After the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, Eugene F. McDonald, Jr., the president of the Zenith Radio Corporation, was nervous. He directed his engineers to come up with a way for him to know what was happening in his daughter’s room. The Zenith Radio Nurse, released in 1937, was the first baby monitor. Today, parents want the same thing McDonald wanted, but the technology that provides that peace of mind has gotten decidedly more complex. What started as audio-only devices added live video, wifi, and, in the latest models, everything from artificial intelligence to motion sensors to breathing monitoring. That’s a lot of bells and whistles for frazzled, soon-to-be parents to sort through.
To make things simple, we picked some of our favorites. Our favotie baby monitors run the gamut from a somewhat Luddite audio-only model to one that will send you data-driven, personalized reports about your baby’s sleep quality. With so many options on the market, a good place to start is by considering how important these features are to you:
- Video, Audio, or Both: First-time parents are suckers for high-definition, night-vision baby monitors where they can pick up on exactly how their child’s chest is rising and falling. You will do this dozens of times a night. Past the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome-scare age, you may just want an audio baby monitor (which a lot of video models can be used as), because you’ll have learned the difference between an “I’m hungry” cry and an “I lost my sock” whine.
- Sound Activation: If you don’t want constant sound monitoring, there are a lot of devices that go into “cry mode” and only alert you to noises above a certain threshold.
- Wifi Range: Make sure that the baby monitor will connect in all the rooms that you take it into. If it doesn’t, take it back because no amount of aluminum foil will save it. And if you have good wifi coverage in your home, chances are all your devices will connect without a problem. We’d recommend only considering encrypted monitors.
- Other Features: Nightlights and lullabies are nice to have on a monitor, but they’re probably not dealbreakers or dealmakers no matter what kind of parent you are.
Our favorite baby monitors come with features that fit every budget and family, so no matter where you come down on these questions, there’s a baby monitor on our list for you.
The DXR-8 packs a lot of punch for the price, including a sound-activated 3.5-inch full-color LCD screen, crystal clear video quality, and impressive 270-degree pan and 120-degree tilt ranges ⏤ controlled remotely, of course. It’s also the only baby monitor on the market that includes interchangeable lenses in case an advanced zoom or wide-angle shot gives you the best view of the crib in your nursery.
The DXR-8 uses a secure 2.4 GHz FHSS wireless transmission to ensure privacy, gets up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge, and can switch to audio-only mode with the camera off to save juice. That said, it has gotten some complaints for a quickly declining battery life (as well as poor range). Still, that hasn’t stopped 24,000 reviewers from giving it an overall 5-star rating on Amazon. In terms of bells and whistles, it features everything parents have come to expect in a monitor: invisible infrared night vision, two-way intercom, room-temperature sensor, and the ability to work with up to four other cameras.
For parents who want to monitor their baby’s cries from the office, or the gym, or Tahiti, the BB-8-looking iBaby M6S syncs to your home wifi network. Instead of using a dedicated handheld receiver, you can watch all of the action on a smartphone app. It offers impressive 1080p HD video (with record function), a 360-degree view, 110-degree tilt, and an array of high-tech sensors including motion, sound, in-room temperature, air quality, and humidity. It also has night vision, two-way talk, and 10 pre-programmed lullabies and bedtime stories.
In terms of bang for your buck, it’s tough to beat the Babysense. For less than $100, it comes loaded with bells and whistles more commonly found on higher-priced models. It boasts a 2.4-inch HD LCD color screen with infrared night vision, pan/tilt, and 2x zoom, along two-way talk back, a sound activated ‘Eco’ mode that keeps the screen off to save battery life, a 900-foot range (with out-of-range warning), and an in-room temperature monitor that sends alerts if it gets too hot or cold. It uses 2.4 GHz FHSS wireless transmission to secure the connection, and it even comes with both a built-in alarm/nap timer and lullabies.
While buying an audio-only monitor in 2018 is slightly akin to buying a flip phone, the Philips Avent has pretty much all the same features as top-of-the-line camera baby monitors, sans visuals. Even better, it uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications) technology to guarantee zero interference ⏤ so other signals in your neighborhood won’t mess with your connection or sound quality. The Avent DECT has a range of more than 90-ft inside, a 10-hour battery life, and it uses a “cry mode” so you’re only alerted to real cries for attention rather than background noise. As for extra features, it includes a night light, in-room temperature monitor, and lullabies. If you don’t need to see your baby, it’s a fantastic choice.
Winner of a coveted JPMA innovation award for safety, the Nanit Smart Baby Monitor is an over-the-crib wifi video monitor that uses computer vision technology to track a baby’s sleep habits/patterns and provide data-crazed parents with stats and customized sleep tips in the morning. The only catch is that to receive these reports and tips you need to pay $100 a year for Nanit Insights, the company’s subscription-based service. For parents who’d rather not pay the monthly fee, the Nanit sans Insights is still a sleek HD video monitor with night vision, one-way audio, and a soft-glow LED nightlight.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to warn parents against using wearable monitors on infants to track breathing and vital signs — as they aren’t FDA approved and don’t always provide the most accurate results. The caution has led to the advent of non-contact breathing monitors like Cocoon Cam Plus. It’s a ‘smart’ wifi baby monitor that not only lets parents watch live 720p high-def footage of their baby snoozing, but also track their real-time breathing, movements, and sleep patterns using computer vision and artificial intelligence. And it can do both from either above the crib or across the room, without requiring the child to wear any additional gadgets.
In terms of traditional monitor features, the Cocoon Cam Plus has two-way talk, zoom, cry sensors/notifications, and even syncs to your Apple Watch. Best of all, though, when your baby becomes a toddler, the camera’s motion sensor will alert you when they’ve climbed out of bed and are making a run for it.
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