As soon as you bring your little one home, it's hard to stay away even when he or she is just fast asleep in the crib. Of course, paranoia also seeps in, making you wonder about all the bad things that can happen when you're not looking.
But you can't exactly expect to spend entire days chained to your baby's side!
You've got a life to live too!
Thankfully, technology has come along way to keep a parent's paranoia at bay. There are baby monitors that can help you watch over your baby while you go about your day or even while you sleep! After 5 days searching for the best baby monitor in 2016 and the upcoming 2017, we have found lots of things that anyone looking for baby monitor should know. So without further ado, let's start with:
Table of Contents
- What exactly is a baby monitor?
- Types of Baby Monitors
- What to consider before you buy
- 10 tips to buy the best baby monitor in 2017
What exactly is a baby monitor?
Well, in simple terms, it's a tool designed to help you monitor your kid or kids while you're in a separate room from them. A baby monitor, whether they are wired or wireless, is made up of two devices - a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is placed in the room where you're baby is at and, depending on the type, picks up audio and/or video from the room and sends it to the second device - the receiver. The receiver is the portable device that the parents use to stay "in the know" on what's happening with the baby. It's often called the "parent unit."
Parents rely on baby monitors to help them keep an eye on their baby while they go about their day. It’s there to alert you if anything unusual is happening. But parents should also keep in mind that these devices can’t do everything. They shouldn’t be used to replace adult supervision. They aren’t medical tools that can prevent SIDS or something similar from happening. They also aren’t recommended for use to monitor your child if he has a medical condition. Baby monitors, at most, are just an extra pair of ears and eyes to watch out for your child while he sleeps.
Types of Baby Monitors
Type #1: Analog monitors
Let's make this simple: analog monitors transmit the audio and/or video signals to the receiver through electronic pulses. This is an old form of technology that has been around for a long time. One of the main problems parents encounter with baby monitors is interference.
Interference could mean that your signal crosses paths with another signal using the same frequency (maybe a neighbor who uses the same baby monitor as you). This means that someone could potentially receive your signal and be able to hear and/or see your baby.
Another type of interference could be static, fuzzy reception, a buzzing sound, etc. While problems with interference could occur with any type of baby monitor you have, they more commonly occur with analog monitors.
Type #2: Digital monitors
Obviously, this is a much newer technology compared to analog baby monitors. Unlike analogs that send the signals straight through to the receiver, digital monitors encrypt the transmission so that only the receiver will recognize it and be able to "decode" it. This makes digital monitors more secure than analog ones.
However, it should be taken into account that most digital monitors operate at a 2.4GHz frequency, the same used in many modern devices such as wireless routers, phones, and even microwaves. This means that the potential for interference is higher if you have many devices in your home that use that frequency. While this is concerning, a lot of models do feature multiple channels that can be used to lessen any interference that occurs.
Type #3: Audio-only monitors
Obviously, this type of baby monitor transmits sounds. Audio or sound baby monitors come in both analog and digital. These are generally less expensive than video models.
Type #4: Video monitors
Unlike the audio-only monitor, this type of baby monitor transmits both video and sound to the parent’s device. In addition to the transmitter and receiver, the baby monitor also comes with a camera, either wall-mounted or tabletop, that can be placed at a specific range to capture images and transmit them to the parent unit (usually portable). Unlike the wireless network monitors, the parent unit is only compatible with the camera model it comes with. It’s a dedicated video monitor that can’t be used with or for anything else.
Type #5: Wireless network monitors
These are similar to video monitors wherein a digital camera is used to capture images and sound of the baby while he or she is in another room. Unlike video monitors though, this type of monitor allows you to transmit the images through your existing wireless network which, in turn, enables you to access or receive the images on your phone, iPad, or computer. This WiFi video monitor, as it is also called, provides the added benefit of letting you watch your baby (and the babysitter) while you are at work or out doing errands. While these monitors may act similarly to a nanny cam, they aren’t hidden or disguised. Often, these monitors are also used for home security.
Type #6: Baby monitor apps
Unlike all the other previously discussed types, these aren’t devices that you can buy from a store. Instead, these apps helps you turn an old smart phone into a baby monitor with your current phone working as the receiver. Some apps even offer a companion app that enables you to receive the images through your computer as well.
You’ll need to download the app on both phones and have a wireless connection. Set up one phone as a camera at a distance from your baby. This will broadcast both video and sound to you. But this is not the only capability of these apps. Some offer you the ability to talk to your baby remotely. A lot offer noise and motion alerts. Some apps even offer built-in lullabies that will sing your baby to sleep while you’re away.
What to consider before you buy
A lot of the basic models of baby monitors operate at 49 MHz. Some models use 900 MHz which means it has a longer range. However, it also means that it operates on the same frequency as some older models of cordless phones which could lead to interference. A lot of the newer models have switched to 2.4 GHz but, as mentioned previously, so has a lot of newer devices such as wireless routers. Some models operate at a 1.9 GHz frequency band, which is used solely for voice-only applications. This is called DECT or Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology. It is recommended that you choose a model that uses DECT to minimize interference.
Most baby monitor transmitters are not battery-operated, requiring electricity to run. The receivers, on the other hand, usually have rechargeable batteries. Some models have primary batteries (non-rechargeable) while a few have an electrical cord. Battery life is generally not an issue with baby monitors; most can stay on for at least 7 hours. It’s important to note that video burns through your batteries much faster than audio-only monitors.
Some baby monitors offer this perk – an adjustable sensor that can keep track of the room’s temperature, which ideally should be between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Other models also feature a humidity sensor.
This feature enables you to see your baby even when he or she is fast asleep in a dark room using infrared light. When you think about it, this is where image quality is really important. You got the baby monitor to help you assess your baby while staying in your room so being able to see him clearly at night is crucial. Granted, the view you get is only in black and white. But you should still be able to determine if your baby's eyes are open or not.
It's important to note that night vision requires the camera to be a bit near to the baby, otherwise the infrared wouldn't work. However, it should also be far enough away from the baby to prevent him from getting strangled with the cord of the camera. Several audio-only models offer something along this line as well - a night light on the transmitter that can be turned on from the parent unit. Other features include the ability to turn play nature sounds, white noise, or lullabies to help soothe your baby to sleep while you stay cozy in your bed.
Unlike what most people think, bigger is not always better, at least when you're talking about the display screen of a monitor. With videos, you want to be able to see your baby clearly. That is the point of buying a video baby monitor after all. But a large display doesn't always mean that it would be clearer. Some video monitors offer a bigger screen for parents but provide you with a grainy image. Ideally, your video monitor should be able to capture the room and your baby as it really is. This allows you to judge if your baby needs you to go to him or not without having to leave the bed. Some models allow you to adjust the brightness of the video while others can zoom into the image or zoom out.
Motion and sound sensor
One of the best features of a baby monitor is the background noise filter, also called sound activation. This means that instead of transmitting every little sound in the room, the monitor filters out the ambient room sounds and only transmits those that are "unusual" such as crying. So instead of trying to sleep through every noise that comes from the receiver, you'll get a quiet room to sleep in that will only sound off when the baby isn't asleep anymore. While some models simply offer an on and off feature, others allow parents to adjust the sound sensitivity of the monitor.
Motion sensors perform much like sound sensors. The sensor alerts you to when your baby is suddenly restless, like rolling over after a nap. Some monitors have a movement sensing pad placed under the mattress of the crib which senses the baby's natural movements when he's asleep and alerts you if there's no movement at all for 20 seconds. The idea behind this type of motion sensor is to alert the parent if the baby suddenly stops breathing such as in case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a fear that many parents have. While there have been testimonies as to its effectiveness in helping save some infants' lives, there is no scientific evidence as yet to its ability to lessen the risk of SIDS or similar cases.
Sounds and lights
This feature is common in a lot of models. When the baby makes a sound, the lights on the receiver turn on. The more noise the baby makes, the brighter the lights will get. In some models, more lights will turn on instead. This is a particularly valuable feature if you're in a noisy room and will be unable to hear the sound from the receiver or if you need to lower the volume of the receiver.
As we've said before, range is an important feature of any baby monitor. So it's a really good feature to have when you're alerted to when you've reached the edge of the monitor's range. Otherwise, the only way you'll know that you're out of range from the monitor is when you get static.
Some monitors also offer a feature that lets you know when the receiver's batteries are almost empty. Some models feature a light or an icon while others beep every few seconds.
This feature allows you to talk to your baby and soothe him remotely, much like you would with a walkie-talkie.
Pan and tilt
This feature enables you to move your camera remotely to scan the room. This is especially helpful when your baby has learned to move around the crib, maybe even figured out how to get out of the crib. While it depends on where you’ve placed the camera and the type of camera you have as well as the size of the room, you should be able to view the entire space using this feature. When looking for a model with this feature, be sure to check the camera carefully. It should be able to move side to side. Some models that claim to have the pan and tilt feature do not really have this capability. Instead, they just zoom in and then you can pan around that larger image. You don’t really get to change the field of view.
Sometimes, you just want to get a closer look at your baby. This feature enables you to do that in a way. The zoom feature we all know is when the lens of a camera works to get a close-up view of an object. The clarity of the image isn’t compromised. Unfortunately, only one baby monitor currently has this feature, the Infant Optics DXR-8, which requires you to manually change lenses in order to use the zoom feature. Other models that claim to have this feature are only offering a digital zoom, allowing you to get a close-up of a portion of an image, much like you would with a photo editing software but you aren’t really getting close to it like you would with a camera lens. This means that the clarity and resolution of the image are reduced, making it harder to distinguish details.
Some models enable you to have multiple cameras which you can position in different rooms in the house. This is especially helpful if you have more than one child. It also means that your baby monitor will see more years of use than an audio-only monitor because, at some point, you aren't going to need to hear them cry (or complain). You're going to need to see what they're up to. With a push-to-talk feature, you can even scold them from a different part of the house. The wireless network monitors can even function as a type of nanny camera (undisguised but just as good) so you can see what your babysitter is up to while you're now back in the office. Having multiple cameras around the house will ensure that there’s nowhere that your nanny can hide what she’s doing.
Some video monitors can be connected to a TV or a DVD/VCR recorder, enabling you to watch your baby on a bigger screen if necessary. Parents that have picture-in-picture will enable you to watch your favorite show while you monitor the baby.
Obviously, this feature allows you to adjust the volume level of your receiver. Perfect if you need to make phone calls while your baby is napping. Make sure that a baby monitor’s volume control is easy to use and access.
10 tips to buy the best baby monitor in 2017
- Tip #1: Know your price range - A high price doesn’t mean the best quality. Basic audio-only models start at around $25. More features, longer range, and better security can raise the price to $150. Video monitors, obviously, cost a bit more than audio-only monitors, starting around $75 all the way up to $300. Movement monitors have the same price range while wireless network monitors range from $100 to $300. While some features are must-haves, others are merely perks that you can do away with if you can’t afford it.
- Tip #2: The manufacturer's range doesn't mean a thing - Most manufacturers don’t give out accurate ranges for their devices. In addition, your home is quite different from an open field, with walls and wiring possibly obstructing the ability of your baby monitor to provide you with a clear signal. Some models that claim to have a very long range may possibly only operate 5 to 30 times less than the given distance.
Another thing you should note is that range affects video more than sound. This means that you’ll need to conduct a bit of research in your home to gauge the distance between your baby’s room and where the parent unit will be and how many walls the signal will have to go through. Wireless network monitors, on the other hand, have no problems with range as long as you have a strong and stable internet connection.
- Tip #3: Clarity is top priority - Whether it’s sound or video, the signal that your baby monitor sends should always be of good quality. In short, the signal should always be clear. What’s the point of having a baby monitor if you can’t tell via sound or video what’s happening with your baby? Of course, you don’t necessarily have to hear every sound in the room. That would just drive you nuts all night. So make sure that you include a background noise filter in your must-have features so you’ll only hear a clear signal of your baby waking up rather than every little thing.
- Tip #4: Check for interference issues - Interference could occur because of range or other devices that share the same frequency band as your baby monitor. Make sure you get a monitor that won’t cross signals with your other devices like your cordless phone (if you have one).
- Tip #5: Buy from a retailer with liberal return policy - Interference and range issues can only be tested once you have the monitor in your home. After buying, try out the monitor in all the areas that you’ll likely use it in to check signal quality. If you do experience any issues, you won’t encounter any problems returning the product.
- Tip #6: Get monitors with rechargeable batteries - AA batteries tend to have a long battery life, around 36 hours in a baby monitor. However, you’ll need to replace them frequently. Rechargeable batteries are more practical in the long run.
- Tip #7: Sound is first, video is second and motion is last - If you’re going to prioritize between these three things, sound is what matters most. A really clear image of your baby crying his heart out isn’t going to wake you up if the sound doesn’t reach you.
Video, on the other hand, ensures that you’re able to get more sleep. Instead of going into the nursery and possibly fully awakening your baby, you can use the image for clues as to what your baby needs. Sometimes, a baby will only wake briefly but fall back asleep on his own so you can just go back to sleep yourself. Video is also useful for when your baby is older, allowing you to watch him as he plays while you do your chores in a different room. Motion sensors, as explained before, can be useful and maybe even save lives but it isn’t essential.
- Tip #8: One unit or two? - Some models offer additional parent units which means you can have more than one set around the house. Technically, you can survive on one parent unit. However, it can be incredibly convenient as well as prolongs battery life. Having two parent units means that one unit can stay in the bedroom for use at night while the other is for daytime use, carried around the house as you go about your activities while the baby naps. This ensures that you don't have to lug around the charger with you as you go around the house. It also means that you don't have to keep charging the monitor while it's in use. It all depends on your budget and lifestyle.
- Tip #9: Get a monitor with a low EMF emission - We've all heard it before: electronic devices like your phone and microwave oven expose you to an electromagnetic field (EMF) that has the potential to be harmful in large doses. Since baby monitors are electronic devices, they are likely to have significant EMF emissions which your baby could be exposed to during his sleeping hours. Now, there is still much research to be done on the health issues that will result from prolonged exposure, it's better to be on the safe side. We're talking about your baby, after all. Placing the monitor as far away as possible as well as using it only when needed will help limit your baby's exposure to EMF. Another way to limit exposure is to choose which models gave off the least amount of EMF.