Short of standing over your child's crib while she sleeps, nothing can give you more peace of mind than a good baby monitor. The moment your baby cries, whimpers, or even stirs, you'll be able to hear her and come to her aid. And it's not only about peace of mind — it's about nabbing a little bit of time for yourself. A 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!
your basic choices
While features and options vary widely by model, there are two basic types of baby monitor.
These allow you to listen for stirring or crying, so you'll know the moment your baby wakes up. Most include a visual sound display, which will alert you even if you've turned the volume down too low to hear.
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 as if you were standing right there. These monitors also offer night vision, so you're never in the dark.
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 indicate if your monitor is running out of juice so you can plug it in.
- Out-of-range signal. If you've wandered too far from 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, these sensors signal an alarm if the baby doesn't stir for a longer-than-normal period.
- 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; keep it clear of water and follow the manufacturer's guidelines.
- Want to really keep an eye on things? A video monitor can also double as a nanny-cam.