Whether you’re gazing in adoration or staring in bewilderment, you’re going to spend a lot of time looking at your baby. With the right baby monitor, you can maintain that vigilance from the next room or even the next town.
Baby monitors have evolved quite a bit from 1937’s Radio Nurse, although radio frequency audio systems remain a great choice for parents who want a simple solution. Additional features, like video and vital sign tracking, can do wonders for a parent’s peace of mind. Before you pick a monitor, though, consider which type makes the most sense for your family’s needs:
- Wi-Fi: A growing category of monitors use Wi-Fi to transmit a video feed to your smartphone. Apps can be glitchy, however, and you might need your phone screen and its battery for other things. Wi-Fi cameras, nevertheless, remain the only choice for parents and caretakers who want to see their child while farther away than the end of the driveway.
- Radio frequency (RF): Baby monitors are a case in which simpler technology has its advantages. Babysitters and grandmothers might not want (or be able) to download a dedicated app. You can be more confident in someone’s ability to use a simple RF monitor. RF also circumvents any security concerns you might have about Wi-Fi cameras.
- Audio-only: For you “Cool Hand Luke’s” of the parenting world, there’s this eminently affordable option. Maybe it’s your third kid, or perhaps it’s better if you can’t see your child waving his little fingers in front of his face to stave off sleep. The lower cost makes these a smart choice as a backup monitor if a high-tech one poops out, or a caretaker can’t use an app.
- Physiological: These monitors use additional equipment track vitals, like heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. They also keep track of sleep/wake cycles. Some parents might find this level of monitoring nightmarish. Others might find the additional monitoring comforting (and parents of a newborn can often use all the comfort they can get). This is especially true for parents of premature babies—who have greater health risks—and chronically-ill children. It’s important to note, though, that the Journal of the American Medical Association says there’s no evidence that these types of monitors are lifesaving.
Best for Most People: Eufy SpaceView ($160)
A relatively new entrant to the market, Eufy’s SpaceView has, nevertheless, amassed a solid fan base for its quality hardware, dependability, and balance of features. The RF camera and monitor have a range of 460 feet. The monitor’s LCD screen is five inches with a 720p HD resolution. Controls on the monitor allow you to pan the camera 330 degrees from side-to-side, and 110 degrees up and down. Night vision ensures you can see your baby clearly in a pitch-black room, and a thermostat lets you keep track of the temperature. You can also speak through the camera, although small children aren’t always comforted by a disembodied voice. You can set an ambient noise level at which you want to be alerted, which allows you to mute soft stirrings or gentle baby talk. Additional cameras are available for $100.00 each, and you can connect up to four.
Best Budget Video Monitor: Wyze Cam Pan ($38)
When it comes to Wi-Fi cameras, there’s no reason you have to go with a dedicated baby monitoring product. You can save quite a bit of money if you step outside the baby-industrial complex. For this purpose, we recommend the Wyze Cam Pan, a camera that scored an 8/10 in our review. You can sync the app with multiple cameras, and they include night vision, 1080p image quality, and (as the name suggests) the ability to pan 360 degrees (more than even the rowdiest infant should require).
Best Premium Monitor: The Owlet Cam ($149)
The Owlet Cam is a sleekly designed, 1080p camera that can stand on its own or attach via magnet to a wall-mounted base. You can adjust the camera manually, but you can’t pan through the app. A 130-degree wide-angle lens should be enough to cover the entire crib, however. The camera has HD night vision, two-way talk, and a temperature sensor. Owlet’s app also encrypts the stream to your phone. In addition to the in-app video stream, you can turn on a background audio stream. We picked the Owlet as a premium option not only because of its great camera but also because you can upgrade it with the Smart Sock, our pick for monitoring vital signs.
Best Physiologic Monitor: The Owlet Smart Sock ($299)
The Owlet Smart Sock ($299) is the top-of-the-line for parents who want as much information as possible about their infants. The Velcro foot monitor tracks heart rate, blood oxygen saturation levels, and sleep data. A separate base glows green when readings are okay, but if heart rate or oxygen levels drop out of the preset range, the base uses light and sound alerts.
Again, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated there’s no evidence these types of monitors reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But there’s value in anything that helps ease the tremendous anxiety of parenting a newborn. Owlet claims that “94 percent of parents report better sleep quality while using the Owlet Smart Sock.”
“Ha-ha!” laughed parents of infants everywhere. Better is a relative term here, as no amount of technology is going to spare any of you from the sleep deprivation wrought by newborns. But, every little bit certainly helps.
Best Audio-only Monitor: VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor ($38)
VTech’s DM221 Audio Baby Monitor uses Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) radio frequency to give you a clear audio feed. The handset, which can be looped on to a belt, holds an 18-hour charge or can take two, AA batteries. You can even set this to silent, and the handset will vibrate if noise is detected. The operating range goes up to 1,000 feet, although that drops depending on the number of walls it has to go through.
Given the price, this could also be a good option as a backup in homes that use a Wi-Fi-connected, app-based video monitor, for babysitters, or even while traveling.