Baby monitors are a staple for just about every parent. You can go with a video baby monitor, which is a pretty standard option, or opt for something fancier like an Owlet baby monitor, which is a heartbeat baby monitor, among its many other features. Or you could go with the well-reviewed Motorola baby monitor, which is a video baby monitor.
Point is, the options are many. But first, some background on how baby monitors came into being, and how effective some really are.
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 options for frazzled soon-to-be parents to sort through.
To make things simple, we picked some of our favorites. Our favorite 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 factors 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.
If you're an OCD parent who needs to know everything about your baby's sleep (guilty as charged here), then you need the Owlet. It tracks your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels using a smart sock that sends this information to a base station which is designed to notify you with lights and sounds if something seems awry.
Pros: It’s very easy to use. You simply put on the so-called smart sock and it transmits information to you in real-time, letting you know your infant’s heart rate and oxygen levels. You’re notified if something seems wrong. It’s peace of mind, at its best.
Cons: Honestly, there’s something called too much of a good thing. And sometimes, too much information can just stress parents out.
No, this VTech video baby monitor won't measure your child's heartbeat. But you get a six-level sound indicator, full motion video, infrared night vision, and 2X digital zoom, which is a great choice for parents who don't want to drown in over-information.
Pros: A great video baby monitor at a great price. You see your baby. You hear your baby. And if that’s enough for you, get this monitor.
Cons: You cannot mute the thing. Seriously. And the battery life leaves something to be desired.
Motorola's MBP36XL video baby monitor lets you keep tabs on your baby wherever you go in your house, thanks to its portable, chargeable parent unit that has a nice, big screen and night vision.
Pros: It’s basic and easy to set up. You set up the camera and pair it with the parent unit, which has a five inch screen. You can communicate with your partner or child using the two-way communication feature. You can see whole room clearly, day and night, thanks to the remote pan, tilt, and zoom and infrared night vision features. And there’s a temperature monitor, too.
Cons: A common and ongoing complaint is that the camera loses connectivity on a regular basis.
The first thing you notice about this monitor is its huge five-inch screen, which works up to 460 feet away from the camera.
Pros: The night vision and wide-angle lens on the camera pump out an image worthy of the screen, and the fact that you can pan it 110 degrees up and down and 330 degrees around means you won’t miss a thing that happens in your nursery.
Cons: The display is battery powered, so while it’s nice to be able to take it around the house you do need to remember to charge it to keep tabs on your little one.
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.
Pros: 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. 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.
Cons: 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,
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.
Pros: This monitor is fully loaded; it also has night vision, two-way talk, and 10 pre-programmed lullabies and bedtime stories.
Cons: Some folks don’t seem to like the app very much, which is a major part of any wifi-connected baby monitor.
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.
Pros: 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.
Cons: That 900-foot range is for open space, and some users have reported that this monitor’s signal isn’t great at penetrating thicker walls.
While buying an audio-only monitor in 2019 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.
Pros: The Avent DECT has a range of more than 1,000 feet, a 10-hour battery life, and a night mode that alerts you with a silent and subtle vibration so only one parent has to get up for a crying baby. As for extra features, it includes a night light, in-room temperature monitor, night light, and lullabies. If you don’t need to see your baby, it’s a fantastic choice.
Cons: We know plenty of parents who need the see their baby, and if you’re one of them this obviously isn’t the monitor for you.
The Nanit 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.
Cons: To receive these reports and tips you need to pay $100 a year for Nanit Insights, the company’s subscription-based service.
The Cocoon Cam Plus is 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, which the AAP strongly discourages..
Pros: 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.
Cons: Several users have complained that the Cocoon Cam Plus uses way too much of their internet bandwidth, though the company has released updates designed to help them control the monitor’s data usage.
This baby monitor is new to the market but already making waves. It doesn't require a subscription, which is nice, and it comes with a unique security chip that will keep your data secure, what we now consider an essential feature in any smart baby monitor.
Pros: Like the Nanit, the Miku is a wall-mounted monitor that’s essentially a camera and motion detector pointed down at your baby from above. It shows real-time breathing information — overlaid on live video, which is a nice touch — and every other feature you’d expect from a premium baby monitor.
Cons: There are no ongoing subscription charges, but the one-time price of this monitor is steep, to say the least.
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