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 not be necessary. 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 two-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 marketed as a mechanism 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 networking features. In fact, simple audio monitors are becoming harder and harder to find, not to mention more expensive.
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 needto over-monitor your baby. On the other hand, if you are worried about SIDS and want the peace of mind, there is technology 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—babies who sleep on their stomachs have anywhere between a 1.7 and 12.9 times higher risk of SIDS. The most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS is put your baby to sleep on his back.In fact, 74% of babies that die of SIDS die while tummy-sleeping. Yes, many babies sleep better on their stomachs, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Scientists today believe that SIDS is multifactorial, and sleeping “too deeply” might actually be problematic, because babies’ brains (and abilities to wake up) are still developing. (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.
Audio Baby Monitors
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.
Sadly, a ton of companies are no longer producing high-quality sound monitors anymore, so there are slim pickins in this category. But both are great products that we highly recommend!
Budget Category ~ VTech Safe and Sound ~ $39
I’ve used the VTech and it’s certainly okay, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as your primary monitor (we use it for travel). After some time, it stopped transmitting properly and would begin beeping “out of range” for no reason. Still, the VTech gets great ratings from parents and has a range of 1000 feet—more than a football field. And it’s crazy affordable.
For the record, THERE IS NOTHING MORE ENRAGING THAN BEING WOKEN UP FOR NO REASON BY ERRANT BEEPING. Makes me stabby.
If you want the Cadillac of the sound monitors, then you need:
Philips Avent DECT Monitor ~ $149 ($111 on sale)
The one and only. This has been the top audio monitor for as long as I’ve been doing Lucie’s List (since 2010!).
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. For real though, this is the best audio monitor on the market.
Video Baby Monitors
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 (i.e., it “sleeps” when no sound is detected) and the ability to use it as a two-way walkie talkie (you can threaten older children this way, which is a very handy feature) (kidding)… (I’m not really kidding, actually).
A more affordable, portable version of the Infant Optics DXR-8 (below) is the DXR-6. Portability means the screen is smaller (2.4″), as it’s really designed to be carried around the house (i.e., you won’t be able to see as much detail). Think of this as the “sport” version — it may even fit in your pocket.
- 2.4″ color TFT screen
- Voice activation and auto-mute mode
- Screen off, audio on mode
- Automatic IR night vision
- Expandable up to four cameras
Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor ~ $229 ($165 on sale) – Top pick
This monitor from Infant Optics is our 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.
- 3.5″ display
- Remote pan/tilt/zoom
- Invisible IR night vision
- Two-way talk
- Remote temperature display
- Expandable up to 4 cameras
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 a fraction of the price of a traditional “baby” monitor, the Foscam 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…
The Nest Camera ~ $169
The Nest is a higher quality camera that gets excellent reviews. 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, good battery life, and now works with Amazon Alexa, too. It also operates well as a (non-concealed) Nanny cam— you can say hi to baby on your lunch break.
FYI: If you ever need a baby monitor in a pinch and you have an iPhone… there’s an app for that! There are several available, but a very popular one is a video monitoring app called Cloud Baby Monitor.
Movement/SIDS Baby Monitors
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 has 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…
Under the mattress monitors:
We were big fans of Angelcare’s original sound-only monitor (which is sadly no longer available), but the company is actually known for its “movement” monitors, which detect a baby’s movement, or lack thereof. It was a trailblazer in the market for developing the first wireless sensory pads:
The Angelcare movement monitors come with a sensor pad that’s placed under the crib mattress (see above) and will alarm if no movement is detected within 20 seconds. The idea is that a parent could rouse a baby from her too-deep sleep and prevent the 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 Touchscreen Movement and Sound Monitor (AC701) includes both the voice monitor and the movement sensor equipment. The newest version includes a touchscreen display and has a range of up to 820 feet. *Note — this does not have a camera.
The Angelcare AC527 includes a video component, if you want that, and has much a smaller sensor pad for under the mattress (compared to the two previous iterations of the video movement monitor, the AC417 & AC517). The AC527 has a 5″ screen (note there is also a smaller version, the AC327, that comes with a 4.3″ video screen for $169), and there are some improvements to the video quality. They all have an 820-ft. range.
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.
The Babysense 7 movement monitor is the new-and-improved version of the very well-rated Babysense 5s. It’s an “under the mattress” monitor that’s very easy to set up and provides reliable service. The device sounds an alarm if it detects a stoppage or irregularity in breathing patterns, and the 7 is distinct from the 5s for its enhanced sensitivity. 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.
Another type of movement monitor is an attachable device: these units are small, battery-powered, and clip directly onto the diaper or the baby. 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 HeroSE ~ $109
The Snuza clips onto your baby’s diaper and monitors abdominal movements. If movement stops, it vibrates to rouse your baby, and when this fails (three times) it will alarm you. Since it attaches to baby’s diaper, the Snuza can be used anywhere baby happens to be sleeping (as opposed to the Angelcare, which is permanently(ish) installed under a mattress); this makes it great for families who travel a lot or use different sleeping surfaces around the house. *However, since it can pick up on external movements, the Snuza is notdesigned for bed-sharing, or use during motion (i.e., in a stroller or car seat). 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 ~ $299
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.
*Note: The new kids on the block are the true “movement monitors” that offer your classic video/audio features plus other smart data and sleep tracking. The Cocoon Cam ($149/$125 on sale) is a smart audio, visual, movement, and breathing monitor that syncs with your phone and sends you notifications when your baby wakes up, falls asleep, cries, etc. It’s not a great pick for traveling, but it might be a good option for parents who want a little more information while baby is sleeping.
The other option, the Nanit ($249/$199 on sale) is of a similar vein, minus the breathing monitor. The jury is still out on these smart movement monitors, folks, but we’re keeping tabs on them…. Stay tuned for more.
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 over it.