Written by: Monique Seitz-Davis | Updated: March 22, 2018
Baby monitors serve as eyes and ears on the back of your head. To help you best care for your baby, monitors these days come equipped with features such as a live feed, two-way audio, temperature gauge, or soothing entertainment—all of which can assist you and your little one as you make your way back to the nursery.
Baby monitors have come a long way from simple walkie-talkies. We sifted through countless user reviews and ratings on Amazon, product sites, and blogs to find the most important differences, wallet-friendly prices, and must-have features.
From audio and video devices to motion detectors, baby monitors can put your mind at ease. In this review, you’ll find three different types of baby monitors: sensor, audio, and video + audio.
A sensor can monitor baby’s movement, oxygen levels, and heart rate, as well as the room temperature. Some baby monitors, like the Infant Optics DXR-8, have a temperature sensor built into the device, while others (such as the Owlet sock) specifically track heart rate and oxygen levels.
An audio-only monitor lets you listen in on your child, hear their breathing, or eavesdrop on the post-nap babble, so you’ll know when to swoop in and tend to them.
Video and Audio
A video camera and audio device can provide you with real-time supervision from a few rooms over. This type of monitor allows you to see and hear what your baby is doing in their crib, be it sleeping or making mischief.
Wi-Fi vs. Radio
Some baby monitors function on a radio frequency, while others use a Wi-Fi network—and some operate via both Wi-Fi and radio. Consider which you feel most secure using and which is most compatible with your lifestyle.
Wi-Fi baby monitors are convenient and travel friendly. All your monitor needs is a secure internet connection and a Bluetooth-compatible device, like your phone or computer. But you should consider how you’ll monitor your baby if your Wi-Fi connection is interrupted.
If you live in an area that doesn’t get great internet service, you can trust a radio monitor to consistently work well. This is the most common technology used for baby monitors, but items like cordless phones can impact sound quality and cause interference.
Must-Have Features and Considerations
From motion alerts to night vision and entertainment, there are some features you (and your little one) won’t want to go without.
With a radio monitor, static is bound to occur, but to prevent unnecessary sound interference, make sure your cordless devices aren’t operating on the same frequency. To check, look at the back or side of a cordless device and make note of what frequency it operates on. So when you do purchase a baby monitor, you’ll know what frequencies to avoid or what devices could cause interference.
Monitors might have range limitations, meaning you can only travel so far within your house or yard before losing reception and contact with your child.
Alerts come in a variety of forms: some monitors buzz, chime, or light up. Often times, a monitor has a backup alert system if it’s operating in low-battery mode.
Whether your monitor is battery powered or uses an AC adapter, make sure it can be used and charged properly during a blackout.
With a hands-free adapter like a belt clip, you can easily carry the baby monitor around the house, tackle your to-do list, and keep an eye on your little one as they catch some afternoon z’s.
Night Vision and Night Light
Night vision offers added visibility in the dark, while a night light can be comforting to your little one as they fall asleep.
If your baby wakes up suddenly and appears inconsolable, two-way audio allows you to talk with them before you swoop into the room.
When you’re exhausted, a little help goes a long way. Some monitors let you record lullabies or have prerecorded songs to soothe your little one to sleep.
Track your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels with the intuitive and thoughtful Owlet sock.
The cotton sock is washable—just make sure you remove the sensor before washing.
Fast Alerts If your baby’s heart rate or oxygen levels drop, the Owlet quickly notifies you.
Latex-Free Material Allergies to latex are extremely rare, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your baby’s health.
Three Cotton Socks Owlet includes three socks—size one to three in a universal fit (up to eighteen months or twenty-five pounds).
Heart Rate and Oxygen Level Monitoring The Owlet uses pulse oximetry to track your baby’s heart rate and oxygen level.
Two Apps There’s a free app specifically for monitoring and a companion app, ConnectedCare, which costs $59.99 for a year-long subscription. ConnectedCare offers historical analytics, along with the oxygen level and heart rate data.
Rechargeable Battery Using a rechargeable battery is more cost effective than having to buy a six-pack of batteries. Additionally, the sensor’s battery can be recharged via its flat base station—anywhere on the fly.
The Owlet’s ConnectedCare app is only compatible with the iOS system from Apple. So if you have an Android device, you can’t take advantage of the monitoring analytics that allow you to track patterns in your baby’s oxygen level and heart rate.
No Video or Audio Be prepared to buy an audio or video monitor since the Owlet only tracks heart rate and oxygen level.
Age Limit The Owlet socks fit children only up to eighteen months or twenty-five pounds.
Expensive Price Tag While the Owlet costs a pretty penny, the price tag is offset by a 45-day guarantee.
From baby monitoring to home security, the Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera can do it all.
The Nest Indoor Camera includes a free trial of the Nest Aware app. It allows you to view the camera’s streaming history, establish motion-sensitive zones , motion alerts, and make short video clips to send to friends and family members.
Livestreaming Whether you’re at work or on vacation, you’re able to check in at home.
Multi-Use Once your child has outgrown a baby monitor, you can use the camera for indoor home security.
Cloud Storage The cloud storage requires a monthly subscription, but it allows you to backtrack and view footage or events.
The camera features only a wide-angle view and doesn’t have pan-and-tilt capability.
Monthly Subscription On top of the initial price tag, the Nest Aware app and its bevy of features have a monthly cost.
Here are some baby-monitoring tricks and tips to help you get started on the right foot.
Trick: Use Your Retired Smart Devices
Since most smart phones and tablets are already equipped with audio and a camera, you can use your old device as a baby monitor. There’s a variety of baby monitor apps available for purchase—just head on over to the app store and start perusing. If you’re unsure where to start, check out the Baby Monitor by Dormi or Cloud Baby Monitor. The Dormi app is compatible with Google and Android, while the Cloud Baby Monitor is iOS compatible. Both come highly recommended by parents across the web.
Tip: Know the Three-Feet Rule
Keep the baby monitor and its cords at least three feet away from the crib, bed, or bassinet. The cords and baby monitor can pose serious hazards to your child if they can get their hands on them.
Q: Do baby monitors prevent SIDS?
A: No. However, from 1994 to 2010, the number of deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome decreased from 1.3 to 0.5 deaths per 1,000 births.1 The Safe to Sleep campaign has recommendations for ways to help reduce the chance of SIDS.
Q: Are Wi-Fi monitors always secure?
A: Multiple parents have reported incidents of their baby monitors being hacked. If you do choose to buy a Wi-Fi connected baby monitor, make sure all your passwords and usernames for your Wi-Fi and monitoring app are extremely secure and well protected.