Why Buy a Baby Monitor?
A baby monitor gives you peace of mind, letting you listen to your infant without having to disturb them frequently by heading into their room. Whether it's your first baby or your fifth, any device that lets you relax and get more sleep between feeds and changes is a smart purchase.
With newborns, you may only be getting two to four hours between cries, so maximizing that sleep time is essential. Without a quality baby monitor, moms and dads will spend the little rest time they have on edge, only drifting into a light sleep for fear of not hearing the baby's cry. The monitor also lets you keep one ear out for your child's cry while you shower, do chores, try to enjoy some rest and relaxation, or are otherwise occupied. And when you're sleep coaching, whichever method you choose, a baby monitor can help you know when to enter your baby's room and when to let them fuss themselves back to sleep. Learn more about baby monitors in our articles here.
What to Look for in a Baby Monitor
While most parents feel that a baby monitor is near the top of their list of must-haves, many don't realize just how many factors there are to consider and choices there are to make. That's where this guide comes in. These are all the key elements to consider so you can choose the best baby monitor for your home.
To get the best performance out of your baby monitor, it's important to understand the technology it uses. Knowing what options are open to you, and their benefits and drawbacks, ensures you get a monitor that provides consistent, reliable audio monitoring of your baby's room.
A baby monitor uses either batteries or electricity to run. With some models, the parent units run on batteries while the child unit has an electrical cord and requires connection to an outlet. If you're concerned about power outages, it's worth considering a model that runs entirely on batteries or has a battery backup. For monitors that require batteries, remember to check whether they accept rechargeables or disposables, as well as the size and type.
The frequency on which a baby monitor operates determines how much interference and cross-signal transmissions it picks up. This is also impacted by how rural or urban your living environment is and by how many radio-frequency or wireless devices you operate. Some older devices, like two-way radios and cordless phones, operate on the 2.4GHz frequency, so it's advisable to choose a baby monitor that operates on a different frequency from most of your other devices. However, if you choose a digital monitor that uses DECT standards on the 1.9GHz band, this shouldn't be as much of an issue.
The signal range you require depends on the size of your house, yard and anywhere else you'll use the monitor. Remember that the maximum range the manufacturer specifies is generally determined outdoors with a clear line of sight and optimal atmospheric conditions. Therefore, unless the device specifies the maximum indoor range, you should always get a model with a maximum range that substantially exceeds what you actually need.
Commonly, the packaging or manual tells you the monitor works at a maximum range of 600 to 1,000 feet. Unless otherwise specified, this is the outdoor range with an unobstructed line of sight. In actuality, you're most likely looking at around 150 feet indoors, which is the maximum indoor range of popular brands like Philips Avent.
With smart devices like some video baby monitors, you'll get a signal as long as both devices are connected to your home wireless network. Some even let you watch, hear and communicate with your baby via your smartphone or tablet.
For those times when you do experience any interference or someone within maximum range is using a baby monitor on the same frequency and channel as yours, multiple channels are a must-have. In this scenario, you can simply change channels to eliminate the unwanted transmissions. Most baby monitors offer one or two channels, although some, like select Safety 1st models, offer up to four. For a digital model that uses DECT standards, multiple channels aren't strictly necessary, as this technology encrypts and secures your transmissions as well as blocking interference.
Analog or Digital
Analog baby monitors tend to be basic, functional and affordable. However, they are more prone to interference. Note that parents who are concerned about the potential harm of electromagnetic radiation generated by wireless digital devices do prefer the analog options.
Digital baby monitors are costlier than their analog counterparts, but they are less prone to interference. The use of DECT standards also ensures that transmissions are encrypted as they move from the child unit to the parent module, offering enhanced safety in the form of a secure digital audio transmission. Because these models use wireless technology, there's no white noise with them either.
In addition to sound, the best baby monitors provide a range of useful indicators for increased convenience. You need to know when your battery is running low or if you accidentally move out of range, among other variables.
Light-Up Sound Detection
Sometimes you need a little quiet time, like when you take a call, so being able to mute the baby monitor while still keeping an eye on your baby is a great feature. When the monitor detects sound coming from your baby's room, it activates its indicator lights to let you know. Some use a sequential light sequence – the more lights that illuminate, the louder the sounds. Others have lights that get brighter as the noise gets louder.
Out of Range
An out-of-range indicator alerts you, usually via an audible tone, that you've moved the parent receiver out of range of the child unit. You're then aware that you won't hear any noise from your little one until you move back in range. Some monitors, like popular models from Motorola, feature a link indicator that shows you when you're connected, as well as an audible alarm when you lose the connection.
If you can see the status of your battery or receive a low-battery alert, you won't unexpectedly run out of juice, and you can charge or replace the batteries before heading to bed. This lets you rest easy, as you know the baby monitor has all the power it needs to let you hear your infant if they need you in the night.
When you need something more discreet than loud sounds and flashing lights, a vibration function is useful. Just remember that if the monitor is on a hard surface, it'll vibrate and make a racket, and if it's not close to your body, you may not feel the vibrations.
Because every parent has one of those days every once in a while and inevitably misplaces the parent unit for their baby monitor, look for a set with a find or pager function. That way, you can press a button on the child unit and the misplaced parent unit sounds off.
Because the safety and comfort of your baby is of the utmost importance, it makes sense to choose a baby monitor with features to increase safety.
A wall-mountable child unit lets you locate it safely away from the tiny fingers of your curious child. You can run the power cable well out of reach of your baby. It's important to remember, however, that the farther away from the child the unit is, the less sound it will pick up. Mounting the child unit on the wall may also mean that, if the unit has a projected night light, it isn't possible to project the light onto the ceiling.
A temperature sensor lets you check that the room is warm enough or cool enough to keep your baby comfortable as they sleep. As soon as the temperature starts to rise or fall to an uncomfortable level, you can make the appropriate adjustments.
The best baby monitor for you, as the parent of an infant or toddler, is one that offers simple convenience and user-friendly operation. These devices should make your life a little easier and help you keep your baby safe and settled with minimal fuss.
If you're a heavy sleeper, you may need a particularly high volume to wake you up. On the other hand, you may be enjoying a few minutes of quiet time and only want a quiet noise to alert you to your baby's cry. Perhaps you need to take an important call or you're catching up on some work. An adjustable volume on your baby monitor is vital to give you the flexibility for these scenarios.
Handheld Parent Unit
Some parent units are small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand or to slip into a pocket. Carrying the monitor around with you ensures you never miss the sound of your child calling for you. A model with a belt clip is another option for hands-free convenience.
Multiple Parent Units
Two or more parent units, as you can find in some of the sets from The First Years, definitely increase the convenience of a baby monitor. With two units, both parents can easily assess when their child needs tending to. Alternatively, you can leave one unit beside your bed and carry the other on your person.
Some baby monitors, like some of the models offered by VTech, project soft light in the shapes of starts and moons on the ceiling. They may also play a soothing lullaby to aid in sleep coaching.
Sometimes when your child is crying or fussing, they don't actually need your physical presence. All they need is the soothing, comforting sound of your voice. This is where a two-way intercom function comes in particularly handy. With models from brands like Summer Infant, you can talk or sing to your little one to settle them while they fall back to sleep or to soothe them temporarily when you're just trying to finish off a task before heading in to see them.
The best baby monitor is one that fits your lifestyle. Models with a long battery life, plenty of safety and convenience features, all the appropriate indicators, and little or no interference make a good choice. The right baby monitor helps you with sleep coaching, as well as providing you with peace of mind.