Apnoea monitoring at home

Apnoea monitoring at home

Home apnoea monitors detect movement in sleeping babies. Babies may need a home apnoea monitor if they have problems with breathing. 

Key points to remember

  • apnoea monitors detect movement
  • an alarm will sound if the monitor doesn't detect movement for 20 seconds or longer
  • it is vital that an adult can hear the alarm at all times and can get to your baby within 20 seconds
  • if the alarm sounds and your baby is not responsive then call 111 immediately in New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries)

About apnoea monitors

Apnoea monitors detect movement. An alarm will sound if the monitor does not detect movement for 20 seconds or longer. You should then help your baby restart breathing if necessary.

Use the monitor when your baby is lying on the sensor pad while resting/sleeping in their bed. Use the monitor whenever you put your baby down to sleep.

It is important to remember that the apnoea monitor is only an alert/warning device. Make sure an adult can hear the alarm at all times and can get to your baby within 20 seconds and respond appropriately.

You should not use a monitor when your baby is in a:

  • bed with other people
  • vehicle or boat
  • hammock
  • rocking cradle
  • moving pram or buggy

This is because the monitor will sense this movement and may not alarm and alert you if your baby is not breathing.

When you first get home

Your baby's normal routine may be upset when you first get home. This often happens after a baby has been in hospital. Your baby should settle into their usual routine within a few days.

If you have any concerns about using the apnoea machine, then you should call your hospital and speak to your child's nurse.

Setting up the monitor at home

Place the sensor pad in your baby's bed as shown by the nurse on the ward. Be sure to place the sensor pad on a firm flat surface, under the mattress or bedding so it will be below the baby's chest.

Bring the sensor cable out the bottom of the baby's bed (to avoid tangling with your baby) and secure if necessary.

Plug the sensor cable into the sensor input socket on the monitor. Place the monitor on a surface next to your baby's bed such as a bedside table. Make sure it is out of reach of young children.

Always carry out a practice test with your baby placed on the bed and then off the bed to ensure the sensor pad is in the right place and the monitor is working properly.

Monitor maintenance

Check the monitor daily

Check the alarm by turning the monitor on without your baby on the sensor pad and check that the alarm sounds. Make sure you also check the monitor with your baby on the bed.

Looking after the monitor

To clean, simply wipe with mild detergent and a damp cloth.

Be careful not to:

  • drop the monitor
  • put it in water
  • let children play with it


Make sure that you always have a spare set of the right-sized batteries and a screwdriver to open the battery cover.

Replace the batteries as soon as possible when the low battery light appears as this may cause the monitor to become less sensitive to movement.

What to do if the monitor alarms

If the alarm sounds and your baby is not responsive then call 111 immediately within NZ (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries).

Check your baby

  • are they breathing?
  • is their chest and stomach moving?
  • is their colour normal?
  • do they wake up when picked up?

At nighttime, always quickly turn on a light.

If your baby is not breathing, call 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and start CPR.  See Emergencies - CPR.

Even if your baby has stopped breathing but starts again, take your baby to a doctor immediately.

You must go by ambulance to the hospital as your baby may stop breathing again. Bring your apnoea monitor with you.

If your baby is breathing

  • try and establish why the monitor alarmed
  • reset the monitor
  • read troubleshooting below


False alarm

If the alarm sounds, wake your baby straightaway. It is important to stop first and to check if your baby is breathing. It may be a false alarm.

A false alarm is when the monitor has sounded when your baby is sleeping and breathing normally.

If this happens you should check:

  • if your baby has moved off the sensor pad
  • that the thickness between your baby and sensor pad hasn't changed - for example, extra clothing in winter or added blankets
  • that the low battery light is not on

Monitor will not function at all

  • check the batteries are in the right place and making firm contact
  • try replacing with new batteries

Movement indicator not flashing

  • check the sensor cable is fully plugged in
  • check the sensor cable is not kinked or damaged

Movement detected when a bed is empty

  • check that your baby's bed is not touching or moved by a strong wind or something else
  • if you have just taken your baby out, then the monitor may be detecting movement in the mattress as it settles to its original position
  • check that the floor under your baby's bed is not moving

If you think you have fixed the fault, it is essential that you do a thorough check of the monitor.

What to do if your monitor is not working correctly

If your baby's monitor is not working properly, then call the hospital straightaway.

Make sure you keep an eye on your baby at all times until either the problem is fixed or a replacement monitor arrives.

Returning the monitor

Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you how long your baby will need to be on the monitor.

They will also discuss how to know when to wean your baby from the monitor.

This can be quite a stressful time for parents/caregivers, but there are several different ways you can do this.

You may:

  • decide to stop using the monitor for daytime sleeps but continue at night
  • leave the monitor at home when you go away for a weekend or holiday
  • decide just to stop using the monitor altogether

The content on this page has been developed and approved by the Clinical Reference Group of the Newborn Clinical Network, Paediatric Society New Zealand.

This page last reviewed 01 December 2017.
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