There is a universal piece of advice I give to parents who come to me for help with getting more sleep. I have seen this advice work time and time again for anxious, sleep-deprived parents.
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My advice to them is: get rid of your video monitor.
You may think this sounds a bit odd. When you were expecting, you probably rushed out to buy your video monitor with your baby’s safety at the forefront of your mind. There’s a catch though - video monitors frequently cause sleep problems for babies and parents. If you’re concerned about safety, a sound monitor is all you need.
Recently, a tired mum approached me asking for help with her baby’s night waking. I advised her to turn off the video function of her monitor and just leave the sound on. Three days later she contacted me again to say her baby had slept through ever since she switched the video off. She was understandably delighted.
I’ve spent the past 15 years working with parents and their babies to help everyone get more sleep – trust me this isn’t the first time advising a parent to ditch the video has worked wonders!
Still need a little convincing? Let me explain the main reasons why I advise parents to get shot of their video monitor:
The parent always knows when their baby is awake
You may think this is a good thing, but trust me it actually isn’t. It’s perfectly normal for a baby to wake from their sleep and drift off again after a while. Often the baby doesn’t even make a sound during this process although they may make a few small noises. If you have a sound monitor, you probably won’t notice and so won’t feel anxious or change your behaviour at all.
On the contrary, if you have a video monitor you’ll be aware of your baby’s wakeful period. You may start to feel anxious about your baby waking up and modify your behaviour. Turning off the television, whispering and tiptoeing around are all things parents with video monitors do when they see those little eyes spring open.
If you notice the dummy has fallen out you could be tempted to go and pop it back in, therefore either waking the baby more or aiding a greater reliance on the dummy for sleep (I’ll come back to this later).
The bottom line is, you don’t need to know when your baby is awake if he or she isn’t distressed. Babies always wake up at some point, this is only natural. If you don’t know about it you can just carry on as normal.
Video monitors interfere with self-settling
All babies have the ability to self-settle (link to previous article here), yet a video monitor often gets in the way of allowing them to do this.
If you see your baby’s eyes are open, you may feel the need to rush in and help her return to sleep – even if she doesn’t need your help! For example, your baby stirs and you see the dummy has fallen out of his mouth. You sprint up to his room and replace it. While most babies use dummies to fall asleep, they normally don’t need it overnight to return to sleep after a short period of wakefulness. If you pop the dummy back in every time it falls out, especially during the early days, you are unwittingly creating a much stronger association with needing it (especially during sleep). This will only come back to haunt you later. This problem is much less likely to occur with a sound only monitor. The baby stirs, wakes up for a while and then self-settles back to sleep and you are blissfully unaware of the whole event!
Your baby becomes accustomed to absolute silence at bed time
With a video monitor you’ll know when your baby’s eyes are open, even if she is not making a sound. As I said above, this may cause you to stop what you were doing and be silent until her eyes close again.
The result of modifying your behaviour in such a way is your baby will always be used to silence when drifting off at bed-time or returning to sleep after they wake. As babies grow and become toddlers, they will be awake when they go to bed and it often takes them some time to nod off.
If they are used to absolute silence, then silence is what they’ll always need. This could cause difficulties later on because silence at bedtime is not always possible.
Video monitors can contribute to seperation anxiety
Even though you can see your baby via the monitor, she can’t see you! If you rush to her side every time her eyes open, you may accidentally create a separation anxiety issue.
When your baby wakes up, it’s important to allow him to fall asleep again without seeing you. The chances are, if you have a sound monitor, you won’t be there when your baby wakes because you won’t even know.
Always being able to see your baby, even when she sleeps, makes it much harder to relax about her independence. In my opinion, the video monitor does nothing to help with the anxiety parents often feel about not being with their baby all the time.
If the video monitor goes upstairs with you when you go to bed, it creates further problems. Your baby may stir causing you to lie awake, anxiously waiting for his next move. He’ll probably roll around for a while to get comfortable and his eyes may be open for a long time before he nods off again.
Without the video monitor, you may hear the initial sound but you’ll probably just ignore it and go back to sleep. However, if you’re able to watch his every move you will be primed to spring into action, your eyes glued to the monitor to see what happens next. Video monitors make it harder to let go of the fact that you don’t need to be with your baby all the time.
Getting rid of the video monitor is not only better for your baby, it’s better for you too.
Parents often wake their baby up accidentally
Your baby may already sleep through the night, which is fantastic! However, if you can see when his dummy has fallen out or his comfort toy has dropped to the floor and you rush in to rectify these ‘problems’, you may unintentionally wake your baby up! I’ve seen it happen many times. Using a sound monitor means you won’t feel the need to ‘help’ your baby when he doesn’t actually need your assistance!
Predominantly, my job is to help parents relax and feel more confident. If there is one device that gets in the way of achieving this, it’s the video monitor. That said, I’m not against all types of monitors. I advocate the use of a heart monitor, for example, because it could save a life. Sound monitors also have their benefits. But I honestly can’t see the advantage of a video monitor, except in a couple of limited situations.
From my experience, video monitors bring about more problems than they solve, often causing sleep issues when none existed in the first place.
I hope you now understand why I advise parents against using them. In many cases my advice has resulted in a better night’s sleep for parent and baby.
To see more of Hannah's work or for more information on the services she offers please check out the Yummy Baby Group Website