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A baby monitor is an ever-present, all-seeing guardian that offers peace of mind while your baby naps. A good monitor blends into the background while your child sleeps but has the technology to alert you in seconds.
Technology has changed the way parents monitor their babies. With today’s audio and video, parents can keep an ear peeled and an eye out for the most subtle changes in their little ones. Whether you want to simply hear your baby’s first cry or you’re looking for a high-tech video monitor with a sleep sensor, there’s a baby monitor out there for you.
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If you’re ready to buy, check out the matrix above for our top five baby monitors.
If you want to know more, including what features to consider and how much to spend, just keep reading.
All baby monitors consist of a transmitter that stays in the room with the baby and one or more receivers. There are three different types of baby monitors.
These baby monitors only transmit audio. Most audio monitors have lights that indicate sound, too. As sound increases, more lights turn on, giving a good indication of the baby’s level of alertness.
Aimee is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. She has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Aimee has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and iPhone Essentials Magazine. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Aimee Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.
Audio/video monitors incorporate the use of a camera, either on top of the transmitter or mounted to a wall. Images are then transmitted to the receiver.
Wireless network monitors utilize your home computer or other similar device as a receiver. Once the digital camera system is installed, you can view video from your device. Some systems use multiple cameras that only turn on once motion is detected. This type of system requires logging into the company website to view the video feed.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Infant Optics DXR-8 w/Interchangeable Optical Lens
The Infant Optics DXR-8’s interchangeable optical lens, which allows for customized viewing angles, truly sets this monitor apart. It gives the option of focusing in on a localized area or taking in the whole room. Couple that with the remote pan/tilt control and night vision and you’ve got a monitoring system that not only grows along with your baby, but one that can be adjusted to follow her around the room as she plays. Parents can calm their baby with the two-way talk feature and monitor the temperature to make sure the baby is safe and secure.
Interference from other devices is the number one complaint parents have about baby monitors. Many household electronics, including cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, game consoles, and laptops, transmit on the same frequency as a baby monitor.
And the issue is not only getting a clear signal but also privacy. Some monitors transmit on a frequency that can be picked up by anyone with an RF scanner or similar device.
Here’s what you can do to reduce the potential of interference.
When your baby outgrows his monitor, don’t throw it away! Use it to keep an eye on other areas of your home, like a playroom, front door area, or yard.
Check the frequency bands of your wireless devices. This is a simple step that can save you time and money. You should be able to find the frequency listed in the manual or on the device itself. Look for a baby monitor that either has several frequency options or does not operate on the same frequency as your other devices.
Digital monitor transmissions are encoded, protecting data, but come with a higher price tag. Analog monitors offer little to no privacy from RF scanners but are less expensive.
Many baby monitor companies pride themselves on the security of their feeds, but as long as you stay away from WiFi-based options, you should be safe.
Audio monitors with Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology (DECT) transmit on the 1.9 GHz frequency band, which is reserved for voice-only communication. Therefore, monitors with DECT are less susceptible to interference from other devices.
Some baby monitors use a lot of power, especially video monitors. Rechargeable batteries will help save money. Look for a monitor with a battery indicator symbol or light that lets you know when the battery is losing power.
If your baby monitor is charged by battery, consider the long-term costs. If it’s got a power cord or rechargeable battery, you’ll save money down the line.
Volume control should be easily accessible without having to scroll through a menu. It’s even better if you can adjust volume with one hand.
Lights that indicate sound levels allow parents to monitor activity without having the receiver volume on high.
Most baby monitors light up when they register noise. This can be helpful if you’re in a loud setting or don’t want the sound to go off.
If you plan to purchase a baby monitor with lots of extra features, look for one that lets you control those features from the receiver. When you want to activate music, night vision, or the night light, you can do it from the receiver, rather than sneaking into your baby’s room.
Some monitors can be used as night lights. This gives tired parents a way to see during nighttime feedings with one less device in the room. Although not a necessary feature, it is a convenient one.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio
With a 1,000-foot range and DECT technology, the VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio relays sound with excellent clarity. Two-way communication offers a way to calm a baby when he or she is waking up or trying to fall asleep. It also includes a night light for late-night feedings. The digital display indicates signal strength and power/battery life. This monitor offers a full range of alarms when your baby wakes — audio, indicator lights, and vibration.
Some audio/video monitors have an infrared feature or “night vision.” This lets parents keep an eye on their babies in the darkest of rooms.
To save on battery life, some audio/video models only turn on when the baby makes an unusual motion or sound. Some models come with a motion-detector pad that fits under the crib sheet. This type of motion sensor is intended to prevent SIDS. Sensitive enough to detect changes in breathing, an alarm sounds if there is no movement after 20 minutes. However, if the baby simply rolls off the pad, the alarm may sound.
Some monitors have an automatic mute function when the baby is quiet. However, some parents may feel uncomfortable when there is silence coming from their child’s room.
Babies cannot regulate their body temperatures. A temperature sensor tracks the room temperature to alert parents if it falls outside the normal range, which is between 69° and 72° Fahrenheit. The temperature is displayed on the receiver screen.
To help parents soothe tired babies, some monitors come with a talk-back feature that functions like a walkie-talkie. Babies can hear through the transmitter while parents talk into the receiver. It’s good for quieting a baby at bedtime or talking to him or her for reassurance.
If your monitor has a cord, make sure that it is well away from your baby. Monitors should also be kept away from water.
This feature lets you know when you’ve reached the limit of the monitor’s range. Some monitors may indicate by a sound or light, while others may only have static to indicate you’ve left the transmission range. In general, it’s best to have the longest range possible, especially if you plan to go outside with the receiver.
Having multiple receivers lets both parents monitor the baby. Some models have up to four receivers, which means you can leave them in different areas of your house instead of carrying them around.
Always follow other safety tips when leaving your baby alone. Simply having a monitor is not enough.
Some babies only need quiet music to rock them to sleep. Look for a monitor where music can be activated from the receiver.
A monitor loaded with extra features might sound nice, but if it requires you to scroll through endless menus, it may not be the best choice. Be sure to check how all the features are activated and controlled. This can make a big difference in how easy the monitor is to manage.
For under $50, there are many high-quality audio monitors that come with extra features like music, temperature indicators, and talk-back ability. Inexpensive and easy to use, these monitors work well if video isn’t a concern for you.
Between $50 and $100 are digital audio/video monitors with a few extra features, one camera, and usually one receiver. If you want to get a basic audio/video monitor, you can find one in this price range that won’t disappoint.
In the $100 to $200 range, are digital audio/video monitors that often come with more than one camera. Loaded with features like night vision, night lights, and talk-back, these monitors require more advanced installation and set-up.
At over $200, are advanced audio/video monitoring systems with multiple cameras and receivers with large screens, as well as the ability to connect to several mobile devices. While they are loaded with features, it’s important to look closely at the audio and video quality. Expensive monitors are just as susceptible to interference as inexpensive ones.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.