One of the most important pieces of baby equipment that we’ve purchased is our baby monitor. When baby is sleeping, day or night, it’s so important to be able to hear what’s going on in the room. Even better if your monitor includes a camera, so you can actually see what’s going on, too. But of all the different monitors, with all sorts of features differing on each one, how do you choose the one that’s right for your family? Here I have compiled a few of my thoughts and experiences with monitors.
An expectant mother asked me “In an ideal world, what monitor would you suggest?” I can’t honestly answer that, as everyone’s “ideal” is quite a bit different. Here are some of the features that monitors may or may not include, some of which may be important to you, and some of which might not make a difference.
Plug-in or Battery operated?
Some monitors function strictly by being plugged in, while others have the cord-free option of battery power. This goes for both parent (the part you’ll keep with you to listen) and baby pieces (the piece that stays with baby to pick up sounds). If you want to be able to move around and keep the parent piece on you where there is no where to plug in (gardening, yardwork, sitting on the patio or around a campfire, cleaning the car, etc) you’ll want to be able to go cordless and have a battery in the parent part. Preferably, this battery will be rechargeable when plugged in with the cord, but this is not always the case – check with each specific monitor. Thankfully most parent pieces have this option.
Fewer monitors have the option of the infant piece working off of a battery. When we replaced our no-longer-working monitor earlier this year, this was the main feature I was looking for. Why? Because we like to go camping, stay at the powerless family cabin, and have other occasions that arise where we can’t plug a cord into an outlet. This time we wanted to make sure that all pieces had a battery option.
Unfortunately, the model we went with (the only one we could find that was cordless in one quick shopping trip – Safety 1st Glow & Go) doesn’t run off a rechargeable battery that can be filled back up by plugging it in, so we go through more batteries than I would like. This means we always have to be prepared with extras when we go camping or to the cabin, and more waste is produced. Also, I don’t put in a new battery each time (obviously) and this particular model doesn’t really let you know when the baby piece isn’t working due to a dead/low battery (although I’ve picked up a couple hints), so I’m constantly going to check on her. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, either, but I’d prefer if I could feel easier knowing the monitor is always charged and working right without having to keep checking it.
Number of parent pieces
Most monitors only have one parent piece, but some have two so that mom and dad (or dad and dad, mom and mom, or single-parent can double up if that’s the way your family rolls), each have a way of hearing when baby wakes up. This is great if you’re both busy doing different things while baby is napping but want to keep all ears open, especially if the parent pieces have the option of talking to each other without going through the baby piece. Our first monitor had this option, and it was great for the times when one of us needed to say “Hey Hun, I’m popping in the shower. If baby wakes up, can you get her?”. Or whatever the situation may be.
Parent “talk-back” feature
More important than talking between two parent-pieces is the option of talking back to the baby’s monitor through your parent piece. When baby wakes up screaming, suddenly aware that they are alone and in the dark, it can be very helpful to be able to calm them down with your voice while you make your way to them. It’s amazing how much reassurance just your voice can give a child.
Think about the size of your house, and if/how much time you’ll spend outside. Each monitor has a range of distance that the parent part will work away from the infant part. If your house is more mansion than shack, or if you plan on doing a little gardening or whatnot while baby sleeps, you probably want to make sure you get a monitor with the appropriate long-range distance. If you live in a small house, like ourselves, where you can hear baby’s cries on waking, you might not even need a monitor. Although, having one on hand for the days that your little one is sick and you really want to know they’re alright when they’re out of your view napping, being able to very clearly hear any little sound is definitely helpful.
The monitor we’re using right now has two frequency options, another difference from our first. This option is really nice to have, as I didn’t realize how much interference a monitor can get from TVs, Christmas lights, neighbours phones, and all manner of other electronics. When set on one frequency, our monitor doesn’t relay sound properly to the parent piece (where we live anyways), and instead picks up random music and conversations from what must be our neighbours (don’t worry, Kate, we haven’t heard any juicy gossip from your phone line… yet). On the second frequency, everything is clear as a bell. I don’t know how you’d know prior to buying a monitor if the specific frequency it runs on will work in your house, but hopefully if it doesn’t, the merchant would graciously refund a return.
Night Lights & Sounds
Some infant pieces have a nightlight built into them that can be turned on to shed a little light on your babe. Some even have the option of playing soft sounds or music to help soothe baby to sleep. If you’re thinking about getting a sound machine (these work great for some babies), maybe this would be a good feature for you instead.
Alarms & Indicators
As I mentioned above, the monitor we have now doesn’t adequately tell you if it’s working or not. This is a feature I really wish we had, but such is life. There are lights that go on if a sound is being made, or if there is too much interference, but it’s really unreliable on our model – especially if the battery is low. As the packaging on ours made claims about the indicator lights, I don’t even know what to tell you in looking for one that actually works. Trial and error? Read reviews?
Audio, Video and Extras
The one thing I really, really wish our monitor had is video. I would be so much less worried about my sleeping tot if I could quickly glance at her and see her sleeping and breathing and looking content. Alas, I am cheap, and was looking specifically for a battery-operated monitor. I’m sure if I had hundreds to spend on a monitor, I could find one that had both, but my shopping time was limited, as was my bank account. I really suggest this option for others, though, if the whole battery deal isn’t a big thing for you, and if your budget allows some extra spending in this area.
There are also other little “extras”, like the pad sensors on some monitors that are supposed to send an alarm if the baby stops breathing, or if it detects carbon monoxide, or sensors that display the temperature of the room. In my limited opinion, these things don’t really work and create more hassle than it saves with false alarms and loud beeping (isn’t the point to get the baby to stay asleep?). If you’re really keen on knowing that your new baby is in fact alive, there are some cool little heart-beat/breathing monitors that clip right onto the baby’s diaper or fit on his foot like a sock, and seem to be more reliable.
So there you have it. Do you have any more questions I haven’t cleared up? Feel free to comment below or send me an email using the form at the bottom of the sidebar (or lower down on a mobile device – everything always looks so different on a mobile). Have I helped you become more informed and aware of what it is that you want to look for in a monitor? If so, might I suggest that you click some of these little buttons beneath this post to share it with others that might benefit from these tips, too?