'Smart' diapers: Great idea or helicopter parenting from infancy?

Diapers that alert parents to every pee coming to market this fall.

July 23, 2019, 12:57 PM

Are smart diapers a smart idea?

Pampers announced last week the upcoming release of Lumi, a system that will "track just about everything," including diaper changing needs, according to the company web site.

The "smart diapers," as they've been dubbed, also track sleep and feeding. "With our all-in-one system, you can monitor your baby’s unique patterns and see emerging routines," the company said.

With a sensor that attaches to the baby's diaper, coupled with an app and video monitoring system, parents can track baby 24-7. The Lumi system is will be availabe in the fall and Pampers has not yet released the price.

The company told "Good Morning America" the product was created by the Start Up Pampers team after "research with thousands of parents revealed three clear unmet needs." Pampers outlined those needs as: Parents want to know their baby is comfortable and safe; babies thrive in a routine, but routines are tough to establish and change often; and parents seek a deep understanding about their baby’s unique mental and physical development journey.

"While there are many tools and solutions to address some of these problems, none of the existing products on the market address all three together in a frictionless way," Pampers said in an email.

But is virtually tracking our infants' bowel movements taking helicopter parenting to the next level?

"Having cared for many babies as a pediatrician I know one thing: parents know when something is wrong with their babies," said say Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician and a Stanford media fellow. "This goes from their babies' diaper being wet to their baby being hungry, sleepy or sick. Because of this I don't believe they need smart sensors or apps to tell them something they already know from knowing their baby, and can easily confirm by checking."

Too much information can also lead to increased anxiety in new parents, she said.

"I'm also concerned this will give them one more thing to track and worry about and may even disrupt the little bit of precious rest they are able to get in those first few months of life," she told "GMA." "This type of tracking may specifically lead parents to worry about completely normal daily variations in their babies' patterns, and while it may help them spot things like dehydration and constipation, I assure parents these are things they will spot without the sensors and apps by knowing their baby, working with their pediatrician and learning the signs."

Infant tracking monitors have come under criticism in the past. In August 2018, "Good Morning America" reported on a study on the the Owlet Smart Sock 2 and the Baby Vida, two smartphone-integrated consumer baby monitors that purport to measure a baby's vital signs. The Owlet Smart Sock 2 performed "fairly well" in terms of pulse oximetry with some inconsistencies based on a hospital-grade monitor.

As for the Baby Vida, the device failed to accurately read heart rate and oxygen saturation. In many instances, the monitor would read that infants' heart rates were abnormally low when they were completely normal.

Bottom line? According to Bracho-Sanchez, "Save the money, trust your baby will let you know when they're wet or uncomfortable and don't underestimate your knowledge as your baby's mom or dad."

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