A home apnea monitor is a machine used to monitor a baby's heart rate and breathing after coming home from the hospital. Apnea is breathing that slows down or stops from any cause. 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
- Your baby needs to be on oxygen or a breathing machine
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that home monitors should not be used to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies should be put on their backs or sides to sleep to reduce the chance of SIDS.
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 health care provider 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 may not work unless it has a backup battery. Ask your home care company if your monitor has a battery backup system. If so, learn how to keep the battery charged.
Hauck FR, Carlin RF, Moon RY, Hunt CE. Sudden infant death syndrome. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 402.
HealthyChildren.org website. The truth about home apnea monitors for SIDs. www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Home-Apnea-Monitors-for-SIDs.aspx. Updated August 22, 2017. Accessed December 6, 2021.
Review Date 8/10/2021
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.