Hypoallergenic design. Comes with multiple size socks. Intuitive app. Loud base station alerts.
Expensive. Sock must be within Bluetooth range of base station. iOS-only app.
- Bottom Line
The Owlet Smart Sock 2 baby monitor lets you check on your child's vital signs at any time, and will automatically notify you if there's a problem. It's pricey, but you get peace of mind.
Having a new baby is often nerve-wracking. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) especially is cause for concern as your newborn is developing routines and getting used to sleeping outside of the womb. The Owlet Smart Sock 2 ($299.99) has cut down on my worry considerably. It's a connected pulse oximeter that allows you to check on your baby's vitals any time through an app, and it will notify you automatically if there's a problem. It works with babies up to 18 months, which is plenty, since 90 percent of SIDS cases occur before six months and none occur after one year. The Owlet isn't cheap, but you get a fair amount of peace of mind for the money.
The Owlet comes with three different socks to accommodate a growing baby (additional socks are available for $39.99 each), a sensor that slides into the sock, and a base station. The socks themselves are made of a very soft hypoallergenic cotton and are adjustable around the top of the foot as well as the heel, so while my little one isn't crazy about actually putting it on, she's very comfortable with it once it's in place. It comes with clear instructions to make sure you're using the right size for your baby.
The sensor that slides into the smart sock needs to recharge every day by plugging into the base via USB cable. Lights indicate whether it's still charging or fully charged. The sensor uses pulse oximetry, much like the little one they clip onto your fingertip at the doctor's office. It communicates readings to your iOS device (iPhone 5 or later) via Bluetooth, and can last up to 18 hours on a charge.
The base station is where all the important stuff happens. It's a disc about 3 inches wide, with a light ring around its circumference that tells you with a green pulsing light that all is well, or a red flashing light and sound if your baby's oxygen level or respiratory rate are at dangerous levels. It can also alert you to poor sock placement and loss of signal by flashing yellow and blue lights, respectively; it emits sound with those alerts as well, but they can be turned off. All of the alerts are also sent to your phone via the Owlet app.
The app is well-designed and intuitive to use, but is only available for iOS. The home screen offers a photo of your baby surrounded by pulsing dots to indicate that readings are normal. Swiping up pulls up live heart rate and oxygen level readings and further information about how the readings can vary. From the app you can also view past notifications (battery, placement, red alerts, etc.) and explanations of those notifications.
The interface is simple, yet it offers lots of information for the concerned parent. I've never been interested in using a monitor of this nature, but now that I have experience with it, I'm finding it provides me with a new level of peace I didn't experience with my first child.
The instructions for connecting the base to the internet, choosing the right sock for my baby, and understanding the indicator lights were easy to understand and follow. When the sock was too loose or poorly placed, the base and app notified me right away so I could fix it. Over several weeks of use, I only received once false red alarm (due to the sock being too loose), but I was glad to know that the alert was loud enough to wake me from a dead sleep. Obviously, if my baby wasn't getting enough oxygen, I'd want to be alerted quickly and loudly.
The instructions say that base needs to be close to the sock when it's being worn, as it has a maximum Bluetooth range of 100 feet, which is a bummer for those who have the baby's crib in a room other than their own. However, I took the Smart Sock all over my house without losing connection, so your experience will depend on your home's construction and layout.
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The lights and audio alerts from the base unit won't do you much good if the base is in a different room from where you sleep. If that's the case, you can turn the notification sounds off for the base unit and receive alerts only on your phone.
The Owlet experience will soon undergo a makeover called Connected Care. Connected Care is a new app that aggregates the information from the Smart Sock into averages, graphs, and sleep tracking. I spent some time with the new app in beta, and it's what I've come to expect from Owlet: simple to understand, yet loaded with helpful data.
On the first day I tried Connected Care I was feeling unusually sleep-deprived due to my 5-week-old's fussiness throughout recent days (and nights). I opened up Connected Care, and the bottom of the home page offered a tip: "Your baby is going through her first leap in mental development, known as the world of changing sensations…It's normal for infants to experience the three C's during mental leaps: crankiness, clinginess, and crying." I very much appreciated that timely tip, letting me know that everything is fine—physically and mentally.
Comparisons and Conclusions
There are a couple of comparable monitors on the market right now. One very similar monitor in style and function (but not price) is the Baby Vida Oxygen Monitor ($159.99). The sock design and app aren't as polished as the Owlet's, and many reviewers complain of inaccurate readings. The good news is that it's portable and doesn't rely on a base being plugged in like the Owlet does.
While it isn't a pulse oximeter and doesn't directly monitor your infant's vitals, the Baby Delight Video, Movement, and Positioning Monitor ($229.99) uses a pendant-style motion detector to measure your baby's breathing and position, and a Wi-Fi monitor lets you watch their room, if it's separate from your own bedroom.
The Owlet Smart Sock 2 is a solid baby monitor that's reliable and easy to use. It's cut down drastically on my tendency to sneak up to my sleeping newborn and hover over her until I can see her chest moving. I sleep a bit better (literally) knowing I'll be alerted if she's having trouble breathing, and even though I've done this "new baby" thing two times before, that worry never goes away. Luckily, we have the technology now to ease that worry, even if just a little.
Sarah Kovac is an international author and speaker based in the Midwest. She writes about tech, parenting, disabilities, and any combination of the three. Sarah has written for CNN, GOOD, Woman's World, Mom.me, and many other outlets. She spends the hot Missouri summers swimming and kayaking, and she spends the icy winters praying for spring. Follow her on Twitter: @sarahkovac. More »
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