Buying Guide - Baby Monitors

Types

Motorola audio monitorBaby monitors fall into two main categories: audio only and audio/video combined.  Each type works on a designated radio frequency band in order to transmit sounds from your baby's room to the receiver.  There is typically a single unit for the child's room and at least one parental receiver unit.

Prices can vary widely, with some top of the line models costing hundreds of pounds, though most quality baby monitor manufacturers such as Motorola do offer quite affordable units that perform well.  Generally, a higher price tag indicates loads of extra features, such as HD colour monitors, vibration alerts and motion sensors that go right into the baby's crib.  However, don't base your decision on price alone, as even the more expensive models may still experience annoying interference, faulty technology or muddled reception at long range.

Audio Baby Monitor: You will certainly hear your baby's cries with an audio monitor.  Many audio-only monitors, such as those produced by Angel Care, also include indicator lights that let you "see" when your baby is crying - the louder baby cries, the more lights are activated.

Audio/Video Baby Monitor: For added security, audio/video monitors include a small camera that can be mounted to the wall or a tabletop in baby's room.  When directed at the baby's cot, the camera will transmit images to the video monitor on the parental receiver.

Analogue Baby Monitor: Traditional analogue monitors operate on a specific radio frequency band, just like a radio.  Signals are sent from the baby monitor to the receiver via a single transmission line.  These are the most popular kind of baby monitor, but they are also the most susceptible to interference from other devices like cordless phones and radios that may be tuned to the same frequency.

Digital Baby Monitor: While a digital baby monitor also operates on frequency bands, these encode signals as they travel from the baby monitor to the receiver.  This makes it virtually impossible for sounds to be heard by others.  There are several digital models, and many other baby monitor manufacturers are now coming on board with digital models of their own.

 

Features

Baby video monitorFrequency Band: The closer your baby monitor frequency is to the frequencies of other devices in your home - such as your cordless phone or radio - the more likely you are to experience annoying static and interference.  To combat this issue, many baby monitor manufacturers have begun to offer models that operate on frequencies that have less traffic, which can improve privacy and reduce interference.

Handheld Parental Unit: Both digital and analogue baby monitor manufacturers are now offering portable parental units.  This new technology is particularly useful for audio/video types of baby monitor because you don't have to remain in one place to view video of your baby.  Screen sizes on these portable baby monitor models do vary, however, so be sure the screen is large enough for you to see your child properly.

Night Vision: Though it sounds much too high-tech for a baby monitor, night vision audio/video monitors are actually quite popular.  These use infrared light to let you see your baby clearly as he/she sleeps peacefully in a darkened room.  You can even find night vision models with a night-light that can be activated from your parental unit, so you don't have to disturb your baby if he/she stirs in the middle of the night and just needs some help finding a favourite soother in the dark.

Temperature Sensor: This handy technology alerts you when the temperature in baby's room is too hot or too cold.  A baby monitor with an integrated temperature sensor can make it possible for your baby to sleep more soundly in the ideal room temperature.

Motion and Sound Sensor: Baby monitor manufacturers are now focusing on introducing products that can sense motion and sound right from your child's crib.  These monitors intuitively filter out normal sounds like music or white noise machines and will only alert you when they pick up abnormal sounds like a baby rolling over or crying.  Though some new parents may not get enough peace of mind from this type of baby monitor, experienced mums and dads might really appreciate not having to hear every little noise from baby's room.

Sound Indicator Lights: This is a common feature on most audio baby monitor models.  Lights turn on when the baby makes noise; the more noise baby makes, the more lights are illuminated on the parental unit.  Sound indicator lights on a baby monitor make it possible to keep tabs on your sleeping child in a noisy room or when the volume is turned down on your parental receiver.

Low-Battery Indicator: If your baby monitor relies on batteries, you will want a low-battery indicator so you never run out of power.

Out-of-Range Indicator: Another common feature, the out-of-range indicator lets you know when your baby monitor is no longer able to pick up sounds.  If you live in a large house, like to take your baby monitor outdoors or have had trouble with other monitors going out of range, a baby monitor with an out-of-range indicator light or sound alert could be very beneficial.

Extra Parental Receiver: This baby monitor feature is invaluable if your child naps during the day or you simply want the freedom to move about the house whilst still keeping on the alert.  Multiple parental units let you keep one receiver in your bedroom and the other in the kitchen or living room so you are never out of earshot.  Many monitors feature multiple parental units.

Expandability: Some baby monitor makers allow you to add cameras and receivers to your original system.  This is very helpful if you have more than one child or want a more comprehensive system to cover multiple areas of your home, such as a playroom and nursery.

Connectivity: Have you ever wanted to watch your baby sleep on the big screen?  You can with certain types of baby monitor.  Some audio/video monitors let you connect the device to your television so you can watch your child as well as your favourite programmes.

 

Safety

Baby monitors pose little safety risk to children, although some questions have arisen lately about the possible risks that digital baby monitor technology poses to very young children.

A baby monitor may emit a small level of electro-magnetic energy, just like a mobile phone or microwave.  Children have been shown to be more vulnerable to this energy than adults because of their immature nervous systems; some experts believe this leads to higher levels of absorption in the tissue of young children.

There are a few companies that manufacture baby monitors that use digital signals to encode sounds that pass between the mobile unit located in the baby's room and the parental base unit.  It is widely accepted that digital technology generates less interference than analogue transmission.

However, digital signals are pulsed (analogue signals are transmitted more evenly over frequency bands), and it is this sudden spike of input that has some researchers concerned.  These pulses seem to be more harmful at lower levels than their analogue counterparts.  Still, baby monitor manufacturers are quick to point out that these digital transmissions are not harmful to children.

As one baby monitor manufacturer states "... the amount of electro-magnetic energy produced by its digital baby monitor is more than 10,000 times lower than internationally-accepted safety standards."

Most baby monitor makers advise worried parents to place the device at least one metre away from the child's crib, since digital signal power lessens as the distance from the device is increased.

For additional safety with your baby monitor:
- Keep your child as far away from the baby monitor as possible.
- Turn off your baby monitor when it is not in use.
- Doubling the distance between your child and the baby monitor reduces electro-magnetic radiation by a factor of four.
- Only use a baby monitor until your child is old enough to sleep through the night consistently or can get up out of bed independently.