Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but sometimes, devices that are meant to help us be more connected are really just unnecessary pieces of plastic.
CES, the big annual global consumer electronics and technology trade show in Las Vegas, just wrapped up its 2017 event. This year's event featured a lot of new tech items for mothers to be. Basically, name a product for an expectant mother, and there's an app connected, bluetooth, smart version.
These products promise to keep you connected with your child. But here's the thing, you just don't need them. A lot of them make you think they're making your life easier, fulfilling a need. When in fact, they're simply making you think you need them and driving you crazy with anxiety.
Because you know if you're in labor
Bloomlife is a small sensor that women can tape to their stomachs during their third trimester. By measuring electrical signals from the uterine muscle and sending it to an app, Bloomlife can monitor the length, time between, and strength of Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions.
The device can be rented for $149 for one month, or less per month if you want to rent it for longer.
You know what else can do this? A stop watch and rating the pain on a scale from one to 10.
Eric Dy, one of the founders of Bloomlife told SFGate that for expectant mothers: "[Bloomlife is] a way to connect with her pregnancy a little more, and a way to decode those weird pregnancy sensations she might be feeling."
But, Bob Wacher, an expert on digital health care and chairman of the Department of Medicine at UCSF warns, "just because you can measure it doesn't mean that is useful data".
"There is a lot of stuff in medicine that we don’t know what it means, and (how) to understand and interpret it correctly," he tells SFGate. "There is a reason why people go through years of training."
Because you can see if you're child is eating
Momsense ($89.99) is a device that allows parents to hear if their baby is swallowing breastmilk.
By putting a sensor sticker on your baby's jaw, putting earbuds in your ear, and watching an app, Momsense promises to allow moms to see how much breastmilk their child is consuming.
"Products like this one represent, to me, the death (or, more accurate, attempted murder) of intuition in parenting," Jessica Shortall writer of Work. Pump. Repeat., a guide for breastfeeding moms heading back to work, told The Verge.
She says learning to trust yourself over an app is a "valuable skill that parents are not developing".
Because your baby doesn't need a fitness monitor
Sproutling is a strap that goes around a baby's ankle that lets parents track their baby's heart rate and oxygen levels like the clips they put on your finger in the hospital does.
The Owlet does the same but uses a sock instead of a strap.
Mimo gives parents the same information through a onsie, and goes further by integrating aNest thermostat to change the temperature in your child's room to keep them comfortable.
Finally, you can control your home's temperature and worry less about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) from one app!
SIDS is absolutely something parents should worry about. But while SIDS is rare—about 3,500 babies each year in the United States—according to the Owlet video above, their product "isn’t just an accessory, it’s a necessity". Basically according to them, you're not a good parent unless you use their product.
This is absolutely not true.
Because you're going to drive yourself crazy
Hatch Baby makes smart baby products including a Smart Changing Pad, $249, that they say "helps parents accurately track their babies' growth, feedings, diapers, and sleep on their smartphones".
A changing pad that tells you your baby's weight, tracks eating habits, diaper changes, and shares the information with whomever you'd like, sounds life changing. But that kind of data can quickly go from alleviating stress to creating it.
Kate Cropp, director of Lactation Services for Nashville Birth and Babies, told The Establishment that she thinks Hatch Baby's Smart Changing Pad would be great for babies just out of the NICU because moms really need data then. But, for the average mom, the pad focuses too much on data and not enough on the child and mother.
"The scale is not very sensitive, and goes down to only 10 g, but the gold standard for determining a feeding volume is 1g. So for some babies, it will not register low enough for a feeding determination, and may prematurely lead parents to want to supplement," Cropp said.
"In my opinion, it leads parents to think in a formula-centered way about ounces instead of relying on age-old standards of overall health and basic weight gain. Micromanaging is what I call it in my office — something only to be used when truly necessary.”
None of these devices are necessary, and in fact they may exist simply to prey upon your fears. But, that being said, if they do offer some margin of comfort to a stressed out, worried parent that can afford them, then go for it.
Whatever gets you through.