A reliable and consistent baby monitor can help to ensure the best possible night’s sleep for both baby and carers. The knowledge that your baby is sleeping soundly can help to ease the worries of an anxious first-time parent or concerns from older caregivers worried they won’t hear them. The current range of baby monitors are more high tech than ever before, with features ranging from temperature sensors to smartphone apps. Finding the right monitor for your family can feel overwhelming but this guide will explain some of the common features to help you make the best choice.
Is a baby monitor essential?
Whilst many choose to have a baby monitor for the reassurance they provide, it is an optional piece of kit. In a small home, you may be able to hear a baby from every room and decide that the expense is not justified. However, monitors can do a lot more than just alert you to noise and may be useful if you or the baby are likely to stay anywhere else with a different setup.
Features to look out for:
Analogue or digital
There are analogue monitors on the market but it is important to be aware that the frequencies at which these work can be listened to on other devices and the receiver may pick up nearby monitors or radio stations. Digital frequencies are now most often used for baby monitors and provide very clear sound. They are also less likely to suffer interference from other monitors or radio.
Increasingly there are DECT (digitally enhanced cordless telecommunications) monitors, which have a microprocessor ensuring that there is no interference at all.
Audio or video
The difference here is fairly self-explanatory. An audio baby monitor allows you to hear the sounds coming from your child’s room whilst continuing with your day. They should automatically focus on the noises from the baby and reduce the levels of any background noises such as heating. Many audio monitors also have a system of lights allowing you to notice cries if the volume level is low or muted.
Video monitors incorporate a small camera so that you are able to see the room and check if it’s a real wake up requiring parental support or simply the gurgles of happy sleep. Some video monitors include night vision for when lights are off, options to zoom in or tilt the view and even multiple cameras to cover other rooms. There are video baby monitors with parent units ranging from large screens so that you can even see the baby breathing. Smaller screens offer a rather more limited view.
Smart video wi-fi baby monitors don’t have a parent unit but instead use an app so that you can keep an eye on your child from your tablet or phone. These monitors don’t have the same constraints of the more traditional units and will work wherever a wi-fi signal is available. This can be a helpful reassurance if you need to check in with your baby whilst working. If smart monitors are of interest, then it is imperative to check their security and encryption features to reduce the possibility of being hacked.
Additional Baby Monitor Features
Modern baby monitors have a wealth of additional options, which may be of interest.
This comes with a sensor pad to be placed underneath the baby, which is sensitive enough to pick up the movements made as the baby breathes and identify other movements that may indicate the child is waking or that they are having trouble breathing. It can be a helpful reassurance for some parents but it is worth being aware that no studies have shown any link in reducing SIDS deaths from using these sensor pads and they have not been formally recommended by many recognised organisations.
A significant number of both audio and video baby monitors incorporate a sensor and display the room temperature.
Many monitors will include a gentle night light within the unit in the baby’s room, helping to ensure peaceful sleep.
A button on the parent unit of many baby monitors will allow you to speak to your baby, which can be helpful if you’re trying to encourage them to self-soothe or if you know that a quick lullaby will help them go back to sleep. Some monitors will even have a lullaby option that you can play if your baby seems restless.
Which is best for my family?
As with many decisions regarding technology, the first step is working out what your specific requirements are. For example, if you will be going back to work but want to be able to check in on the baby, a smart monitor could be the best option. Consider what is important for your family needs. It may seem a good idea to have a video monitor but some personalities could find it more difficult to relax, instead, spending their evening watching the screen.
Alternatively, just hearing the noises emanating from your child’s room could prove to be insufficiently reassuring and if you will be going to check every few minutes, it would be simpler to buy a video baby monitor to start with. Work out what are the biggest priorities and what are desirable features and combine them with your budget.
This approach should narrow the field and allow you to select the perfect monitor to ensure the safety of your child whilst improving the sleep and relaxation for your whole family.