The use of an apnea monitor in the home to limit the duration of prolonged apneic spells and thus, possibly, to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has raised a number of questions about the effect of such devices on the infant, family, and parent-child interaction. Through interviews and questionnaires, descriptive data were obtained from 31 families who recently or currently had an infant on a monitor. The infants treated were either those who had one or more severe cyanotic episodes, siblings of infants with SIDS or severely cyanotic infants, or normal newborn infants in a research study. On the basis of laboratory sleep studies, all were believed to be prone to prolonged apneic spells.

Most families believed that using the apnea monitor had a significant but temporary impact on their personal and social lives. Many patterns of daily living and child-care routines were altered to accommodate monitor use. Technical limitations of the machine severely aggravated parents' problems. Despite these observations, most parents believed the monitor was an anxiety reducer and, in retrospect, well worth the trouble. Generally it was not seen as a deterrent to normal parent-child relations.

These generalizations are explored in detail and are presented as a stimulus to further investigation and improved management.

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