Baby Monitors: Which One is Right for You and Your Baby?
I’ll be honest – until I reviewed baby monitors for Alpha Mom – I didn’t even use one anymore. Something about a fifth baby made me feel like I would just sense if he was crying. Umm… I was wrong. Unless you live in a studio apartment, a baby monitor is a very useful item to have around. And you will likely use it for years.
But there are so many different kinds, from simple audio ones to fancy apps. There are digital, analog and Wi-Fi-network monitors and some of the technology can be a bit controversial with watchdog groups raising concern when it comes to the safety of your baby. We selected these very popular baby monitors because, as of this publication date (Nov 2013), they are all the best-selling baby monitors of their category on Amazon. We break it down here to help you determine the right monitor for your family’s needs.
VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor
The VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor is currently selling for about $46 on Amazon, this is a great option for an audio monitor. The digital technology really does provide clear transmission, doing away with that very irritating white noise you find on analog monitors. It’s completely quiet unless your baby is making noise. It touts a range of up to 1,000 feet and it worked well for me but then again, I don’t live in Buckingham Palace.
You can communicate remotely with your baby and say things over the monitor like, “Yo baby, I’m eating dinner and having a glass of wine so simmer down, love. It’s sleep time.” And this baby monitor comes with two parent units which is a nice perk. Rechargeable batteries give you up to 18 hours of monitor time.
Strengths: Affordable, No irritating white noise, Two parent units, Communicate with your baby, Easy set up, High layer of privacy and interference-protection because it uses DECT 6.0 digital technology.
Weaknesses: No visual picture of your baby, Some controversy and concern over radiation from DECT technology.
Final Word: If you are looking for a digital audio monitor, this one works great.
Angelcare Baby Sound Monitor
The Angelcare Baby Sound Monitor is currently selling for about $49 on Amazon and offers a range of 820 feet. You can either choose continuous sound monitoring or the voice-activated option. The monitor works on eight channels and 927 MHz frequency. The transmission in my house was clear and I could hear my baby with no problems. (Also, this is NOT the Angelcare baby monitor that was recently recalled because of the cord on the sensor pad.)
This monitor comes with a lot of options like adjusting the sensitivity on the nursing unit and customizing the volume level on the parent unit. I did have to look at the directions to understand how to work the monitor but it’s not super complicated.
I absolutely love that it tells me the temperature in the nursery. It’s just comforting to know that it hasn’t gotten too warm or cold in my baby’s room. But sometimes it doesn’t show the temperature right away (only the channel number) which is annoying. According to the manual, “If the nursery unit is ON before the parents unit, or if the Parent Unit is OFF and then turned ON while nursery unit is ON, the temperature display will indicate the channel number until there is a change of temperature.” Got that?
I feel like Angelcare needs to work out that little hiccup because the unit should just display the temperature whenever you turn it on. Also, at certain angles, it’s hard to read the monitor screen.
The parent unit comes with a belt clip which is a nice feature but don’t take that as a sign it’s okay to start wearing fanny packs again. It’s not. I do like the look of this monitor. I find it more visually appealing than other ones.
Strengths: Affordable, Good range, Clear transmission, Temperature gauge on child unit, Visually appealing, Does not use DECT technology (if you are concerned about any kind of radiation risk).
Weaknesses: No visual picture of your baby, Only one parental unit, Shorter range than the VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor (although this didn’t make a difference to me), Can’t communicate with your baby over the monitor (if you care – I don’t), Doesn’t always immediately show temperature on parent unit, Screen can be a little hard to read at certain angles.
Final Word: Depending on your personal needs, this is a great option for an audio analog monitor.
Infant Optics Digital Video Baby Monitor with Night Vision
I’ve never used a video monitor because I didn’t quite understand the purpose. As long as I could hear my baby, wasn’t that sufficient? But after trying out this monitor, I became a bit addicted to seeing my son. You are going to pay more for a visual monitor. The Infant Optics Digital Video Baby Monitor with Night Vision currently sells for about $94 on Amazon.
This monitor was very easy to set up. At first, I didn’t get a picture but I followed their trouble shooting tips and I had it working very quickly. The digital wireless transmission covers distances up to 800 feet in open areas (outside) and 150 feet in enclosed areas (inside). Our baby’s room is a good distance from our kitchen and I had no problem with transmission.
The night vision is ultra cool and I could see my baby very well. I mean, not as cute as in person but impressive. The monitor has an automatic voice-activated power-saving mode so the audio portion shuts down automatically if no noise is sensed for 3 minutes.
The one thing to keep in mind about a visual monitor – it’s not always easy to find a spot to set it up where the camera can see the baby but there is no danger from cords being too close to the crib. You can hang it on the wall which is a good option. But if you are one of those people who hasn’t even found time to hang pictures on your walls, this might not work for you.
Strengths: Video and audio, Easy set-up, Clear transmission, Portable.
Weaknesses: Nearly double the price of an audio monitor, Have to be a bit creative in figuring out where to put it so you can see your baby but the wires won’t endanger him or her, Works on the 2.4 GHz radio frequency band which is popular amongst many household items and therefore could lead to noise interference (it didn’t in my case), Controversy and concern about radiation emission from digital baby monitors.
Final Word: Since baby monitors are used for quite awhile (often several years) and many times for more than one kid, it could be worth the extra bucks to invest in one that allows you to see your baby.
Dropcam HD Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Camera (now Nest)
I was a little nervous to try out the Dropcam (now Nest) because I thought it would be super-techy and hard to figure out. But it was actually easy to install. Honestly, I’ve had toaster ovens that were harder to operate. If you have ever downloaded an app, you’ve got this.
At first Dropcam wasn’t recognizing my Wi-Fi but a help prompt instructed me to disconnect any other baby monitors because of interference and hallelujah, it started working! Within a few minutes, I was using my Wi-Fi network to watch live stream video of my baby on my iPhone which was pretty awesome.
It’s definitely high quality video which comes with night vision and zoom. Plus, there is cloud video recording so you can review footage and even make clips if you want. There is also an option to talk to your baby. You will pay more for all this swanky technology. The Nest camera currently sells for between $194 to $199 on Amazon.
It doesn’t really come more portable than this. My husband works nights so in the morning I leave him and the baby sleeping in the house while I walk the other kids to the bus stop. It was very cool to just pull my phone out of my pocket at the bus stop and check in on the baby. This would also be a great monitor to have for peace of mind when you leave your child with a babysitter.
I was able to turn the live stream on and off on my phone. At one point, I turned the video back on and the crib was empty. I had a small heart attack because I just put my 5-month-old in the crib but it turned out to be old video and quickly corrected to a picture of my sleeping son. I even got an email from Dropcam when my baby monitor had been offline for 30 minutes. Yup. Pretty cool.
Because the DropCam runs through Wi-Fi, as with all wireless network devices, it’s important for security purposes to create a very strong password to prevent any outside tampering (although rare and unlikely).
Strengths: Awesome technology, Easy to Install, Very portable.
Weaknesses: Wi-Fi needs to be working, More expensive than other monitors, Controversy and concern over radiation risks from wireless networks to babies (see link above).
Final Word: Although I was super impressed with the Dropcam, I wouldn’t want my baby monitor to be on my phone or computer. I just sort of like having my monitor be on a separate device. Plus, I have a knack for misplacing my phone. I’ve never misplaced my baby monitor.
Best Baby Monitor App
We wanted to try out one of the baby monitor apps made especially for existing handheld devices. The cost is low (4 or 5 bucks) but remember you need two devices (like an iPhone and an iPad for example) and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
I bought the Best Baby Monitor App on iTunes (only available for iOS) and then couldn’t make it work on my Mac computer because the computer is too old. I repurchased it from the app store and had success with an iPad. Still only a $7 investment.
At first, I couldn’t see anything but once I bothered to read the directions, I was able to get a crystal clear image of my baby on the iPad (which I used as the parental unit). My iPhone operated as the child unit. I placed it in my son’s crib and he slept peacefully in the glowing light of the iPhone. The picture was incredibly clear. I could even see his chest rising up and down. My husband and I were pretty impressed.
There are also other features like three lullabies you can play to help your baby sleep, the ability to talk to your baby and ability to record every babble and cry, that you can then actually share via email with family and friends. I’m almost surprised this app doesn’t nurse your baby in the middle of the night.
Strengths: Kick-ass technology, Easy to Install, Very affordable if you already own two iOS devices, Communicate with your baby, Play songs, Recordings of your baby.
Weaknesses: Not a lot unless you don’t want your baby sleeping with your iPhone, iPad, iTouch, etc.
Final Word: You can not beat the clarity of image and sound. It’s the next best thing to being in the same bedroom as your baby. Even so, I probably would never use this kind of set-up unless I was traveling and needed a baby monitor. I just sort of get freaked out about having a wireless device so close to my baby’s head all night. But I tend to be a little paranoid and don’t like to stand in front of the microwave when it’s on either. But this app is a very high tech, affordable way to set up a baby monitor in a pinch.
So which baby monitor did I like the best?
I thought all of these baby monitors had amazing strengths and none of them were a miss. I did love the Infant Optics Digital Video Baby Monitor. I just like the simplicity of using a separate monitor (rather than my iPhone or iPad) and I love being able to see my baby when I’m in a different room.
But in the end, I’ve decided I’m just not comfortable using a digital baby monitor. Although they are super secure because they encode the data, we have read that they also emit small doses of radiation (just like a cordless phone). I know that children are far more susceptible to radiation than adults and it just doesn’t seem like a risk I want to take. We live in such a high-tech world and kids are exposed to so much now that I don’t want my baby monitor to be another source of potential radiation risk.
I certainly would respect any parent that made a different decision. But I feel better using the Angelcare Baby Sound Monitor because it doesn’t use DECT technology, gets the job done and I like how it looks.
Alpha Mom purchased all of these monitors, with the exception of the Dropcam which was provided for free for purposes of this review. All reviews are completely impartial.