One of my fears about writing a column was running out of ideas. Then I find something like this and I realize that when it comes to parenting, I will likely never be without fodder.
A company called Exmovere has created a product called Exmobaby. It’s a onesie with, from what I can garner from the photos, a sensor sewn into the garment encircling the baby’s tummy. It’s a “smart garment” through which a parent can then monitor the baby through their smart phone. Yes ladies and gentlemen, a new parent can receive text messages and email alerts on their phone in real time as the baby moves or the vital signs change. There’s no need to monitor your baby when you can just monitor your phone! This device can let you know when your baby is crying and needs help. (Now, I see no information on the website providing any type of assistance to parents about what to do once your child has been identified as being distressed. I guess we are on our own for that!)
There’s no need to monitor your baby when you can just monitor your phone!
No extra work is needed because this amazing new product does all the work. Additionally, the company is working on a version that would use fiber optics display and eliminate the need for wireless transmission, but they realized that this version of the suit would “require someone to actually look at the baby itself” for the information. And we all know how much new parents hate to look at their new infants.
The idea behind the garment is that it can monitor what the baby is feeling and detect emotional states. How brilliant to have a product to let me know that my child is crying or distressed! Thank goodness for the progress of technology.
A child’s defenses
When my daughter was only a couple of weeks old I overheard a conversation between a grandfather and his friend. The grandfather was talking about his new infant grandchild and marveling in his perfection, and his vulnerability. Like a newborn kitten, he said. No, wait. Even a newborn kitten has claws. Human infants have absolutely nothing. That stuck with me.
Because it’s not true. Human infants have a very powerful and dangerous defense system.
The thought of any harm coming to my child or someone hurting them would turn me, and most parents I think, into the ultimate fighting machine. I know of a mother who fought off a would-be attacker one-handed while holding her infant. You just don’t mess with a momma and her baby. It’s the most powerful defense system nature ever created and it cannot be replicated by a piece of machinery.
You just don’t mess with a momma and her baby.
So I have a problem with a product that would attempt to undermine a parent’s connection to their child. They do state that “Exmobaby products are intended to assist parents’ natural instincts”, and then follow that up with, “Rather than having to rely on intuition or ‘feelings’, parents whose children and infant are wearing Exmobaby can be assured that they will know when baby’s crying signals a serious need for attention.” And just how does the product know when a certain type of cry is a need for attention? From “trends that are built from your baby’s information” and based on feedback from the user as they name the infant’s moods. Yup, the parent has to program the machine first by telling it when the infant is distressed so it can know that in the future.
This product is being marketed to first time parents, because it’s such a stressful time in their lives. I would never suggest that being a first time parent isn’t stressful (is this product going to lessen or increase the stress, I wonder?). I remember bringing my new daughter home from the hospital. I laid her in her beautiful crib in her own newly painted bedroom and took a deep breath.
And she promptly spit up.
I panicked. Clearly I couldn’t leave her alone in her own room lest she choke and die while we were all sleeping. And so she spent the next six months in a bassinette in our room where we all slept relatively soundly. I remember being worried when she was crying. What was the matter! Why was she crying? And then she’d stop crying and I’d be worried. What was the matter! Why wasn’t she crying?
But you know what? I figured it out. I figured it out because I spent time with her and watched her. I slept in small blocks of time as she did. I fed her and cuddled her. I lay on the floor and watched her move. I noticed when and where she focused her eyes. I knew what she had eaten and when and how her last sleep had been. The answer to successful parenting does not lie in tuning out your child, it lies in tuning in to them.
The answer to successful parenting does not lie in tuning out your child, it lies in tuning in to them.
I am extremely hopeful that critical thinking and common sense will be a deterrent against most parents buying this product. If not, perhaps the $1000 price tag will be. For a garment that will likely fit your child for three months.
Be aware and think critically about all infant products. Like the Baby Einstein products, for which Disney recently admitted it has no research to support the claim that they will make your baby smarter and thus had to offer refunds on all products. Likewise, this product gives all kinds of fancy information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and autism, implying that it provides a solution. But the information does not contain a single cited piece of research or journal article.
I FIGURED IT OUT AND YOU WILL TOO.
There is a dance that begins at birth. Take your child by the hand and start to figure out the steps. It’s ok that you don’t know them. Neither does your infant. But your dance is uniquely and beautifully yours. It can’t be dictated or instructed by a piece of machinery. I would not want to live in a world in which it could be.
Or as the producers themselves put it:
“The world can suddenly feel like a very scary place when you’re entrusted with the task of caring for a newborn. Fortunately, newborn babies aren’t nearly as fragile as they look, and common sense and parental instinct enable most parents to keep their babies safe from harm.”