Last updated: June 9, 2017
Baby monitors are an extra set of ears – and in some cases, eyes – that allow you to keep tabs on you sleeping baby when you’re not in the same room. If you are still doubtful, read this article.
Moving on, there are two basic types:
Audio monitors operate within a selected radio frequency band to send sound from the baby’s room to a receiver. Video monitors use a small wall – or table-mounted camera that transmits images to a TV-set-like monitor.
Still another way to keep tabs on baby is with movement sensors, under-the-mattress pads that alert you when his or her movement completely stops for more than 20 seconds. While some parents may find movement sensors reassuring, bear in mind that they’re not medical devices and shouldn’t be used in place of prescribed heart or breathing monitors to detect conditions such as sleep apnea. Nor should you rely on them to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the cause of which is still unknown.
The latest generation of baby monitors claims to allow the constant surveillance of baby’s every whimper, breath, and movement. Some models even lets you eavesdrop on your baby when you’re in the shower because it’s battery-operated and water-resistant. For some parents, that may be comforting. For others, such nonstop monitoring is apt to be nerve-racking. So keep in mind that a monitor isn’t a must-have. If you live in a small house or apartment or feel as though you’d like a break when your baby is sleeping – which is legitimate – it’s OK to go monitorless.
In many situations you may appreciate a monitor with both sounds and lights so you can also “see” your baby’s cries. If you’ll be taking business calls during nap time, you may want to be able to turn the sound down very low and rely on the lights. A video monitor can also serve the same purpose, but it’s very expensive and not very portable. Similarly, if you love in a large house, you may want a monitor with two receivers rather than just one-although that can be a convenience in a small home as well. And, in general, look for monitors with features that make them easy to move about, such as a compact parent unit that clips onto your belt. (Try it on before buying, if possible; we found the antennas tend to poke the wearer.)
A good audio monitor will let you know whether your baby is awake or asleep, moving or stationary. Our tests showed only so-so picture quality from the one video monitor we rated. You can tell that your baby’s eyes are open, for example, but you can’t distinguish much detail.
The closer your monitor’s frequency is to that of another device, such as a cordless phone, the more likely you’ll hear static or cross talk. You may reduce interference if your monitor lets you switch to a different channel within its frequency band. Some models have more separation between channels than the others, for a greater chance of reducing interference.
Choose a monitor that operates in a different frequency band than your cordless phone. Most newer cordless phones are either 2.4 gigahertz or 900 megahertz. If you have a 900 MHz cordless phone and a 900 MHz monitor, they can interfere with each other.
All the models tested that claimed a signal-distance range met or exceeded it in our open-air test with an appropriate signal range for your home. Some home-construction materials, such as concrete and metal, can reduce the range, however.
Since you often can’t test monitors before you buy them (there usually aren’t display models available, and conditions in the store may be very different from those in your home), learn the return policy of the store or web site where you’re buying or registering. You’ll want to be able to take back a monitor if you’re unhappy with it for any reason. (Common problems include static and interference from cordless phones or answering machines, even the ambient sounds of an air conditioner or a neighbor’s barking dog.)
All of the child units tested can be plugged into the wall for power, but four also can use either 9-volt, AAA, or AA alkaline batteries. All the parent units have this option. The battery option is useful in the event of a power failure and also allows you to take the unit where there are no outlets, such as outdoors.
The smallest parent units are about the size of a fat wallet. You can use the integral belt clip to free your hands, bur the antenna may poke you.
This unit can stay in, say, your bedroom while the other is carried about the house.
A light or tone warns of the need to recharge or replace batteries in the parent unit.
This money-saving feature is provided with some parent units. You can but rechargeable or alkaline batteries for other parent units.
Pushing a button and speaking into the parent unit lets you reassure your baby that you’re on your way.
Its so-so picture quality limits its usefulness.
Press a button on the child unit to make the parent unit beep. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work if the lost unit has been switched off.