baby monitor above crib

What are the key factors in buying baby monitors?

Baby monitors are devices that allow you to have ears, and increasingly much more, on your baby while you are in a different room. Designed for peace of mind, at their most basic, these monitors let you hear your baby’s cries and know when the baby’s awake. 

There are three main types of baby monitor on the market today. Audio monitors are the original baby monitor. Using radiofrequency or digital, they send transmissions from the baby’s room to the parent monitor unit. They’re the most inexpensive option and have a limited range, with most working up to about 150 feet indoors.

Video monitors include a nursery camera that feeds to an app or a screen on the parent unit so you can see what your baby is doing. Choices include static cameras to cameras that can pan the room, a feature which might increase the length of use (an extra set of eyes on a mobile toddler is always a good thing!).

The latest monitors track baby’s movements, plus vitals and more. Most in the Movement monitors category use wearables or sensor pads to document baby’s motions and breathing. Some send data to an app so you can have a record of your baby’s sleeping patterns and health info. Movement monitors may or may not include sound and video monitoring components.

Finding the perfect baby monitor that balances functionality, portability, features and cost, can be challenging for even the savviest parents! Our popular best baby monitor reviews cover 15 different top video baby monitors for the year, but the question remains: how did we pick them? What did we look for? This video baby monitor buying guide will walk you through all the essential things you should be looking for, and explore some of the fancier options that have emerged on the market over the past few years.

Examples of fancier baby models that have appeared on the market include wifi baby monitors, breathing detection, cry detection, multi-camera versatility, and more!

A baby monitor can help anxious parents get a better night’s sleep. It’s one job to help you detect when a baby cries or fusses in her crib, so you know whether it’s time for a feeding or a new diaper, or if she’s just murmuring on her way back to Snoozetown. (Which can be pretty adorable to watch, too.) Monitors can come with a wide array of extra features, from hi-definition video display to wireless connectivity with your tablet or other devices. Consider this your guide to what’s important to focus on in a baby monitor.

A monitor’s job is to transmit recognizable sound and, in the case of video models, images. The challenge is to find a monitor that works with minimal interference—static, buzzing, or irritating noise—from other nearby electronic products and transmitters, including older cordless phones that might use the same frequency bands as your monitor.

Audio interference can take a lot of forms, including your neighbor’s conversations (or even their baby’s babble). That can make it difficult, if not impossible, to decipher the sounds coming from your baby monitor.

If you have a video monitor, interference can mean fuzzy reception or, even more disturbing, images from other people’s homes (and vice versa).

Overall, baby monitors can be as temperamental as a 2-year-old. Interference is probably the biggest complaint, but parents also report such problems as low visibility, a shorter-than-expected reception range, and short battery life. Choose a monitor carefully, and make sure you’ll be able to return it if it doesn’t deliver.

Looking for baby monitors for baby nursery? Look no further. Check out our range here.

Here is what you should consider when picking a baby monitor:

Clarity of Daytime and Night Vision

When wireless baby monitor systems with screens were first introduced onto the market, they used somewhat outdated display technology that made for a grainy, distorted and often unreliable picture. Newer baby monitors use a liquid crystal display similar to the ones used in your smartphone and other consumer electronics, so these HD video baby monitors tend to have very nice colour contrast and high resolution and are also substantially more reliable. All of the stand-alone baby monitors we list above have high-quality displays, and we do not recommend some of the relatively old fashioned ones that can still be found on the market. Of course, night vision doesn’t use color – so the display will be either grayscale or show a slightly green hue. That’s important to keep in mind before you try it out for the first time; not even military special operations have colour night vision, so don’t expect anything amazing, even from the best baby monitor!

Quick Tips

  • For some, a baby monitor may seem like an unnecessary expense—especially if your home is small and your baby will always be put to sleep within close range, or if you worry that watching every whimper feels overprotective. Go with what feels right for you and your family.
  • Many monitors work on a 2.4 GHz frequency that’s shared with other devices in your home—and your ‘neighbours (cordless phones, for example). Monitors with DECT technology use a separate 1.9 GHz frequency that can mean less background interference.
  • Install and test your baby monitor before the baby comes home. Many monitors experience interference based on background noise, how your home is constructed, or the range of your home wireless network, so give your monitor a good test run before you need it (and before you toss any receipts or packaging).

wireless baby monitor

Traditional versus Wifi Baby Monitors

Starting around 2010, parents began to switch from using baby monitors with a yoked camera and screen to using wifi cameras that can stream over smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. At the time, there weren’t very many wifi cameras aimed towards the baby gear market, so people were going with familiar wifi camera brands like Nest and Samsung. Over the next few years, companies slowly began introducing baby-themed wifi cameras onto the market. While even high-quality HD wifi cameras can be found for under $50 (like this one) nowadays, companies began to realize they could package a wifi camera as a baby monitor, change the colours and themes of the app, and charge 3-4 times the price. And they continue to use this strategy to this day! So which is better? Well, this comes down to one thing: do you want to be able to view the nursery while you’re not at home? If you answer yes to this question, then you need to use a wifi monitor as opposed to a typical baby monitor. A wifi baby monitor (or any wifi camera) will connect to your internet (some are wired, some through wifi only) and stream live (well, slightly delated) video to an app on your phone. That will work in the house or out of the house, as long as you have a fast internet connection. So you can simply BYOP (bring your phone) and leverage 20th-century technology! That seems really appealing, and we highly recommend some of the newer ones (like the Cocoon Cam, Lollipop, and Nanit), but there are some things to keep in mind when figuring out the type of monitor to buy:

  • Internet speed is a challenge with wifi cameras and wifi baby monitors: people want cameras with high definition video (720p or 1080p), but most internet connections are nowhere near fast enough to stream that high-quality video in real-time. So parents get frustrated with their HD wifi baby monitors because they find the video choppy, laggy, and unreliable. Most modern wifi cameras allow you to lower the resolution of the video so you can still see your baby, but not in high def.
  • Most people don’t have unlimited data plans for their smartphone and are surprised to see very high data usage after just a few hours of streaming their wifi baby monitor. With HD video, you can go through a couple of gigabytes of data in just a few hours, so keep that in mind. If your phone is connected to wifi that won’t matter, but if you’re using 3G or 4G LTE cellular service, you will definitely have slow video and tons of data usage.
  • If your internet goes down, your baby monitor goes down. A wifi baby monitor uses your home’s internet connection to communicate to servers, then to your app. So if your internet connection goes down, then you will no longer be able to stream video of your baby. That’s a huge consideration to keep in mind because you never know when your internet will slow down or simply stop working for several minutes or hours, and you will be stuck without a working baby monitor. There are a few wifi baby monitors that will still communicate locally (within your home’s network) when the internet goes down, such as the Lollipop or Nanit. They do this by switching from the internet to the local area network when an outage is detected, so you can have confidence that if you’re connected to your home wifi, you’ll still see your baby.
  • Your phone might not have great battery life. Many parents who use a wifi baby monitor come to the realization that their smartphone battery life isn’t so great when they are streaming a live video and audio feed from their baby monitor. If you have a newer iPhone or Android device, it will probably do pretty well, but if you have an older phone, the batter is probably a bit weaker already. You will notice your battery life dropping pretty quickly during use. So definitely consider battery life and charging options for your smartphone when you are choosing between a self-contained versus wifi baby monitor. 

Start by deciding whether you want an audio-only monitor or one that lets you see as well as hear your baby. Some parents are reassured by hearing and seeing every whimper and movement. Others find such close surveillance to be nerve-racking. Having a monitor should make life easier, not create a constant source of worry. You might find that you don’t really need a monitor at all, especially if your home is small.

Check out our range of safety baby monitors here.

Consider Digital Over Analog

Digital monitors encode their signals. As a result, you can be sure that the sounds and images transmitted are received only by you and not by neighbours who might have a similar model (or a cordless phone using the same frequency band).

Consider Other Wireless Devices

While digital monitors minimize the possibility of unwittingly broadcasting images and sounds to other devices, any wireless device (analog or digital) can interfere with other wireless devices, such as your baby monitor, cordless phone, wireless speakers, or home wireless router. To solve the problem, first, try changing the channel on your baby monitor or your router. If you still have interference and you can’t return the monitor, try keeping other devices as far away from your baby monitor as possible.

Consider Your Home and Lifestyle

Think about the size of your home and your daily routine when deciding which brand/model to buy. If you’ll be making calls during nap time, for example, look for monitors with lights that let you know when your baby is awake. Of course, you can accomplish the same thing by turning down the sound on a video monitor, but lights are more likely to catch your eye.

If you live in a large house, you might want a monitor with two receivers rather than one. In general, look for models with features that make it easy to move about, such as a compact receiver that clips to your belt or waistband. Try it on before buying, if possible.

wall mounted baby monitor

Check Out the Return Policy

Before buying or registering for a baby monitor (or any wireless product), be sure you can return or exchange it in case, you can’t get rid of interference or other problems. If you receive a monitor as a baby-shower gift and know where it was purchased, try it before the retailer’s return period ends. Return policies are often explained on store receipts, on signs near registers, or the merchant’s website. But if the return clock has run out, don’t feel defeated. Persistence and politeness will often get you an exception to the policy. Keep the receipt and the original packaging.

My Baby Nursery has the biggest range of nursery baby monitors for you to choose from.

Monitors Can’t Do Everything

Baby monitors shouldn’t be used as a substitute for adult supervision. They should be considered as an extra set of ears—and, in some cases, eyes—that help parents and caregivers keep tabs on sleeping babies. Using one can alert you to a situation before it becomes serious, for example, if your baby is coughing, crying, or making some other sign of distress. Experts warn that you can’t rely on a monitor to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

You might see monitors on the market with claims that they can track a baby’s breathing or movements, but unless the unit is registered with the FDA, it’s not a medical device. Consumer Reports hasn’t tested this type of monitor. Talk with your pediatrician if you think your child has a condition that warrants medical monitoring. He or she can give you advice on the best devices.

 

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