There aren’t a whole lot of things in a baby store that most guys get too excited about. We can try, but I haven’t personally swooned over an adorable jumper or onesie. Now, electronics and gadgets, those are more my style. I still don’t swoon, but I definitely perk up a little. Let’s talk about monitors.
As with everything, there are many options and features with monitors. I have not personally tested them out, but these guys have tested a lot of them. To start, let’s get you quickly up to speed on some of the available features.
Things to keep in mind with monitors:
Audio only vs video
In our opinion, if you can get a video monitor, do it. We’ve never felt that it was a waste of money. You will end up using the video feature more than you can presently imagine. Just a few scenarios that happen on an almost daily basis:
- using the monitor in the middle of the night to make sure they are still moving or breathing,
- after you’ve laid your child down for a nap – just to see if they’re still laying down after you left the room,
- or to help you decide whether those baby sounds are coming from a little one who is wide-awake or from one who is groggy and might go back to sleep for another sleep cycle.
The picture is worth a thousand words,… uh, baby sounds.
As far as I know, pretty much all video monitors have night vision. If it doesn’t, don’t get it.
Remote control of the camera
Similarly, many cameras have the ability to adjust the camera angle from the parent monitor. This is also useful as some babies tend to disappear!! … oh, wait, there you are! (Thanks to a little camera adjustment.)
Ability to speak through the monitor device to the child
Not super important in the first year or so of life. In fact, talking to an infant from a camera device might foster undesirable effects (unless you’re actually trying to condition them to be paranoid of Big Brother). But, as the child gets older and can understand what is going on, being able to communicate through the monitor might be useful.
WiFi vs self-contained network
No right or wrong answer here. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.
WiFi enabled cameras connect through your home WiFi network and then can be streamed to your wireless devices such as cell phones, computers or tablets. The advantage of this is that you (likely) instantly have multiple viewing devices which you can use from almost anywhere in the world. Dad can check in from a business trip on the other side of the state if he wants. This is pretty cool.
The disadvantages, though, are that WiFi networks still go down from time to time – so there’s no guarantee that your monitor will work when you really need it to. The same is true for your phone or viewing device. Sometimes it just won’t connect. Additionally, if you are using your phone to monitor your baby, you aren’t using it for the dozens of other things you would normally be using it for. Finally, since WiFi is connecting to the world-wide web, there are some concerns about privacy and safety. Although companies do a good job of securing the video feed, there is more risk with someone hacking into your monitor and watching your baby with a WiFi-enabled camera than there is with a self-contained network.
A self-contained network monitor does not require any external WiFi signals. The monitor and camera devices communicate with each other as long as they are both turned on. As you can imagine, the pro’s and con’s are basically the converse of the WiFi-monitors. The major advantage is that as long as you are in range (more on this to come), the audio and visual signals are very reliable and not dependent on your internet signal which can sometime be a little finicky. As mentioned above, the potential “hacker”” risk is lower with this setup than the WiFi. Additionally, since it comes with it’s own monitor, you don’t need to tie up your phone or tablet as the parent monitor.
One of the disadvantages is that you are limited by the range of the monitor/camera signal. Hopefully, you’re not planning on running to the store while your baby is napping, so as long as you can get to the rooms of your house or maybe out to your garden or garage, you won’t have any problems. Of course, since you are limited by the one parent monitor, the working parent won’t be able to peek in on the baby from work or the other side of the state.
There are some monitors which come with their own parent monitor – and thus, have a self-contained network, but that also have the ability to connect over WiFi via a mobile app. This might be a consideration if you really love the advantages of both. I actually don’t have personal experience with these, but they might be a good blend of both worlds.
When you’re starting out with your little family, you’re primarily thinking of getting what you need to survive your first addition and not looking too far ahead. But, there are a few products where it might save you money in the long run to honestly consider whether you will be adding a second or third child to the family. The monitor is one of these. Some monitors have the ability to add additional cameras to their network. Pay attention to that.
In our home, the nursery corner of the house seems to get more wind than our master bedroom. When we close her bedroom door at night, we noticed that her room would get a bit cooler than the rest of the house. In the dead of winter, that’s not so great. For this reason, we appreciated having the temperature indicator on the parent monitor. This might not be a crucial feature for everyone.
Taking Photos or Videos
Cute things happen all the time with babies. All the time. Like, we need additional hard drives to save all of these pictures and videos to. Feeding this parental addiction, some monitors have the ability to take short photos or videos directly from the monitor. If you’re torn on this feature, you can always use your smart phone to take a photo or video of the monitor. Since our monitor does not have this feature, I confess that I’ve done so a couple times when our little peanut was doing something particularly adorable.
It seems like every baby device plays music, and that’s true for monitors, too. Some will play lullabies or nature sounds which might be nice. We have a sound machine/projector that we use for ambient noise when she is sleeping.
Also, remember, you are likely going to use this every day for a long time, so get what you really want.
Our Personal Choice:
Admittedly, we didn’t spend an enormous amount of time going through all the reviews or trying multiple monitors out, but we did talk with a number of family and friends about what they liked or didn’t like about theirs. We ended up going with the Motorola MBP36S Video Monitor. It had very good reviews, had the features that we wanted, and was at a good price point. We have been very pleased with it. The only feature we wish it had was a belt clip.
On the Go:
When traveling, it might not make sense to pack up and bring your entire monitor apparatus. In our case, I’ve mounted our camera up on the wall and used adhesive cord covers to prevent our little one from messing with them, so it’s not too convenient to pack it up. If you are in a similar situation, we’ve used two alternative approaches.
- Have a portable/battery operated audio-only monitor. This gets us by pretty well for those short times away from home. Since audio is not going to consume as much power as the video, you can use batteries. This frees you up for more unusual situations (camping or staying some place where power outlets are not conveniently placed).
- Apps such as iSitter. If you have 2 mobile devices, you can use one as the camera/microphone, and the other as the parent monitor. Since we have Apple devices, we found iSitter to be a good, free option when we are just going somewhere for the day. Note: it will work best over a WiFi network. I do not know what is available for Android, but I imagine there are similar apps if you look.
Although this post is about audio and video monitors, I just want to mention that movement monitors are also on the market. With the fear of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and since you cannot always tell 100% whether your child is moving or breathing from audio or video monitors, movement monitors are devices that will tell you whether your child stops moving. Sensors can be placed under the mattress or be attached to the child and will sound an alarm if no movement is detected within 15-20 seconds. SIDS is terrifying to any new parent, so peace of mind in this case might be worth a million dollars – so I can’t say whether you should or should not shell out the money for one of these. Fortunately, when infants are placed to sleep on their back without anything extra in the crib, the risk goes way down. So, educating yourself is probably the best approach of all. Additionally, if you do get one, be careful when choosing your movement monitor as some have been recalled due to the danger of child accessibility to the power cord.