In the domain of the humble baby monitor, the only question more oft-asked than “Which should I get?” is “When should I stop using it?” After all, it’s a well-known fact that Norma Bates used her monitor for far too long, and look how little Norman turned out…
No, it’s neither well-known, nor a fact. Breathe a relieved sigh, hold up on that motel deposit, and read on to find out when to stop using a baby monitor!
The Case for Spying on Infants
But first, we must understand why we started in the first place. Because, when one really thinks about it, monitoring babies seems a strange thing to do. They’re neither a nuclear threat nor a Windows 98 game of Solitaire. These smallish humans don’t do much and what little they do is somewhat repetitive anyway. So why bother?
Big Brother Parent Loves You
In her 2008 paper, aptly entitled Watching Children, Margaret Nelson identifies several reasons cited by parents for using a baby monitor. Chief among these is the controversial idea that parents worry about the safety of their young – a phenomenon known as Parental Anxiety. Interestingly, this worry is never in question; it is always assumed that a parent buying a baby monitor experiences this anxiety.
A subtype of Parental Anxiety was dubbed ‘Routine Anxiety’. This type of worry is, sadly, unrelated to the panic felt on the ballroom floor when one forgets the steps. Rather, it refers to the fear that something will happen to your little when everything is normal and you’re doing normal (or ‘routine’) things. For example, particularly thick walls in the family home could muffle the child’s crying should they fall from the bed. Similarly, the deafening noise of that ancient monolith that passes for a microwave in your idiot husband’s mind could result in the same.
Our Babies Aren’t Very Good
A second factor noted by Nelson was the child itself justifying the Parental Anxiety. Often, a baby’s general squishiness and ease of breakage leads parents to logically conclude that these miniature people require protection.
In addition (or multiplication, if you catch my drift), our offspring don’t initially follow their parents’ arbitrary rules. So, naturally, parents would worry that little Lothario was loudly wearing Monday socks on a Thursday, thus justifying a baby monitor. Or, you know, playing with his rattle at 2am when he should absolutely be asleep.
Finally, the paper acknowledges that parents do sometimes get bored of staying perfectly still and quiet while the infant dozes. The inclusion of a baby monitor in their lives allows them to safely leave the child asleep to engage in exciting things like rustling newspapers and bag after bag of chips.
Why stop using a baby monitor?
The Reason Dissipates
Simply put, once the motivators to use a baby monitor disappear, the device becomes unnecessary.
If the thickness of the walls once obscured important sounds, you may want to dispense with the monitor when the growing baby’s cries overcomes this effect.
When the child learns to obey your rules about night-time play, you no longer need to listen to the silence of the playroom.
If your baby becomes a heavier sleeper, you needn’t set up the monitor because you may not need to leave the room to do whatever mildly noisy task you had in mind.
When You’re Worrying Too Much
Parental Anxiety, however, doesn’t necessarily go away. You’ll always worry for your child’s safety, rushing to their aid at the slightest whimper. This is particularly true when your baby is sick, and any noise could be a sign of something genuinely hazardous to their health.
But, if your little one is healthy, your lumbering adult form may rob them of the chance to soothe themselves back to sleep, as well as wrenching you from your own bed. In fact, after around 6 months, most infants begin to sleep for a whole night without waking and requiring a feed, so you could just ignore their noises and sleep peacefully.
So, when should we stop?
In short, the decision of when to stop using a monitor depends on why you were using it in the first place, as well as when your child grows to the point where these reasons are no longer relevant. There is no set age at which to stop, just the age when both you and your baby feel safe without the use of familial espionage.