In this baby monitor buying guide, I share the various types of baby monitors and the 13 factors to consider when purchasing one.
As a new parent, you realize quickly that you need a baby monitor to help monitor the baby, especially when they are out of nursery or when you are away from home. When you first start searching, you’ll be spoilt for choices as there are hundreds of baby monitors available in the market that promise the best baby-monitoring experience. While the shop attendants may help, it is of great importance for you to understand how to choose the best baby monitor.
Types of Baby Monitors: Analog & Digital Monitors
Analog baby monitors are less common now as they are prone to interference and their signals can be hijacked. Analog monitors send signals from the baby monitor camera to the receiver/parent unit without any encryption. There are a few remaining analog baby monitor brands and we don’t recommend them anymore as digital monitors have better quality – sound, audio, and security.
Digital baby monitors encode the signals as they travel from the camera to the receiver/parent unit. We recommend digital monitors as they have improved signal transmission and you’ll easily tell good quality audio or video relayed by a digital monitor. Most baby monitor brands you find on Amazon or on any major retail are digital monitors.
There are indeed hundreds of digital monitors and it’s still not easy to choose just by going for digital ones.
The best and the simplest way to choose the best digital baby monitor is checking on the features of the baby monitor, which are the audio quality, the video quality, the temperature-checking, talk-back, music and lullabies, movement sensor, remote-control, portability, long-range, Light-Up Sound Indicator, Battery Life, Pan/Tilt/Zoom, and WIFI functions. You should also consider the size of your house, your budget, and the safety issues of the baby monitor before making a baby monitor purchase.
Features to Consider when Picking the Best Baby Monitor
We discuss how to evaluate the features of a baby monitor below to enhance your decision about the best baby monitor for your baby and you.
The Audio Quality
Choose a baby monitor that has clear audio. After all, the sound is one of the most essential and basic functions of a baby monitor because it alerts you when a baby is fussing or crying, prompting you to check on it fast. All baby monitors we’ve reviewed on this site have this audio function and all monitors since the Zenith monitor in 1937 have had this feature.
A number of baby monitors that are ideal for deaf parents use LED lights or vibrating alarm to replace the audio feature. You can check out these alternative notifications options suitable for deaf parents. If you are shopping for a regular monitor for the first time, watch out for inexpensive brands that are known to have terrible static noise/background noise.
A customer of VTech DM111, the most inexpensive audio baby monitor explains the static noise that the monitor has:
Baby monitors use three key technologies, the DECT technology that utilizes 1.9 GHz frequency, the FHSS technology that utilizes 2.4 GHz frequency, and WiFi technology that uses 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. Monitors that use the 2.4GHz frequency often have interference with other devices such as a microwave that also utilizes the same frequency.
Note: choosing a baby monitor that filters out white noise is an added advantage because it will only pick out baby noises instead of background noises.
Video and picture quality
Choose a baby monitor that provides you with explicit videos if you prefer to use a video baby monitor. To check the baby monitor’s video quality read the baby monitors specs and take a keen interest in the camera specs and the screen/monitor specs. Older baby monitors use VGA display which has lower resolution compared to some of the recent brands that have 720p to 1080p resolution. Consider getting baby monitors that display in high resolution. Check out these 1080p HD monitors.
The image below shows the difference in quality between a 720p and 480p resolution. The 720p HD image is 3 times clearer than the 480p image.
Also, ensure that your video baby monitor has the infrared function to allow you to monitor your baby at night
Finally, choose a video baby monitor that provides you with remote access if you wish to watch your baby while away from home.
Note: A video baby monitor that gives you remote access must have a WIFI function
Choose a baby monitor that displays the temperature of the baby’s room because it will help you to maintain the right temperature of the baby’s room. Ultimately, the right temperature will help your baby breathe better, relax better, and sleep well, which will minimize her fuss.
Choose a baby monitor that has a talkback function. Research studies have found that talking to your baby is important for building your baby’s brain. In the first three years of your baby, the brain triples in size and gets complex as it develops and interacts with the world and the mother’s voice is especially important at this stage.
A 2016 Study by Stanford University School of Medicine found that “a child’s brain is far more engaged when the baby hears the sound of the mother.“
The study went on to explain:
The strength of connections between the brain regions activated by the voice of a child’s own mother predicted that child’s social communication abilities, the study also found.Stanford University School of Medicine Study
Another study found that talkative parents have kids with better cognitive skills. These studies help make the case for parents to get closer to their infants by actively or inactively engaging them in conversations.
That is, buy a baby monitor that you can hear your little one’s sound, and you can talk or sing to it. The talkback function is crucial because it allows you to soothe your baby before picking it or soothing it to sleep even at a distance. Check out these 2-way talk baby monitors.
Music and Lullabies
Choose a baby monitor that has music and lullabies; the music will keep your child entertained while alone, and the lullabies will ease the process of putting your baby to sleep.
Several baby monitor brands that are in the market in 2020 have pre-recorded lullabies that you can play for your baby. Before you make a purchase, take note of the number of pre-recorded lullabies for non-WiFi monitors, and for Wifi monitors, ensure that the baby monitor app allows you to download online lullabies online.
I have put together 10 baby monitors with good lullabies here.
Ensure that you buy a baby monitor that has a movement sensor function because it alerts you when the baby does not move for long periods.
Other baby monitors with baby movement functions alert you when the moves beyond areas of his cot that are safe. For example, a baby monitor with a movement sensor will inform you when it moves to the edge of its bed or when it stands.
Note: A baby monitor that has a movement sensor often comes connected to a pad that you place under your baby’s mattress.
Choose a baby monitor that has a moveable parent unit to allow you to watch your baby from anywhere in the house as long as you are in range.
Pick a baby monitor that has a reliable long ranger to allow you to monitor your baby even from downstairs or in the backyard. Otherwise, buying a baby monitor that has functions in a short-range will only be helpful when you are close to the baby’s room. Check out our list of long-range monitors here
A baby monitor with a long-range function will transmit a baby’s audio or video clearly within 89 meters away from the baby’s room.
Buy a baby monitor that has a remote-control function because it will allow you to control features such as music, lullabies, and night lights without going to the baby’s room.
Light-Up Sound Indicator Functions
Choose a baby monitor that alerts you of your little one’s sounds by lighting the parent unit. The light-up sound indicator function is essential and significant because it informs you of your baby’s needs even when distracted with other activities such as vacuuming.
Buy a baby monitor that has a long battery life to ensure that you will monitor your baby for long periods without interruptions. You can know the baby monitor’s battery life by checking the storage capacity of the batteries that the baby monitor uses. A baby monitor such as Vava baby monitor with 4,500 mAh battery storage capacity will last for up to 24 hours, longer than a 2900 mAh battery storage capacity used by Eufy Spaceview S baby monitor.
Several cheap baby monitors such as VTech DM111 and DM221 cost less than $30 but users have found them to have a super short battery life of fewer than 3 hours. After several months of use, you will actually start using the AC power since the battery wouldn’t last for more than 30 minutes.
For example, buy a baby monitor that has a battery life of over 12 hours instead of buying one that has a batter life of 3-4 hours.
Choose a baby monitor that is pan, tilt, and zoom enabled to enhance the baby-monitoring experience.
The pan and tilt functions in a baby monitor allow you to move the device side to side and to move the camera angle either downward or upward, remotely, which enables you to watch the entire baby’s room.
The zoom function allows you to zoom in or out of different angles of the baby and the baby’s room, which enables you to confirm that the baby is safe.
Choose a baby monitor that supports WIFI connection to allow you to watch your baby from anywhere.
Note: Use a unique password and change it often to minimize the risk of hackers monitoring your precious one and your home, which can result in a security breach.
Finally, ensure that the cost of the baby monitor you choose to buy matches your budget, is safe for baby’s use, and it is easy to install and use. Make sure that you buy a baby monitor that is functional when not installed on the baby crib to prevent the baby from tampering with it, which can fall on it or electrocute it. Also, for wireless baby monitors to avoid strangulation of the baby when it reaches the device.
Please read our guide on wifi vs non-wifi baby monitors to know which one to pick.
I am Ashley Davis, a mom of three kids and the editor here at MotherhoodHQ (formerly 10BabyGear). I have been a parent since 2011 and have been doing full-time consulting as a baby sleep expert since 2019. When I am not researching or testing the next baby gear hitting the market, you’ll find me teaching my toddlers a trick or two – especially over the last few months with the lockdown. I hope you’ll find my guides and reviews helpful as you make your next purchase decision. If you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.