Baby Monitors and Over-Responsive Parenting

Baby monitors are a great addition to the parenting tools arsenal. Not only do they extend the range in which a parent can operate without worrying about being unable to hear a crying baby or toddler, but they can also give wonderful insight into another corner of baby’s life. With video monitors, parents can even determine if baby seems physically comfortable or investigate unfamiliar sounds or responses from their little ones. On the other hand, monitors can lead to sleep problems caused by overactive response to baby’s signals.

Without a baby monitor, a child must make sounds which are are above a certain threshold of loudness to be heard. With a baby monitor that threshold can be much lower. This is important because in order to both sleep through the night, and take naps of an appropriate length, babies need to learn to how to wake up, notice their environment, and then drift back to sleep. Doing so requires the ability to reassure oneself that everything is fine and that returning to sleep is the proper course of action. Experts refer to this as self-soothing.

Sleep Cycles For Mom, Dad, and Baby

Sleep experts say that as adults we do the same thing. For an adult, the average sleep cycle from Stage 1 sleep through the end of Stage 4 sleep takes approximately 90 minutes. At the end of this cycle, an adult rouses for a minute or two to ascertain their environment to assure that there is no trouble at hand. It is during this time that covers are pulled up, or kicked off, and one rolls over or otherwise changes position. It is also during this time, that we notice the need to visit the restroom (which will become important to your child later as well.)

The key to this whole process however is being able to make the determination for oneself that everything is O.K.

Being inexperienced in this process, newborn babies will instinctively cry out upon waking without noticing their environment at all. This makes sense considering they are in no position to evaluate it, and they most likely need to eat anyway. However, as baby gets older, they develop self-soothing skills and, like their parents, roll over and go back to sleep instead of crying out for Mom or Dad.

Developing this skill does require some practice. That practice comes in the form of making sounds and noises and calls to Mom and Dad which are not loud enough to be heard and therefore are not responded to. But, with a baby monitor, every sound can be heard. A parent who responds to even these lower sounds will prevent baby from developing the skills needed.

To avoid this, be sure to respond to baby based upon only what you can observe WITHOUT the monitor. One useful tip is to use the baby room monitor to determine when it is time to settle into a position and activity where one can hear baby’s activities without the aid of the monitor and then turn the monitor off. Using this technique, parents can avoid swooping into baby’s room too quickly and prolonging the period of time during which baby does not sleep through the night, or wakes up at every sound without getting enough sleep during naps.

As always, while technology can make parenting easier and more satisfying, it should never take the place of unassisted parenting.

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