September 16, 2009

How to Buy a Baby Monitor

Introduction to Baby Monitors

Nothing can give you more peace of mind than a good baby monitor – that is, short of standing over your child’s crib while they sleep. The moment your baby cries, whimpers or even stirs, you’ll be able to hear them via a baby monitor and come to their aid. And it’s not just about peace of mind; it’s about nabbing a little bit of time for yourself. A baby monitor allows you to go about your day while still keeping one eye (or at least an ear) on your child. There will be plenty of time for minding your own business when your child is older, but during the early days, enjoy this opportunity to eavesdrop with impunity!

Baby Monitor Buying Guide Outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Your Basic Choices
    1. audio monitors
    2. video monitors
  3. General Guidance
  4. Features to Look for
  5. Usage Tips

your basic choices

While features and options vary widely by model, there are two basic types of baby monitors:

audio monitors

Listen for stirring or crying so you’ll know the moment your baby wakes up. Most include a visual sound display so you can still be alerted even if you’ve turned down the volume too low to hear.

video monitors

With a video monitor, you never have to wonder whether your child is sleeping. A small video display lets you keep an eye on your child just like if you were standing right there, and they also offer night vision so you’re never in the dark.

general guidance

Monitors have a base transmitter for the baby’s room and a receiving unit for the parent. Depending on the model, the receiver either stays in one location, such as your bedroom, or is portable, so you can take it wherever you need. Obviously, the portable receivers give you greater flexibility.

Monitors are prone to interference, especially in densely populated areas. Try a more powerful monitor — a 900 MHz/2.4Ghz model is good — and look for a unit with multiple channels. The only way you can really tell if you’ll get a good, interference-free operating range is to try it out at home, so be sure to save your receipt until you’ve tested it.

features to look for

  • Intercom. The sound of your voice can be reassuring for a crying infant, and, as your child grows into a toddler, the intercom will allow you to communicate from different rooms.
  • Rechargeable battery or AC adapter. Don’t run out of power! Look for monitors with rechargeable batteries and/or AC Adapters.
  • Out-of-battery signal. These make sure you know if your monitor is running out of juice so you can plug it in.
  • Out-of-range signal. If you’ve wandered too far for your handset to pick up the signal, an audio alert will let you know right away.
  • Thermostat. You should always pay attention to the temperature in your baby’s nursery, and a monitor that includes a temperature reading can save an extra purchase.
  • Motion sensor. Placed under the crib mattress, they signal an alarm if the baby doesn’t stir for a longer-than-normal period.

baby monitor usage tips

  • Monitors don’t replace supervision; common sense regarding parental care still applies.
  • Don’t be surprised if you pick up other voices (often neighbors, so be careful). Remember, changing channels can help. For more privacy, consider a digital monitor with encoded signals.
  • This is an electrical gadget; avoid water and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Want to really be able to keep an eye on things? A video monitor can also double as a nanny cam.

This baby monitor gear guide was written by Ali Wing, baby product expert, author of giggle guide to baby gear and founder of giggle.  Follow Ali on Twitter and the Giggle Fan Page on Facebook.