Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for best baby movement monitors

Baby monitors have evolved quite a bit over the past few years. What started out as simple audio, and later video, ways to monitor your sleeping infant have morphed into devices known as baby movement monitors that are capable of tracking your child’s breathing, movements, and, in some instances, even heart rate and oxygen levels.

These baby movement monitors are a great way for parents worried about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) to achieve peace of mind, but how do you know which monitor is right for you and your baby?

This guide describes some of the features and other characteristics to consider when searching for a baby movement monitor. We examine the various types of monitors, how they work, and how much you can expect to pay. We also offer up several of our favorite baby movement monitors that we feel stand out from the others in this niche.

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Some baby movement monitors, notably those that you can use with your smartphone, have a talk-back feature, allowing you to talk to your baby through the nursery monitor.

Key considerations

Contact vs. non-contact

There are two basic types of baby movement monitors: those that attach to your child and those that don’t. Both are capable of tracking even slight movements of your sleeping baby, and each has its strong points.

Contact: These monitors include an element that clips to a child’s diaper or other clothing and is in contact with the child, allowing the monitor to easily track movement. This type tends to be more compact and portable, in addition to being easy to use. The clip of the monitoring unit should be easy to attach and remove from a child.

Non-contact: This type of monitor is usually in the form of a pad that slips under the mattress. These baby movement monitors are typically extremely sensitive and reliable.


All baby movement monitors can track infant movements while they sleep, but some can do much more. Some of these devices are capable of monitoring breathing patterns or wavelengths, while others can track heart rate and even oxygen levels. Monitors with an audio element can alert you to crying or other noise, while those with video capabilities allow you to check on your child without entering the room. Some of these even track the ambient temperature in the nursery.


You’ll want to know how a baby movement monitor is powered before you purchase it. The majority of these, particularly the wearable ones, are powered by batteries. Some use disposable batteries, which can be a hassle if you’re constantly having to buy new ones. Others are rechargeable and include some form of charging cord or dock. For these, you should know how long a charge will last and how long the monitor takes to recharge.

Some baby movement monitors, particularly pads, plug into a wall outlet. These can be convenient, but you’re going to need to be careful with the cord. If your area experiences frequent electrical outages, one of these monitors may not be the best choice.



Baby movement monitors have one or two types of alerts: vibrations directed toward the child and an audible alert to notify the parents.

Vibration: Some baby movement monitors use vibrations to stimulate the child to move after an interval of inactivity. This is usually a first-stage alert that kicks in if the monitor has detected no motion after a set period of time (usually 15 seconds).

Audible: These alerts are either emitted from the nursery unit or sent to the parent unit or smartphone after a period of inactivity (usually 20 seconds). The audible alert usually sounds after the vibration alert to notify parents that there might be a problem. Some baby movement monitors also sound an alert when the battery is low.


Some baby movement monitors allow you to customize the settings, such as the ability to set specific time intervals before the alarms activate, adjust the sensitivity settings (which is great for minimizing false alarms), or even set the temperature range that the device will monitor. Some settings are also specific to the monitoring unit (for example, parent units or smartphones) that the baby movement monitor can work with.

Temperature: Some baby movement monitors incorporate a temperature monitor that you can use with the parent unit or smartphone to set a temperature range in the nursery. You receive an alert if the temperature rises or falls out of your preset range.

Smartphone pairing: More and more baby movement monitors give parents the option of downloading an app and using their smartphone to monitor their child. While not standard with all of these monitors, a smartphone option lets parents not only hear or see their child but also, in some cases, record sleep patterns that can be relayed to health professionals if the need arises.

If you’re purchasing a baby movement monitor that works with a smartphone, know what operating system it will work with (iOS, Android) and how difficult it is to sync with your phone.

Parent unit

Some baby movement monitors are simply a nursery-based monitor, while others provide you with a parent unit, too. A parent unit gives you with more freedom to move around the house and still monitor your sleeping child. Some of these only have sound, while others have a video display offering up to full HD-quality video monitoring.


Another feature that isn’t standard but still shows up on some baby movement monitors is a built-in night-light. This allows you to more easily check on your child in the middle of the night without stumbling into furniture or tripping over toys.

Baby movement monitor prices

Baby movement monitors cost from $50 to around $200. The average for these devices is around $100.

Inexpensive: At the low end, baby movement monitors are simple clip-on monitors that are purely nursery-based (with no parent unit or smartphone integration). These offer few features and largely only monitor movement or occasionally movement and sound.

Mid-range: In these devices, you’ll start to see smartphone integration and parent units. These are still largely wearable monitors but with improved features like temperature and breathing monitoring.

Expensive: The priciest baby movement monitors have pads, video capabilities, and advanced features, such as heart-rate and oxygen-level monitoring.


  • Read up on safe sleeping practices for babies. Baby movement monitors are not medical devices and are not approved to combat SIDS. They can certainly help, and they can provide a great deal of peace of mind for parents, but parents should still adhere to the safe sleeping practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Pick the right monitor for your situation. While you may be tempted to invest in a baby movement monitor with all the latest bells and whistles, you might want to rethink this if your child spends a lot of time with babysitters or other caregivers that may find such a movement monitoring system daunting.
  • Check the EMF level. If possible, check the electromagnetic field (EMF) level that some of these devices produce, particularly wearable units. Some rate higher than others, and you might want to avoid these.
  • Decide where you want the alerts to sound. One of the perks of going with a baby movement monitor that uses a parent unit or smartphone app is that you’re often able to have alerts only sound on these devices and not in the nursery. If you select a monitor with a portable parent unit, be sure it has some type of built-in out-of-range indicator so you know if you’ve accidentally move outside the nursery signal’s range.
  • Make sure you hear the alert. To solve the problem of not hearing a nursery-only alert, some parents pair a baby movement monitor with a second, sound-based monitor.
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If a baby movement monitor uses disposable batteries, be sure the battery compartment is easy to access. Compartments that are hard to open are a common complaint with some of these devices.


Q. What type of baby movement monitor is best for traveling?
Because pads need a firm surface to work properly, they may not be the best baby movement monitor to travel with, particularly if you’re going to be using hotel cribs. Due to their compact size and ability to work with any bedding, wearable monitors are your best bet when taking baby on the road.

Q. Will these monitors work in a stroller?
Baby movement monitors can’t easily differentiate between your baby’s movements and the stroller’s movements. As such, they won’t be effective in strollers or cars.

Q. How easy are baby movement monitors to set up and use?
This largely depends on the monitor you purchase. Some, particularly simple clip-on monitors, require little in the way of setup. The hardest part here may well be trying to figure out the best way to attach the monitor to your child’s diaper or clothing.

More complex baby movement monitors, such as those with a variety of settings, different monitoring sensors, or those that can be used with a smartphone, may have a much steeper learning curve. In general, the more a baby movement monitor can do, the more difficult it’s going to be to set up and learn how to use.

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