary tract infection. Developers claim the diaper can even detect type-1 diabetes.

Croatia-based firm IDerma has developed Teddy the Guardian, a stuffed bear that measures a child’s heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and body temperature and sends the data wirelessly to the parents’ smartphone. Every time a child gives Teddy a finger or puts Teddy’s paw on their forehead sensors detect the values, record them and transmit them in real time to a mobile app.

Dr. Michelle Terry, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, hopes technologies like these will help parents quickly determine if their child needs medical attention.

“Technology is very useful in the way it allows us to gather more information very quickly,” she said. “That knowledge is very useful.”

Just like a thermometer can let a parent know if their child has a fever, Terry said digital diapers my help parents recognize when their baby’s urine is concerning; but that does not mean they should try to handle a medical situation without consulting their pediatrician.

“There needs to be an understanding that technology doesn’t replace the clinical reasoning of a medical provider,” Terry said. “If a parent calls and knows their baby’s urine is off, I would still insist they come in.”

Terry said the student-developed baby monitor could put parents worried about SIDS at ease, but added the device should not stop parents from creating a safe sleep environment and checking on their baby frequently.

“I don’t want parents to over-rely on the technology.”Smart diapers, courtesy Pixie Scientific.