So, you are expecting a baby? Congratulations! This is such a fabulously exciting time. We appreciate that it can be a little daunting, but we hope mostly exciting. You have a few months before junior arrives to be super organised and prepare as much as possible for your impending arrival, including working your way through the sometimes overwhelming and seemingly endless list of kit for your new baby.
A new baby kit list is vast, with essentials including the pram, cot, car seat, steriliser and of course, the baby monitor. Baby monitors, allow you to listen to and, or, view your little one as they sleep (or don’t in some cases) and give you peace of mind that they are safe. As with everything these days, there are so many options making it difficult to choose the one that suits you best.
Here we will look at the different types of baby monitors and then explore more closely the features they include such as audio quality, image quality, range, and battery life.
What Type of Baby Monitor Should I Buy?
As with most products, don’t always assume that the most expensive is the best. The costlier models may offer more features but you have to ask yourself if you really need them. With so many items to buy before baby comes along and then an extra mouth to feed once he or she arrives, you really do not want to be spending more money than is necessary.
Firstly, to break it down, there are 2 main types of baby monitors; Audio and Video, In this article, we are looking at how both the audio and video options work and the pros and cons of each. The monitor types are self-explanatory and are as follows;
- Audio Baby Monitor An audio baby monitor allows you to remotely
listen to your baby via a radio transmitter containing a microphone. There are additional features available but what you really should consider here is the clarity of the audio and the range.
- Video Baby Monitor Also known as a ‘baby cam’, a video baby monitor
contains a microphone to allow you to listen to your infant and additionally, a video camera allowing you to see them too. Video baby monitors can work via radio transmission but with the main feature being the camera, most would be hooked up to your wifi to provide you with clearer image quality. Video monitors can even be linked to your smartphone, TV or a separate remote unit.
With most baby monitors you can choose from radio frequency models (although this is usually limited to audio-only models), that are designed to operate in a similar way to walkie talkies or to have them connected to your home wifi network. Do not forget to ensure your home network is fully secured.
The radio frequency, audio only models, are perfectly fine if you just require a listening device and indeed some parents, quite understandably, do not wish to place a camera in their child’s room. Although these models work via a radio frequency, they can still be quite sophisticated and most now offer additional features such as a talkback option, temperature monitors and the facility to play a lullaby or calming music to your baby to soothe them further.
Monitors that feature cameras are now extremely popular, especially as baby becomes more mobile and is likely to move around in its cot, bed and eventually the whole room. The more sophisticated cameras allow you to pan the room and zoom in should you wish. Although not for everyone, the camera option may provide some parents with extra reassurance.
There are camera options that also feature a movement sensor, which whilst providing even more reassurance to some, may cause anxiety in others. In these models, a sensor pad is usually placed under the mattress and will send an alert should your baby not move for a selected period of time. Some new parents would find this reassuring but for others, it could cause extra worry. These are marketed as a tool to protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), however, research shows there is no evidence to support this. As much as babies need their sleep to grow, develop and thrive, parents also need their sleep in order to function and care for a baby, in which case, a sensor type monitor may not be for you.
Only got 5 minutes?
Most would assume that baby monitors are a relatively new invention but in fact, they have been around for quite some time. The very first baby monitor was the Radio Nurse, developed in 1937 by Eugene F. McDonald and designed by Isamu Noguchi for Zenith Radio Corp. Of course, they have come a long way since 1937 and the models on the market nowadays can do so much more than just allow you to listen to your infant.
The basic audio baby monitors are usually very good. Simple and easy to
use, they do what they say on the tin! The audio monitors come in 2 parts, 1
stays in the nursery and 1 stays with the parent, many have belt clips so are
portable as you move around the house or venture into the garden. Some
models come with night lights, lullaby options and talk back so you are able to soothe your baby gently through the radio.
Key points to look for when purchasing an audio monitor are sound clarity, range and battery life. You may, however, prefer an audio model where you can turn the sound off but be alerted to your child’s vocals via flashing lights. Maybe an option if you are trying to watch something on the TV or do some work.
Many of the models on the market today come with DECT interference free
communication ensuring that you won’t miss a thing with some claiming to work up to a range of 450 meters, and have a battery life of 18 plus hours. All models come with a plug in adapter also.
Video models are far more sophisticated, allowing you to view your sleeping infant as well as hearing them. Again, they mostly come in 2 parts, a baby unit including the camera which stays in your baby’s room and a unit, sometimes portable but not always due to size, that you can place in another room with you. The camera sends pictures back to the parent unit so you are able to see, as well as hear if your baby stirs or becomes distressed. Smart Wifi Monitors have become very popular of late, allowing videos and images to be sent directly to your smartphone or tablet, even when away from the home. You would need to download the associated app on your phone or tablet and this can work anywhere where there is decent Wifi. Smart Monitors allow you to share your video or stills with friends and family by sending the images from your phone to them via SMS text message, email, WhatsApp, etc. A tool that people seem to like.
The main areas to consider when purchasing a video baby monitor are again audio and screen clarity and also range. If the lights are dimmed or off in your baby’s room, you need to be able to get a clear picture, many come with infrared lighting to ensure full visibility during the night. There are further considerations but that would mostly depend on the cost of the model you choose, for example, cameras that pan the room and zoom in and differing screen sizes on the parent unit.
Once you have decided what type of baby monitor will work best for you, you can then decide, based on the features and your budget, which monitor to purchase. A good tip also is to make sure you have it fully set up and test it prior to baby arriving home. One less thing to worry about and you can fully concentrate on your new family member.
Do We Really Need A Baby Monitor?
Baby monitors are a high priority on most expectant parent’s list of essential items. Some families however may feel that they do not need one as they may have a small house, thin walls or feel that they will hear their child should they make noise or stir. Even if this is the case, there are still reasons why you would benefit from a baby monitor;
- You may wish to close the nursery door to prevent pets from entering the room, cats and dogs especially do love to cosy up in warm spots and against humans.
- If you are hard of hearing, you may use a monitor with visual indicators that the baby is crying or coughing.
- Elderly relatives babysitting, would they hear the baby?
- You may wish to do some gardening or simply sit in the garden or attend to laundry, would you hear your baby if you were outside the house?
- If you are trying to get your baby into a strict routine, ready for when you return to work, you can close the door on them to ensure they are not disturbed by you downstairs/other people in the house
- Your baby might not settle down straight away, you can soothe them via your video or audio monitor without having to go into their room. Some models allow you to play calming music to them via the monitor too.
- You may wish to establish a routine with your baby for if/when you return to work or to fit in with family life for example. You can time naps on monitors and some models come with a ‘wake up’ function, almost like an alarm to wake your baby from his/her slumber.
Are Baby Monitors Safe?
Can my baby monitor be hacked?
Virtually every baby monitor can be hacked but it is unlikely.
Radio Monitors – to tap into a radio monitor, a hacker would need to be close to the signal and know which frequency to communicate via. Most modern radio monitor manufacturers have taken steps to make this almost impossible and use encrypted channels.
WiFi Monitors – connect to your home network which is connected to the internet. Potentially, anyone in the world can hack into your device but there are steps you can take to mitigate the risks;
Secure your wireless router:
- Update your router’s firmware
- Disable remote access to your router
- Use a strong password for your WiFi network
Secure your baby monitor:
- Register your monitor with the manufacturer to receive software updates
- Remove default login details and set a new, strong password
- Disable remote access
We do understand that it may be essential for you to have remote access, via your smartphone for example. Whilst this is the least secure option, and one we would not recommend, you should take steps to reduce these risks. Basically, you should ensure you secure your baby monitor the same way you would secure both your computer and your smartphone, also limit as much as possible the broadcasting of video feed outside of your own personal network. By taking these steps, you will greatly reduce any risk of your baby monitors being hacked.
Baby Monitor Cord Safety
Baby monitors are purchased to give parents reassurance and peace of mind. You need to be mindful where the monitor is placed in the room to ensure the attached cords are well out of the way of your baby or toddler. There have sadly been cases of strangulation from baby monitor cords in the past.
The recommendation is to place the listening device at least 3 feet away from where your baby sleeps. Putting the monitor on a shelf or wall mounting the unit will also reduce risk. Some parents prefer also to box cables in, particularly for when your child becomes more mobile and inquisitive.
Frequently Asked Questions
The expensive models are not necessarily better, they most likely just have more features. There are so many different manufacturers of baby monitors on the market, all stating that theirs is the one you need and the best. A tip is to ask yourself what features you really need and then take it from there. Make sure you read reviews of tried and tested models to help you choose one that suits.
Some manufacturers do offer the option to have more than one listening device/camera linked up to your parent unit. Useful if you have more than one child. Look for the models that offer this.
It is possible to hack baby monitors but also unlikely. There are steps you can take to reduce the risks of this, such as using strong passwords and turning remote access off on your home WiFi. Monitor security is something that all manufacturers take very seriously and have taken steps to make the risks low. Ensure you fully read the manufacturers handbook that comes with your monitor.