As new parents, we’ve found that the purchase of a baby monitor is unfortunately one of those decisions that’s inevitable. After looking over the millions of options available on the market, I decided that my wife and I had to answer a few key questions before we invested the time involved in narrowing the list and comparing all the features. The questions are as follows:
- What are the important things we want it to do for us? (audio, video, temperature, etc.)
- How often and how long do we expect to use it? More specifically, could it be used again in the same way for baby number 2, or in different way?
- Most important to us all, how much are we willing to spend on such a device?
By answering these questions it made it easier for us to narrow the field.
For purposes of this post, let’s break it down into three different categories for baby monitors: Audio Only, Video with Dispay, and Video Stream for Smart Devices. By creating these segments it made it easier to try and compare the different options and pricing within these categories.
Video Stream for Smart Devices
Now I know what your thinking… Video Stream for Smart Devices all the way right?? Not so fast. While that seems like an obvious choice for most of us, you might be overlooking that fact that we all talk, text, or use on those devices for other things, which makes it more complicated to keep a vigilant eye on our bundles of joy. In other words, it is hard to keep an eye on the screen when you are either on a different app or holding the device up to your ear. That said, most of us have multiple devices that are capable of allowing us to dedicate one to the video stream. Here is what my overall observations were:
- Device versatility (computer, tablet, smart phone)
- Remote access (from the bedroom, backyard, restaurant, or hotel)
- Number of options (trust me on this one)
- Cost (This can get out of hand quickly from $90 – $500)
- No “Talk-Back” feature (The majority of them don’t allow you to communicate back)
- Inconsistant audio (only as good as the signal and the viewing device)
- Inconsistant video quality (depends on the camera, connection, and viewing device)
Here is what I looked for when we went to make my purchase. We wanted one that plugged in to the wall, because dead batteries put you out of commission and you have more important things to worry about when you have an infant. Night vision isn’t just cool, it is a must for something like this – unless you want to train your child to sleep with bright lights on, which we didn’t. Motion and audio sensors, which are very common on infant specific devices, are also a necessity. Be aware that there many home camera systems out there and while they might be more cost effective, have multiple cameras, other features, they are not designed for use with infants and they may not include the features that are listed above.
Video with Display
Because these have been around longer there are more options, with even more variations in quality. The reason we considered this option was the simple fact that we like to use our other devices for other activities that have nothing to do with monitoring a resting child. They are wireless, have their own power supply, and because they are designed for this purpose are better at alerting you of motion or noise than the streaming options. Here are my observations:
- More consistant audio and video quality (A direct signal equals less variance in the quality)
- Additional remote control options (Talk-back, pan, zoom, tilt, audio and vibration alerts)
- Lower cost options (I found some legitimate options for as low as $65)
- The majority have very small screens (most were 2″-3″)
- Limited Range (constant with the range of your cordless home phone)
- Limited or no web streaming (most of these do not connect to the internet, especially the affordable ones)
Bottom line is that these are great for people who don’t consider themselves “tech savvy” and just want the ability to check-in on their resting child. One of the major advantages that cannot be overlook is the Talk-Back option, which is more common in this category. Sometimes, babys just need to hear mommy or daddy’s voice to calm down and go back to resting. This feature allows you to communicate without the hubbub of going in to their room, which at that point you are more likely to pick them up, and we all know it goes down hill from there.
So our first thought was “If we are going to spend the money why would you do audio only?” Boy were we wrong. Turns out there are some seriously great reason why you would choose one from this category. Universally they all will be focused on the quality of the audio, which should not be under estimated. Hearing what is going on in the room is just as important as seeing, if not more. Your baby could be moving very little, but making the early noises that communicate that they are awake, or uncomfortable. More advanced options can even tell if your baby is breathing, which we didn’t find in any of the video options. There are a few brands that specialize in SIDS detection and focus on movement and breathing and we highly recommend you check them out. Here are my general observations:
- Higher quality audio (Less white noise, more subtle details in the audio)
- Very cost effective even with features like vibration alerts and Talk-Back (As low as $20)
- Increased signal range (more like good walkie talkies, than cordless phones)
- Detection of movement and breathing (These come with a sensor pad or clip on monitor)
- Better for use while you are resting (No bright LCD screen needed)
- No streaming options (Audio only has less benefit here)
- Its not video (Some of us want to see your child resting peacefully, as well as when they aren’t)
- Detection of motion and breathing is expensive ($80-$200 for even the most basic models)
Audio options are great for the majority of us. They are the most affordable and achieve the same basic task, but just in a more simplistic way. While some of us want to go all out and get the cool new video technology it is the audio option that is the old standby. It isn’t modern, but it more than gets the job done.
In the end we found ourselves purchasing a streaming video option and an very affordable audio only option. We both work and travel a fair amount, which make the streaming video so appealing to us when we are on the road. We also found that the purchase of an affordable audio only option was better for most situations, but especially evenings where it only impacted our sleep when the baby needed us.