Now that we have decided that we do need a baby monitor, another burning question is born: How to choose the best baby monitor? We’ll find the answer to this question in today’s article, as well as some generic tips and tricks on how to choose the best baby monitor based on your needs.
The most important thing for many parents out there – how expensive is a baby monitor? – should not really be a concern. Basic audio monitors are of very high quality and can be found for cheap and you will find out that in most occasions you don’t really need more than a classic audio only baby monitor. But how to choose the best one?
Things are even more difficult for first time parents, but with so many products available everywhere, it’s difficult to make an educated decision. The most important tip I could offer is to do a bit of research before purchasing your baby monitor. A good place to start, for example, is our own list of the best baby monitors in 2016, where you will find six products that we consider the best of the best and they’re for all budgets and preferences (meaning that we have listed both audio only, as well as video monitors). Either way, the most important thing is to find some educated opinions about the monitor you’re planning to buy in order to make sure that it is what you need.
Remember: it’s almost impossible not to find people who are unhappy with their purchase, but try to read between the lines. If a product is bashed because the packaging was not good or because it didn’t match the color of the nursery, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. If there are a lot of people complaining that there’s poor reception or that the signal drops at all times – then things are more serious and you should, most likely, stay away from it!
What type of monitor do you need?
There are basically two types of baby monitors you can choose from: audio only monitors which allow you to hear your baby, usually when crying and video monitors that also allow you to see them and even control the camera in some cases. But which one do you need?
If it’s about “need” and not “want” you definitely should go for the audio monitor. Sound is the most important thing and best indicator of what your baby is doing. It is also the most important part over night, when it will be the sound that will wake you up and tell you that the baby is crying or just awake and you can decide if it’s time to visit them or they can go back to sleep by themselves. Remember: A baby monitor without sound is virtually useless!
In my opinion, video monitors start to become more of a need when you have more than one child and you want to keep an eye on both or all of them. You won’t be able to spend the entire day watching the camera (even though you might be tempted to believe so during the first day of your purchase of a video baby monitor), so they are not necessarily more useful than simple audio ones. However, you can use the camera to your advantage, including when the baby wakes up: sometimes, they manage to soothe themselves back to sleep and you can see that on the scree of the monitor, which saves you a trip to their room.
Some video baby monitors also allow you to view the live camera feed on your mobile home even when you are far away – like at work – which gives you an advantage, especially if you’ve left them with a babysitter or caregiver and you want to make sure that they don’t do something stupid.
However, for most cases, I believe that you should choose a simple audio monitor. They usually have a better battery life and better range, which means a lot over the years.
The monitor’s range
This is again extremely important and unfortunately very difficult to test without actually getting the baby monitor and seeing it in action. During our research, we found out that the range claimed by the manufacturers can be completely off and it’s not a must that a baby monitor with a claimed range of thousands of feet is actually better than one with lower values.
When it comes to the range a monitor can cover, many elements that vary from house to house and even situation to situation come into play: usually, if there’s an open field, the range claimed by the manufacturers is precise. But when inside, things change a lot because many obstructions come into play: walls are the biggest obstacle and you should know that the more walls the signal has to go through, the weaker it will be. In other words, if your baby’s crib is in a room on the first floor and your bedroom is right above it, the signal would be better than if you were also on the first floor, but three or four rooms away, with three or four sets of walls between you.
Interference with the signal could also be a problem, but we found out that newer models are actually doing better and finding channels where interference with the signal is minimal. Therefore, try and go for newer models because they perform much better in this regard. Just as always, unless you can actually get and test at home multiple monitors, read the reviews or even better the recommendations (like our own) to make the best choice for your living conditions.
Bottom line: If you’re living in a small house or apartment, you shouldn’t expect many problems with the range of your monitor and if you go with a newer model, you shouldn’t expect interference problems either. Do a bit more research if you live in a larger house or there are multiple sets of walls between the child’s room and your own.
Battery life and other features
Battery life is important in the case of baby monitors, but not as important as you might think if you never used one. Most of today’s products in this category offer either rechargeable units or the option to use batteries for the units (or a combination of the two) and you shouldn’t go for anything else. Normally, over the night, you will keep both units plugged in and only carry around one during the day. And since the baby won’t spend 24 hours in their room, this makes it very easy to always have your units charged so just make sure that you have these options and don’t worry too much about claimed battery lives.
Remember: If you travel a lot and are unsure you’ll get access to ways of charging your monitors, it’s best to opt for those that can operate with batteries too. There are models that offer this option together with plugging them in and recharging them, which is ideal if you travel a lot. Also, no matter if you travel or are at home, make sure that you have your monitor charged, batteries full or the unit plugged in so that it won’t turn off over the night if it runs out of battery!
Another extremely important feature, especially if you’re a light sleeper (like I am) is the option for your monitor to activate only when there’s a sound in the room, louder than the ticking of the clock, for example or maybe the background music you leave in your baby’s room or even a ticking clock. A baby monitor that transmits sound continuously might have some sort of static and any sound in the background, when everything’s completely silent during the night, might ruin your sleep, especially if you are a light sleeper.
In my case, believe it or not, it was the ticking of the clock that drove me crazy, eventually forcing me to remove the clock from the baby’s room. Many people said I was crazy to be woken up by that, but there are people who are that sensitive. Bottom line: it’s better to be safe than sorry, so getting a baby monitor that has the feature to only activate when loud sounds are produced (for example, when your baby starts crying) is a good option.
These would be, in my opinion, all the things that you should take into consideration when deciding upon the best baby monitor to buy. And I have to repeat: probably the best thing you can do is to look at recommendations like the ones on our website in order to make sure that you only get a top quality product. And since you’ve read this article, it means that you’re already doing this, so be happy: you will surely buy one of the best monitors out there!