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Home apnea monitor use - infants

A home apnea monitor is a machine used to monitor a baby's heart rate and breathing after coming home from the hospital. An alarm on the monitor goes off when your baby's heart rate or breathing slows or stops.

The monitor is small and portable.

Why is an Apnea Monitor Used at Home?

A monitor may be needed when:

  • Your baby has ongoing apnea
  • Your baby has severe reflux
  • There is a family history of SIDS
  • Your baby needs to be on oxygen or a breathing machine

How Does my Baby get Started on an Apnea Monitor?

A home health care company comes to your home to teach you how to use the monitor. They provide support to you as long as you are using the monitor. Call them if you are having trouble with the monitor.

To use the monitor:

  • Put the stick-on patches (called electrodes) or the belt on your baby's chest or stomach.
  • Attach the wires from the electrodes to the monitor.
  • Turn on the monitor.

How Long Will my Baby Wear an Apnea Monitor?

How long your baby stays on the monitor depends on how often real alarms go off. Real alarms mean your baby does not have a steady heart rate or is having trouble breathing.

The alarm can go off when your baby moves around. But the baby's heart rate and breathing may actually be fine. DO NOT worry about alarms going off because your baby is moving.

Babies usually wear a home apnea monitor for 2 to 3 months. Discuss with your baby's doctor how long your baby needs to stay on the monitor.

What are the Risks of an Apnea Monitor?

Your baby's skin could get irritated from the stick-on electrodes. This is usually not a major problem.

If you lose electrical power or have problems with your electricity, the apnea monitor will not work. This does not put your baby at risk. It will not make your baby's heart rate go down or breathing stop. You will not be able to use the monitor until the electricity is back on.

References

Hunt CE, Hauck FR. Sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 375.

Review Date 7/10/2015

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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