There is a specific question that many parents who are shopping for a baby monitor might ask: Do I need a video baby monitor? and which one is the best among all?
We totally understand how young parents, as first-time parents, can't afford to make mistakes when it comes to the well-being of their children. However, if you've spent lavishly on a particular baby monitor after browsing through the dazzling varieties of models and all those online recommendations, only to find that it only has an irrelevant fancy function, that's the kind of misconception about baby monitors we want first-time parents to steer clear of. We hope this article will help parents sort out their needs and make the wisest and sensible purchase decisions.
A. What suits you is the best
As the saying goes, "Always buy the right one, not the expensive one." What suits you is the best, so the first step is to figure out what you actually need.
We've divided the functions of baby monitors into the following three categories:
- Essentials that everyone should be looking for
- Nice-to-have features
- Tech-savvy features
This article can act as an easy guide, especially for the first category, it should be read by all parents who are shopping for a baby monitor. It contains features that can make a big difference to your purchasing experience. Even on a tight budget, you can still find models that perform well in our recommendations.
While we believe that the first category’s features are probably enough for most parents, we've covered some icing on the cake in the second category. It doesn't really matter if you don't have these features, but if you're on a bounteous budget and wish that your baby monitor can be equipped with more interesting elements, this part of the information can be taken into account.
Last but not least, since our generation often chooses to use the power of technology to improve parenting efficiency, the market has eventually provided more professional options for some technology enthusiasts. If you consider yourself a tech-savvy parent who wants to harness the power of smart technology, and to minimize your anxiety while parenting, this particular section is written exactly for you.
Do note that this article focuses on the Video Baby Monitor, the most popular form of a baby monitor for parents nowadays. Another type of baby monitor on the market is called Audio Baby Monitor. While its price is definitely a lot cheaper, it is not that different from walkie-talkies and doesn't provide real-time images to reassure anxious parents, leaving them out of the discussion.
B. Essentials to look for
i. Video quality
As a "monitor", the screen quality is undoubtedly the most important aspect that will affect your user experience. When baby monitors first became popular on the market, their screens were pretty small and sketchy, not to mention the night vision quality which was extremely bad. Here is an example showing a Twitter user who has shared how she was scared by her own child in the middle of the night because of the poor quality of the baby monitor.
With the continuous iteration of the product, the screen quality has also made significant improvements. There are three aspects that parents should take note of, which are: screen size, resolution, and night vision.
1. Screen size
Common monitor screen sizes range from 3 inches, which may be a bit cramped to use, to 5 inches, which is the size of a typical smartphone screen, and 7 inches which are close to the size of an iPad Mini. As with phones, the bigger the screen, the better it looks, but the bigger the screen also means it's less portable. Remember the portability of the baby monitor is also important to consider if you're the kind of parent who is always busying themselves by flying around the house.
If you're looking for a model that connects to your smartphone over Wi-Fi, the screen size will depend on the phone you're currently using.
2. The resolution
The resolution of the baby monitor includes the shooting resolution of the camera and the screen resolution of the display.
At present, the mainstream baby monitors on the market, no matter the kind of built-in screen, or the kind that need to connect to the mobile phone for use, are equipped with a better picture quality of 720p or 1080p resolution to shoot and display. Thus, y’all don’t need to be too concerned about the picture quality nowadays.
The majority of the baby monitors support digital zoom, which allows parents to zoom in to get a better view of their children. If you're really concerned about the loss of quality when you zoom in, the 1080p resolution will provide more detail -- but with the increased resolution, the amount of data that can be transferred will increase correspondingly. Make sure you have a good Wi-Fi signal at home especially for parents who want to choose a Wi-Fi model as we all understand the pain of being stuck while watching YouTube videos, right?
3. The night vision
Night-time is a commonly used scenario for baby monitors, but it is also a tricky problem that almost all cameras could have faced: whether it's a professional camera or a mobile phone, the picture quality at night deteriorates significantly. A mobile phone can use a flashlight to make up for the insufficient lighting, but a baby monitor can't use a flash while a child is sleeping, right? It will affect the sleep quality of the baby and that is not the situation we are hoping for.
To ensure that parents can check on their children at night, most baby monitors equipped with night vision feature near-infrared LED lights. The near-infrared is invisible to the naked eye, but the ambient light source can be fully utilized to realize the acquisition of night pictures. So, simply placing a dim light in the room is sufficient to see what's going on in the baby’s room. Of course, the screen will be adjusted to black and white, because the camera collects more light information than colour information.
The idea is quite different from the night-time algorithms used by smartphones, which also use various compensation algorithms to keep the picture as close as possible to what the human eye sees. The idea of a baby monitor is similar to a military night-vision device: it doesn't matter if it looks good, it matters if it can see properly.
ii. Adjustable camera
There are some baby monitors on the market that can be fixed onto the wall through a bracket. It can give an overlooking view of what is going on inside the crib. Although most of the time children are in bed, the picture is still relatively limited. Some models are non-adjustable, but they have ultra-wide-angle lenses that can be positioned to capture a wide field of view. However, if you accidentally move the camera’s position, or a hyperactive child moves out of the picture, the camera won't work at its best.
Therefore, we recommend buying a baby monitor with remote camera adjustment. These models can adjust their pitch angles, turning left and right, and you can control them remotely by using buttons on the display, saving your time and efforts. Even if the hyperactive child climbs out of the frame, you can also remotely rotate the camera to easily track the child's movements.
iii. A good range
Most of the video baby monitors are connected through their own FHSS wireless frequency band, similar to broadcasting, the further the distance, the lower the transmission quality. That's why you should look for a long range baby monitor -- if you can only use it within five meters of the child's room, you might as well just walk into the room with the child. Longer transmission coverage is more practical for larger homes, meaning you can keep track of a child's room with a baby monitor while you're busy cooking in the kitchen, on the ground floor or even tending to plants in the yard.
Most of the models will be labelled with the maximum connection range, but they are measured in an open environment with no barriers, so the data are only for reference. Of course, if your house is relatively large, the signal also needs to pass through the wall, door, and other barriers, it is still recommended to purchase a wider connection range. At present, the maximum nominal connection range of 900-1000ft on the market is already considered to be relatively excellent transmission performance. Depending on the size and construction of the house, it may not be possible to reach that far in practical use, but there is no problem covering the whole house.
If you're looking to buy a Wi-Fi model, there's no such thing as a maximum distance. As long as the phone has an Internet connection, you can check on your baby’s situation at your friend's house even when you go to a dinner party. However, from our experience, these products tend to have some latency and lagging problems, so do make sure you have a good Wi-Fi signal at home before purchasing.
iv. Voice-activated alert
Parents may find that many models support VOX Mode. VOX, which stands for voice-operated exchanged, works much like voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant. The device's microphone is always on and only wakes up the screen when it detects a sound, just as the phone responds to "Hey Siri."
This model is actually very useful. First, it can greatly reduce the battery power of the baby monitor, thus achieving a longer usage time. Without this mode, the monitor screen would have to be kept on for the purpose of monitoring. But with the help of this mode, if no sound is detected for a while, the monitor's screen can go to sleep, saving its power.
Second, with this mode, parents can also be more assured that they do not need to interrupt their rhythm by reminding themselves to actively look at the monitor. If the child's movement is detected, the monitor will wake up and remind the parents to check. Most monitors also have adjustable sensitivity to detection; it is super convenient for children of different ages at appropriate settings. For instance, new-born children may need 24/7 monitoring hence the sensitivity can adjust to a high level, so that all activities of the baby can be received by the parents as soon as possible. When the child is old enough to stay in the room by himself, the sensitivity can be turned down and the device will only be woken up when the child is crying.
Some models will also have LED strips designed to indicate the detected volume. If you accidentally mute your device and forget to turn it back on, or if you're in a noisy environment (friends are over for a night out), you may not be able to hear the monitor in time. The conspicuous LED light belt will light up when a sound is detected, and it will visually remind parents synchronously. We also recommend paying attention to this function.
v. Two-way audio intercom
In addition to monitoring the baby's room and relaying the sound to the parents, we consider that two-way voice transmission is also quite necessary. With this function, when a baby cries, we can immediately soothe the baby through the microphone and tell the child that his parents will be in the room soon. If you are taking care of your baby and encounter an "emergency" (such as a child vomiting milk), you can also use this function to talk to your partner and ask him to get a rag.
vi. Battery life
Any electronic device can experience battery life anxiety. Therefore, when buying a baby monitor, you should also pay special attention to the battery life of the device, which can reduce the probability that the monitor cannot be used at critical moments. If you're looking for a model that connects to your phone over Wi-Fi, pay attention to its battery life too!
vii. Room temperature detection
Babies are not fully developed and do not have the ability to adjust to the surrounding temperature as adults do, so they are more sensitive to the temperature in the room and are more susceptible to it. When the room is too cold or too hot, it is easy to cause children discomfort and eventually lead to crying. In general, the optimum room temperature for children is between 60.8 and 68F (16-20C).
For those who live in areas with larger temperature differences between morning and night, this feature will be more practical. The room-temperature-enabled baby monitor alerts you when the temperature is above or below the set range, making it easy for you to adjust the room temperature and provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your baby.
C. Nice-to-have features
i. Multi-camera support
If there are multiple children in the house, or you want to monitor your kids' movements in both the bedroom and play room, or you want to monitor them from various angles to ensure their safety, you should be looking for a split screen baby monitor with multi-cam support. This function allows you to connect multiple baby cameras at the same time to the same monitor. It is super convenient and more flexible, and it can fully grasp the movement of the child too.
ii. Built-in lullabies or white noises
Baby monitors with two-way phone calls are equipped with speakers, so there's a good chance they'll have a few simple lullabies or white noise. Given the size of the device, the sound quality of the speakers won't be great, but a simple lullaby melody or white noise will suffice. If your child is having trouble sleeping, try using a monitor to remotely play a lullaby to help him/her fall asleep -- while not all children enjoy music, studies have shown that absolute silence can be detrimental to a new-born’s ability to sleep. This is also easy to understand, the fetus in the womb is not in an absolutely quiet environment, it can also perceive the outside of the mother's belly environmental noise. So, playing soft melodies or white noise creates a more familiar sleeping environment for a new-born.
iii. Video recording
As much as we don't want parents to become addicted to monitors, there are few things more touching than the sight of their children sleeping soundly. In a lot of scenarios, when there is nothing wrong with the child, the parents are still glued to the monitor. Every movement like sneezing, and yawning, is adorable. If the monitor-mounted recording screen functions, it can save these precious clips. And if there is an opportunity to watch the clips with family together in the future, it will definitely be a sweet memory.
Video recording monitors often require a storage card or cloud storage to save video files, which requires you to buy an extra card or pay for a branded cloud storage subscription. If these precious videos are not safe to be stored on the Internet, parents are advised to buy a model that supports local storage of video files.
D. Tech-savvy features
If you're the tech-savvy parent who insists on wearing an Apple Watch, always exercising self-consciously, monitoring your health statistics, sleep quality, and even water intake and caffeine intake, there is also a baby movement monitor on the market that can help you learn more about your new-borns physical indicators. They can continuously detect the baby's movements, heart rate, and so on, and if they find that no movement has been detected for a certain period, they will sound an alarm, reminding parents to check as soon as possible. Some parents say it helps them avoid the tragedy of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
However, these products have never been claimed to help prevent SIDS and are not certified to do so. But if you're one of those people, the sheer volume of data these products can provide can ease your anxiety. These monitors are usually more expensive, and some can be used in conjunction with a camera, while others can be used independently. We advise parents to stick with a model that works with a camera, as data is not a great substitute for live footage.
E. Contact sensors vs. sensor-free
This category of monitors also comes in a variety of forms but can be divided into two broad categories: those with sensors and those that do not require sensors.
Different manufacturers have different sensor design ideas. Some fit on a diaper, and some fit on the baby’s foot like a little sock. This kind of wearable sensor can ensure the reliability of monitoring but may make children feel uncomfortable when wearing them. There are also manufacturers to make the sensor into a mat, which can be used under the bedsheet so that it can record the baby's movements. This design does not need to directly contact with the baby, which can be considered as a pretty creative idea.
Models that do not need to wear sensors mainly rely on cameras, which can monitor baby movements, sleep, and even breathing through continuous analysis of the images captured by algorithms. The accuracy and reliability of the data may not be as good as the sensor, but there is no need to worry that the wearing of the sensor will cause discomfort to the baby, or even accidentally rub off the sensor due to the child's excessive movement.
Having said all that, we wish that parents can remember those baby monitors are there for one thing: to make sure you can better gauge your child's movements and take action when necessary, and then effectively reduce your anxiety and burden. Therefore, before purchasing a product, please choose one that will help you achieve this goal according to your actual needs, rather than blindly buying it and causing some unwanted consequences.