Updated January 2017
- Newborn Sleeping Spots
- Linens and mattresses
- Wearable Blankets
- Night Lights
- Baby Monitors
- Sound Machines
Ahhh, sleep: the first leg in the holy trinity of babydom.
As a new parent, this is the part of your life that will be most affected by having a newborn baby.
No matter which sleeping method you choose, your little lamb will need a safe sleeping venue. I recommend a crib for the long-term, BUT… don’t be surprised one bit if you don’t use it at all during the first few months. In fact, most parents end up with their baby in their bedroom for the first few months, which I highly recommend (as do most modern-day pediatricians).
You certainly can, by all means, use the crib right away if you choose, but most mommies found that the first time we put our tiny, helpless newborns in their giant, spacious, jail-like (yet well-appointed!) cribs, something just didn’t feel right: it’s a bit overkill for a newborn. Therefore, I highly recommend a temporary newborn sleeping venue, perhaps one that is more portable and nest-like.
Newborn Sleeping Arrangements
Because most people end up with baby in their room for the first few months, it begs the question: a bassinet? A Moses basket? I say neither. Sure, those will do the trick, but I’m not a big fan of expensive items that only get used for a few months.
Some options ~
Option 1: A Portable Bassinet
Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Portable Bassinet or Sleeper – ECONOMY PICK
Starting with the cheapest and easiest solution, the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Portable Bassinet is lightweight and easy to move around. This is the cheap and dirty solution for room-sharing in the first few months and will set you back about $79. Great for car travel as well. 0-6 months only.
Related to that is another awesome invention, the small and very portable Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. The awesomeness of this product lies in the fact that it serves the purpose of a portable napping venue and a seat to hang out in and play – all in one. And y’all knowwww (makes exaggerated gesture with index finger) how I love multi-taskers, right?
*Remember, it’s better for baby not to spend too much time in passive “baby holding” devices, such as car seats, bouncers or semi-reclined bouncers, like the Rock N Play. When holding or wearing your baby isn’t practical, put baby on a blanket or on a play mat. Your baby can play belly-up with toys placed to either side to encourage head turning, rolling and reaching.
Some warn against sleeping in the Rock ‘n Play because it hasn’t officially been blessed by the sleep gods; however, there have been no accidents to date that I’m aware of. If you’re nervous, please discuss it with your pediatrician.
There is also a concern that the Rock N’ Play can contribute to flat head because it’s soft and thus, more difficult for baby to vary his/her neck position. Again, please speak to your pediatrician if you’re concerned about this because the jury is still out!
The new “Auto” version has a 2-speed rocking motion with plug-in cord. The noise on the motor is a little louder than you’d expect, but serves as a white noise of sorts.
*0-4 Months Only; always use the safety harness. Stop using when baby can sit up unassisted. Seat pad is machine washable and dryer safe.
A great alternative to the Rock ‘n Play is the Tiny Love 3 in 1 rocker, loved by pediatric occupational therapists because unlike the Rock ‘n Play, this napper can lie completely flat. We love that it is a bouncer/rocker, feeder and bassinet (3 in 1).
It easily (and without waking the baby) adjusts position from sitting to reclined to sleeping.
It has a toy bar that can be moved aside or removed altogether, features 9 different melodies and has a vibration setting. We just wish that it rocked a little more. This napper is lightweight(ish) and can be easily moved to different rooms or to grandma’s house.
Option 2: A Play Yard
Sometimes called a “care station” or in-room nursery station – one that’s equipped to handle newborns.
In my opinion, the play yard solution is better than a bassinet or cradle because you can use it for years to come, and it’s a must-have for travel. In fact, I don’t know a single parent that doesn’t own one.
By comparison, you will use a bassinet or cradle for 3-4 months (max), and then what? Store it away, sell it… use it as a planter?
In the economy category, our favorite brand is the Graco Pack ‘n Play — one that comes with a “Newborn Napper” or “Cuddle Cove” feature. The Napper (pictured below) sits on top of the Pack ‘n Play and cups the baby on all sides; it’s like putting an egg into a carton. It’s perfect for the first couple of months.
You can move the Pack ‘n Play around your house very easily and it assembles and disassembles in about 30 seconds. When taken down, it folds into a nice, portable, rectangular package that you can easily take anywhere. Far and away, it’s the most useful baby item we have bought to date (and no, Graco doesn’t pay me to say this stuff).
Graco makes 16 different versions of the Pack ‘n Play with different trim levels and features, so don’t get overwhelmed.
For use from birth, here are our favorites:
At ~$99, the Graco Pack ‘n Play with Reversible Changer/Napper is definitely a best buy. The Pack ‘n Play with Newborn Napper LX ($150) gives you a permanent napper and the changing table (non-reversible) — better for everyday use.
Up the chain is the Pack ‘n Play with Cuddle Cove Rocking Seat ($178, below), which has a newborn sleeper/rocker that comes off to be used on its own. It also has a changing table, bassinet, storage for diapers, etc, and an electronics module with sounds and vibration.
At the top of the Graco food chain is the Everest ($230), the grand poobah of play yards. The Everest has sleek, modern lines and every bell and whistle you could desire, including an elevated lounger/napper, a hide-away changer with wipe-clean fabric, premium fabrics, 2-speed vibration and parent organizer. If your baby has no room of his own and will be living in your room, this one’s worth the extra dolllaz.
Another favorite play yard of mine is the Chicco Lullaby Baby Portable Play Yard (below). There are many variations of the Chicco Lullaby, so make sure you get the “Baby” version for your newborn.
> 6 Months Old
If you’re in the market for a play yard for use after 6 months of age, you no longer need the newborn or bassinet features, so just get the standard PNP for travel, called the On the Go with Folding Feet, which makes it fold more compactly. Pick it up for a mere $65.
BTW, if you end up using your play yard in the long-term, or if you just want a more comfortable “mattress” than what comes with it, you can purchase a separate more permanent/comfortable mattress made by Dream on Me for around $47. Well worth it to transform the PNP into a much more comfortable spot.
You can also pick up an organic mattress (more like a pad) for the PNP (or any other portable crib) from Naturepedic for $129.
[More about travel-specific cribs.]
- Graco also makes a smaller version of the PNP called the Travel Lite Crib. My friend with twins has two of these and they fit nicely in her bedroom.
- If you are a grandparent, a Pack ‘n Play or a 4MOMs Breeze Playard is a must-have for VISITS!!! The 4MOMS Breeze is much easier/more intuitive to set up and take down and a bit more elegant, but heavier and much more expensive. Take your pick.
Option 3: A Sidecar Co-Sleeper
Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper ~ $149
If you want something that attaches to your bed like a “sidecar,” check out the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. It’s a play yard that attaches to your bed (with a removable drop side), so you can grab your baby to nurse at night without even having to get up (score!).
I used a full-sized Arms Reach Co-Sleeper when Alice was born and it was fine, but I was shocked by how large and HEAVY it was, gah! Couldn’t wait to get rid of it. Thus, I don’t recommend the full size version of this product (the one that becomes a play yard).
This Bassinest is a good-looking co-sleeping option for those who can afford the $250 price tag.
Admittedly, it is one of those high-priced, short-lived items, but it’s great looking and moms really love it. See it in action here. Bassinest, FTW!
Babybay Bedside Sleeper ~ $365+
Looking to stretch your dollars beyond the first 6 months? Made in Germany, the Babybay Bedside Sleeper is a sidecar sleeper that later converts into a crib (kits coming out later in 2017) as you transition your baby out of your room. Made of 100% Beechwood, it’s sustainable and naturally antibacterial.
Those three items are just about all you’re going to find on the market in the U.S. when it comes to side-sleepers, mainly due to the fact that manufacturers are terrified of making baby sleeping venues due to the litigiousness (is that a word?) of our society. You can find a better variety in Europe.
*Coming March 2017 at Buy Buy Baby
Check out our quick review of this sleeper here. Full review pending.
Option 4: Bed Sharing
If you’re sleeping with baby in your bed, as many people do, you are better off with a shielded area for baby, in my humble opinion. This will protect your baby from pillows, duvets, and other bulky bedding items that are known to be a risk factor for SIDS in the Western world we live in. While “rollover” accidents are actually quite rare (a parent accidentally squishing baby in their sleep), I promise you will sleep better knowing your baby is protected.
The favorite economy bed-sleeper is the SwaddleMe “By Your Side” Sleeper (~$39).
Another option is the Close and Secure Sleeper by The First Years ~ $39. This one also folds easily for travel and storage.
Other risk factors for SIDS from co-sleeping include parents who smoke, parents who drink or use drugs, and parents who sleep very deeply (or are chronically sleep deprived, like doctors and other shift workers. OH — and MOMS, ha!).
Another item some parents love is the Dock-A-Tot, which can also be used in your bed. I personally find the price tag shocking for a pillow, but some people swear by it.
Option 5: A Bassinet
Last but not least, you can buy a regular single-trick bassinet. Bassinets usually last for less than 6 months, then you’d transition your baby into a crib (in his own room) or something like a Pack ‘n Play if he’s going to stay in your room.
The Chicco Lullago Deluxe can be used in your room and is also great for car travel ~$129.
For a more permanent installation, check out the beautiful Babyhome Dream Bassinet (and Air) — [full review here!], another great solution for room sharing. With this one, you can change the base from stationary to rocking mode to soothe your little babycakes back to sleep.
The new “Smart Fresh” Bassinet by Micuna is now available in the US for around $450. The Smart Fresh is hand-crafted from beechwood and extremely durable. It has six wheels (with brakes), so it can be easily moved from room to room. The bassinet is completely transparent with breathable fabric and a suffocation-proof mattress.
See also: UPPABaby Bassinet
Up in tha Crib
Without getting too bogged down in furniture, I’ll mention a few crowd favorites.
Most parents keep their munchkin in a crib well into the second year (2 years old, or even 3) before transitioning to a big bed. The majority of cribs on the market are regular, non-morphing cribs, while others can transition from a baby crib to a “railed” crib to a regular bed, which means you can use it well into your little one’s childhood.
The DaVinci 4-in-1 crib is an example of such a “convertible crib” (below):
If you’re more of a modern parent, check out cribs by Oeuf, Bloom and Stokke.
If money is tight, check out the ever-popular Gulliver from IKEA ($99). Safe and simple.
* It’s true that drop-sided cribs were banned in the U.S. altogether due to defects that led to suffocations. You see, many years ago, a lot of manufacturers switched from metal hardware to cheaper plastic hardware and less expensive wood (ahem, “wood”). The plastic hardware gave way, which caused the sliding gate to come apart from the crib and allowed babies to fall between the mattress and gate and suffocate. If you are considering using a hand-me-down, drop-side crib from someone else, check the quality of the hardware and wood. If it’s cheap, plasticky stuff, just say no (of course, if you’re buying a new crib, this is all a moot point).
Swaddle or else…
You probably want to swaddle your newborn if you have any hope of sleeping. Yes, MacGyver, you can tie a swaddle with a regular blanket, but as a practical matter, it just doesn’t work very well. First of all, 97% of the baby blankets out there simply are not big enough, are not shaped correctly (rectangular, what?), and/or do not have the right amount of stretchiness to tie a proper swaddle.
Second, your baby just has to squirm a little to break out of a blanket swaddle. To re-tie the mother effer (the swaddle, that is), you have to turn the lights on, re-position her, blah blah blah — it’s not something you want to be fumbling with at 3 am when you’re sleep deprived and ready to get the potato back in the oven.
Keep in mind that the recommendation for swaddling has changed to include a warning against wrapping the legs/hips too tightly, which can lead to hip dysplasia. Essentially, you don’t want your baby’s legs to be forced down straight; rather, they should be loosely wrapped to stay in the “M” or frogged position, as they were in the womb.
What about the arms? Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends swaddling with arms down by the sides. Others prefer the arms to be crossed over the chest to replicate the conditions in the womb. Still others advocate for arms to be up such that baby can have her hands by her face (this is often the position used for preemies). The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter; use whichever arm position your baby likes the best.
That said, here are some of our favorite swaddlers. Note that these are only used from 0-4 months.
1. The Summer Infant SwaddleMe ~ $17/ 3-pack
Th SwaddleMe is a pouch with wings that velcro together to create a tight, fool-proof swaddle. You can get cotton or microfleece depending on the season. Size small fits up to 3 months and is even a little big for a newborn. That’s okay, just fold the neck part down so it’s not over the baby’s face. The only downside is that opening the Velcro can be shockingly loud and alarming.
Please RTFM on this one: it’s important that you properly velcro the LEFT flap to the middle part, otherwise your little Houdini will bust out with the jailbreak maneuver. Seriously, get two or even three of these things so you always have one handy. You can’t beat the price!
2. The Woombie ~ $28
If you have a real Houdini on your hands, I highly recommend the Woombie. The Woombie is a simple zip-up suit made of very snug yet stretchy material. This lesser-known swaddle was the key to sleeping success for many of my friends-who-had-tried-everything-else. There are a few different versions, click here to pick the right one for you.
3. Ergobaby Swaddler ~ $25
Ergobaby now has a swaddle — and we like it a lot! Don’t laugh; the arm pockets look like a baby straight jacket, but that’s what makes it so effective! The bottom allows for baby’s legs to be ergonomically correct and the leg pouch gives you easy access for a diaper change. See it in action here. Huzzah! *These run a little big.
4. Nested Bean Zen Swaddle ~ $26
The Zen Swaddle by Nested Bean is unique because it’s slightly weighted on the chest and sides, providing security and comfort for baby as though mom or dad’s hand is there applying gentle pressure. Many parents love it and report longer periods of sleep at night, while others find the material too stretchy. Another upside: it fits babies from 0-6 months – lasting twice as long as other swaddles (which may also explain why some find it too big…).
5. The Miracle Blanket ~ $30
Like rolling up a fat burrito (…or something), this blanket makes for a pleasingly tight swaddle. It may even be better than Velcro swaddlers because there are fewer opportunities for busting out. On the downside, some complain that the Miracle Blanket is too complicated to roll up, but those who love it, love it.
6. Little Lotus Swaddle ~ $78 each / $136 for 2
Little Lotus swaddles and sleeping bags use phase-change technology to keep your baby at the perfect temperature. Yes, they are pricey, but if you are one of those parents who obsesses about whether baby is too hot (or too cold! — especially parents of preemies), I think you will fall in love with Little Lotus.
Little Lotus is super easy to get on and off. The shoulder snaps and zippers provide easy in & out access as well as a “do not disturb” diaper access zipper. The swaddles also have multiple shoulder snaps for neckline adjustment, a distinct wing design for the perfect swaddle, and high quality Velcro for quieter application.
Sheets ‘N Things
For your crib, you will need:
1. A mattress
While your baby might not care which kind of mattress he sleeps on, most parents do. With more and more parents opting for organic mattresses due to concerns over chemical flame retardants, we decided to cover them separately here.
If you’re in the market for a “regular” mattress, our favorites are:
$ ~ Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams ~ $50 – Economy Pick
$$ ~ Sealy Baby Posturepedic ~ $110 – Great Value
$$ ~ Little Dreamer from Moonlight Slumber ~ Dual Firmness Mattress ~ $197
Little Dreamer is a neat mattress with two sides: a firm “infant” side for safe infant sleeping and a softer “toddler” side for a cozier night after the days of SIDS danger are over.
$$$ ~ Newton Crib Mattress ~ $300
There are so many good things to say about this mattress — The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) gave it the 2015 innovation award.
This mattress is known for its breathability and temperature regulation. Wovenaire technology means that it’s made of safe, food-grade polymer that’s free of biocides, toxic fire retardants, foam, latex, springs, and glue…meaning, it’s not off-gassing and it’s completely hypo-allergenic.
The best part is that this mattress is fully washable (say what?!). Yes, the whole thing. You can remove the zipped cover and and give the mattress a bath. Yes, like… in the bath tub. With soap and water. Great for passing down to younger kids. You can also recycle it at the end of its life. Love the Newton!
2. Waterproof mattress cover(s)
Get at least two. American Baby Company pretty much owns the market in this category. They’re great and well loved. We like their Organic Waterproof Quilted Fitted cover for about $29. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, parents seem to like the Waterproof Bamboo cover from Swaddlez for about $20. Note, the Swaddlez also comes in a mini-portable crib size as well, which is really hard to find!
3. Crib sheets (the fitted kind) Qty 3 –
Get some good quality crib sheets because you’ll use them for the next 2-3 years and they’ll take a lot of abuse along the way. The sheet that parents can’t live without is the QuickZip Crib Sheet, which can easily be changed (at 3 am) without having to remove the whole damn crib mattress. Just get one QuickZip Crib Sheet (which includes the Drop-In Base and one Zip-On Sheet) and multiple QuickZip Crib Zip-On Sheets.
The Zip-On Sheet can be easily swapped out for another one when dirtied (see the product video here.) Don’t forget to purchase a flat waterproof mattress pad. The flat pad lays right under the sheet and if it gets soiled, you just pull it up – no need to deal with lifting the mattress.
4. A “breathable” crib bumper, for 5+ months (*read below…)
5. If you get a Pack ‘N Play, get a play yard sheet.
Listen up. People tell you not to use a crib bumper as it could cause suffocation (Jesus, again?!). In fact, the AAP said, “Don’t use crib bumpers” (you should also read this article on SIDS), but don’t throw away the cute bumper that came with your bedding set. You’ll want it later!
You don’t need a crib bumper for a newborn…, BUT at around 5 or 6 months when they are flipping over vigorously and breaching like Shamu, they will get all manner of body parts stuck in between crib slats (someone should make a crib without slats, but I digress).
This leads to the high-pitched “Help me, I’m stuck and the wolves coming to eat me” cry, which has you sprinting into their room, extract said limb from slats, drying their tears, and promising it will never happen again. Can you make such promises? Not without a crib bumper.
I don’t want to cause any babies to suffocate, so I recommend the *Breathable Bumper. We have it. It does the trick. It’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but who cares. No worries about suffocation, no appendages stuck in the crib, everyone’s happy. Yay.
* As of 7/12 ~ The AAP included breathable bumpers on the list-of-things-that-will-kill-your-baby. Why? Their answer, “Why not?” I’ll tell you why not! Because babies get their limbs stuck between the slats, that’s why. Annoying. So, yeah. Use at your own risk.
Around 9-10 months (when baby starts pulling up in her crib… then falling down) is when you REALLY need a crib bumper. Statistically, SIDS is very rare at this age (but again, use at your own risk, blah blah blah). In fact, 90% of SIDS deaths occur before the age of 6 months and peak around 2-4 months.
After 1 year, it’s officially okay to say you can use a bumper on a baby board without the safety police scolding you for it (oh wait, they’ll still do it then too! LOL). I personally find soft bumpers wonderful because they soften and warm up the crib environment, which is pretty hard and jail-ey.
Yes, you’ll want a lot of blankets. Half of them will be in the wash covered in spit up or poop at any given time.
Muslin blankets are a must-have; they’re very thin, stretchy, and great for warmer weather. If you’re going to tie a swaddle with a blanket, this is probably your best bet (let your man know, he’ll be super excited!).
There are lots of cute blankets out there — check out our favorites on Pinterest.
For the first 3-4 months, your baby will (most likely) be swaddled to sleep. This swaddle serves as a blanket as well. You can also drape another blanket on top of that if it’s cold.
When your baby is post-swaddling age (about 4 months), you’re not going to be putting blankets on them to sleep because they’ll get kicked off in about 30 seconds (and, OF COURSE, they are a suffocation hazard when placed in the crib — mwwwaaaaaa), which leads me to…
After 4 months, most parents use a wearable blanket or “sleep sack.” Think of a Snuggie with a zipper up the front. These are must-haves.
These pouches are usually sleeveless (with rare exceptions) to prevent overheating; you can always put a sweater under it for extra warmth. The go-to is the Halo Sleep Sack, but there are other good ones, especially for colder climates. Check out the full Wearable Blanket Smackdown.
Wearable blankets are completely indispensable, although probably not something you need right away.
With a newborn, you’re going to be up in the middle of the night.
A lot, I’m afraid.
You have to strike a balance between running into walls in the dark (which you’ll do anyway) and overstimulating your baby (and yourself) with a bright, blaring light.
Research tells us that white and blue light wavelengths suppress melatonin (the sleep hormone) the most, which is the opposite of what you want at night. Longer wavelength light, such as amber light, interferes with your sleep the least, yet many night light makers use blue light. Go figure.
I much prefer a night “lamp,” which is a cordless, rechargeable lamp you can walk around with. Sadly, OXO doesn’t make the Tooli or Zoom anymore, which leaves us with slim pickings…
The perfect night light for toddlers — or moms trying to nurse and change diapers in the middle of the night. We like this night light because it turns off after 20 minutes (if you pass out before you shut it off) and is cool to the touch.
IKEA Spoka Night Light ~ $15
Another favorite is the Kinderglo Portable Night Light. Yes, this thing is designed for little kids, but works great for parents as a nursing/up-at-night light. Choose from 3 different colors (including red, yay!). It’s rechargeable with a 30-minute auto shut off.
Hatch Baby Rest ~ $59
*Ships Feb 2017
It’s a night light, sound machine and ok-to-wake indicator in one that’s controlled by your smart phone. We love it, stay tuned!!
* We are not recommending the Mobi TykeLight due to quality concerns. Not recommending Boon Glo Nightlight with Portable Balls because it doesn’t give off enough light to change a diaper, etc.
If you have some distance between you and your baby, you probably want to invest in a baby monitor of some sort. However, if you have a small house or apartment, it may be unnecessary. In fact, we never had a monitor when we lived in our little city apartment; it simply wasn’t needed. Now that we have a 2-story house, it’s wired up like Guantanamo Bay.
Monitors have come a long way in the past few years, with many parents opting for higher levels of surveillance. Movement monitors (which are supposed to help prevent SIDS) are becoming more and more popular, as companies reap the profits of our paranoia. Other recent advancements include Wi-Fi capabilities and other networking features. In fact, simple audio monitors are becoming harder and harder to find.
Parents: don’t feel like you have to go crazy with a monitor. Buy the type that best suits your “need-to-know.” Me, I prefer less information; but I know others that desire to monitor their child’s every heartbeat. Go with your gut on this one and please don’t feel the need to over-monitor your baby. On the other hand, if you are worried about SIDS and want the peace of mind — by all means, use all the technology that’s available to you.
SIDS — For the Record
For the record, baby boys are more likely to die of SIDS than baby girls. SIDS occurs most commonly between 2-4 months of age, with 90% of SIDS deaths occurring before the age of 6 months.
SIDS is why you shouldn’t put your baby on his or her tummy to sleep. Yes, they do sleep much better that way — so deeply, in fact, that something goes wrong in the still-developing hippocampus — and baby can stop breathing altogether. In fact, 74% of babies that die of SIDS die while tummy-sleeping. Tell this to well-meaning grandparents who insist that, “we did it with you and you turned out okay!”
Flat head is a bitch, I know, but it can be prevented. “Back is best” — it’s true!
Do you need an audio monitor or a video monitor? It depends…
Many people like being able to see why baby is crying. Maybe her binky has fallen out or her leg is stuck in the crib. If there is a lot of distance – or even a flight of stairs – between you and your baby, a video monitor may be well worth it. It might save you a lot of running up and down the stairs when you’re trying to squeeze in an episode of Game of Thrones from your living room while hearing phantom cries.
If you’re sticking to a sound monitor, you also have to decide between an analog monitor and a digital one, analog being more susceptible to interference with other electronics in your house (and your neighbor’s home!). Analog monitors are cheaper.
Note that there have been a few recalls recently due to strangulation deaths as a result of the child units being placed within baby’s reach. Never, ever place a monitor within reach of your child because they can grab the cord and (somehow, Lord knows) get it wrapped around their neck. Stipulations for proper placement can be found in the monitor’s instructions.
Whichever type of monitor you choose, get a good one. Sleepless nights are difficult enough without worrying about poor reception, feedback, interference, excess beeping, or lights-that-are-too-bright.
In the budget category is the VTech Safe and Sound and the Sony Baby Call. I’ve used both of these and they’re okay, but I wouldn’t recommend them as your primary monitor (we use them for travel). After some time, both of them stopped transmitting properly and would begin beeping “out of range” for no reason.
For the record, THERE IS NOTHING MORE ENRAGING THAN BEING WOKEN UP FOR NO REASON BY ERRANT BEEPING. Makes me stabby.
Another highly-rated audio monitor with a few more bells and whistles is the Angelcare Baby Sound Monitor. This unit has VERY good range, a built-in night light, and a thermometer. Heck, we took this monitor with us on a beach trip and I had the “parent” unit… at LEAST 100 (perhaps 200) yards from the base and it worked like a charm. For ~$50, it’s a great sound monitor. My only complaint is that the light on the parent monitor is quite bright, so I turn it to face the wall so I don’t feel like there’s a flashlight in my face (it’s STILL bright, but whatever).
And finally, the top-rated full-featured sound monitor is the
The one and only. This has been the top audio monitor for as long as I’ve been doing Lucie’s List (6 years!).
This monitor self-selects from 60 channels, so it won’t interfere with other appliances. It includes a temperature sensor, built-in lullabies, a night light, and a talk-back feature, which allows two-way communication.
With a range of 1,082 linear feet, you could go down the street to a restaurant and still hear your baby at home (kidding)… (or am I…?). This monitor also encrypts the audio stream, so neighbors and passersby can’t eavesdrop (although I can’t imagine WHY anyone would want to do that, but whatevs). If you’re the paranoid type, this is the monitor for you. Forreal though, this is the best audio monitor on the market.
You’re welcome 😉
Video monitors consist of one or more cameras (with many, you can add cameras to capture different angles or for multiple kids). They also come with a “parent unit”, which has a display screen with audio output. What varies between them is the quality of the resolution, the signal range (how far it broadcasts), the size of the screen, the ability of the camera to pan/tilt/zoom (some cannot) and the ease of use, especially during setup. Some even have voice activated mode (e.g. it “sleeps” when no sound is detected) and the ability to use it as a 2-way walkie talkie (you can threaten older children this way, which is a very handy feature) (kidding)… (I’m not really kidding, actually).
The 5-star video monitor is a sure-thing — in fact, we’ve always been fans of Samsung video monitors. They keep getting better every year. If money is no issue, this is our top pick.
- 5.0″ Touch Screen Monitor
- 720p HD Remote PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera
- 4 Pre-programmed Lullabies
- 900 ft. range
- Two-Way Talk
- Voice Activated Mode (VOX)
- Non-Visible IR LEDs – Night Vision up to 16ft.
A slightly more affordable option, this monitor from Infant Optics is another top pick. The unique feature of this monitor is the ability to use different lenses (normal, wide angle or zoom 2x). This allows you to get the best picture quality depending on the layout and shape of your baby’s room and crib area.
The display is 3.5″ (vs 5″ on the Samsung), so it’s a good bit smaller. Otherwise, it has many similar features of the Samsung, including:
- 3.5″ display
- Remote pan/tilt/zoom
- Invisible IR night vision
- Two-way talk
- Remote temperature display
- Expandable up to 4 cameras
A more affordable, portable version of the DXR-8 is the DXR-5. This colorful parent unit has a silicone cover to protect it from being dropped. Portability means the screen is smaller (2.4″) , as it’s really designed to be carried around the house (e.g. you won’t be able to see as much detail). Think of this as the “sport” version — it may even fit in your pocket.
- Voice activation and auto-mute mode
- Screen off, audio on mode
- Two channel split screen view
- Expandable up to four cameras
Both of these Infant Optics monitors are very highly rated.
For the tech savvy, another option is to buy a camera (only) that communicates directly with your favorite iDevice (or PC).
A couple of favorites: For $60 (a fraction of the price of a traditional “baby” monitor), the Foscam Pan/Tilt Network Camera is a favorite among parents. If someone in your house is tech savvy, this is a great (and cheap!) alternative to a traditional video monitor system. Note: This is not a baby-specific product, but it doesn’t really matter. *If you’re not tech savvy, please don’t…
A higher quality camera that gets excellent reviews is The Nest Camera ~ $189 — another great product from Nest. This camera works wonderfully assuming you have fast wi-fi service. It allows you to monitor your baby from any smartphone or tablet, has great video/sound quality and good battery life. Works well as a (non-concealed) Nanny cam well — you can say hi to baby on your lunch break 🙂
Beware the “Wi-Fi Baby” brand Camera. Don’t let the word “baby” fool you — it’s very hard to use and the quality is poor.
FYI: If you ever need a baby monitor in a pinch and you have an iPhone… there’s an app for that! It’s called Baby Monitor & Alarm. You use the iPhone as the “monitor.” It then places a call to another phone (presumably, your partner or friend’s phone) if sound reaches above a certain threshold. We’ve used this app on many occasions and it works very well.
There are a few options available to monitor your baby’s movement, breathing and even his pulse. Please note that none of these consumer devices have been proven to reduce SIDS; although in fairness, they haven’t been proven to not reduce SIDS either. Like I said, if they allow you to rest easier at night, go for it…
Angelcare Movement and Sound ($78) or Angelcare Movement and Video Monitors (AC417 ~ $229 or AC517 ~ $249)
We like their regular sound monitor, but Angelcare is actually known for their “movement” monitors, which detect a baby’s movement, or lack thereof. Their movement monitors come with a sensor pad that is placed under the crib mattress and will alarm if no movement is detected within 20 seconds. The idea is that a parent could rouse their baby from their too-deep sleep and prevent their baby from dying of SIDS.
This is all theoretical and has not been proven in any kind of trials. Remember again, these are not medical devices, and therefore are not subject to the FDA’s approval process. Anecdotally – many parents swear this monitor has prevented the death of their baby by allowing them to intervene when baby has stopped breathing.
The Angelcare Movement and Sound Monitor is about $78 and includes both the voice monitor and the movement sensor equipment.
Brand new this year, Angelcare now offers the only wireless movement sensor pad on the market (AC417 & AC517) and uses Angelcare’s new activity analytics to track baby’s movement level. The only difference between the two is the screen size and pricing.
All of Angelcare’s monitors are very highly rated. The benefit of these Angelcare products is that you get a sound or video monitor included and don’t have to buy one separately (as opposed to the others listed below). The sound or video monitor component can be used after the scary SIDS days are over, which makes it a better value.
Babysense Hisense 5s ~ $119
The Babysense movement monitor is another highly-rated, reliable, “under the mattress” monitor. It’s very easy to set up and provides reliable service with few false alarms. If you already own a sound or video monitor and are only looking for a movement monitor, definitely check it out. Again, we think the Angelcare is a better value because you don’t have to purchase an additional sound or video monitor.
“Diaper Clip Monitors”
These units are small, battery-powered, and clip directly onto the diaper. They are also much more likely to fall off or become displaced, which means you’re going to get a lot more false alarms. The benefit is that they’re great for travel or “sleeping around,” especially if your baby doesn’t sleep consistently in the same place.
Snuza Hero ~ $119
Again, the Snuza can be used anywhere baby happens to be sleeping (as opposed to the Angelcare, which is permanently(ish) installed under a mattress). Generally speaking, parents are very happy with the Snuza. Go on Amazon to read some of the testimonials and tell me if you don’t get goosebumps….
Owlet Baby Monitor ~ $249
Yet another step up (technology-wise) is the Owlet Baby Monitor. Owlet uses a soft sock (the Smart Sock) that goes on baby’s foot, which uses pulse oximetry to monitor your baby’s blood flow and oxygen saturation.
Pulse oximetry uses a small light that shines through the skin to estimate the amount of blood flow; oxygen levels are estimated based on how much light is transmitted to the sensor. It sounds an alert to your wireless device (iphone, etc) if your child’s heart rate dips too low, rises too high, or if her oxygen level drops below a certain threshold.
Again, I don’t consider any of these to be must-haves, but get one if it will help you relax — and don’t apologize for it 😉
White Noise/Sound Machines
I’m a big fan of white noise/sound machines. They make all the difference in drowning out loud neighbors, cars, sirens… other siblings (ahem). For white noise only, the runaway favorite is the Marpac Dohm. This dual-speed “sound conditioner” has an actual fan inside, which creates the soothing sound of rushing air.
Yes, we own 3. Cannot. Live. Without.
If you want the pony to do more tricks, check out the Cloud b Tranquil Turtle Sleep Machine (~$44), which has natural sounds, lullabies, a rotating projector, and an on/off timer. Another similar, but cheaper option, is the Summer Infant Slumber Buddies ($14), check it out here.
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