If you aren't interested in having a video baby monitor, the VTech DM221 is the very best audio-only monitor you can buy. You can listen in on your baby or get vibration and light-based alerts when the monitor is in silent mode. The five LED lights indicate the level of sound so you can tell whether your baby is cooing quietly or shrieking for mom and dad.
One thing to note: Most monitors operate on the same 2.4Ghz spectrum used by Wi-Fi (that’s true even for those that don’t connect to the internet). Interference with or from your home network is always a possibility. Having combed through countless real-world user reviews, depending on your (and your neighbors’) exact hardware setup, interference may happen. Buying from somewhere with a good return policy may be worth a few extra bucks on the purchase price.
Not everyone needs a baby monitor. If you live in a smaller house or apartment, keep your infant in close proximity, or just generally don’t feel the need to monitor your baby as they’re sleeping (the infant cry is hard to miss!), you may find that a monitor is unnecessary. Other people may only want a monitor for occasional use, like when you’re out in your yard while your baby is napping and want to know when they’ve woken up.
Adjustable Camera Pan/Tilt/Zoom: One of the most annoying things that can happen when you're using a baby monitor is closing the door and then turning on the video monitor only to realize that your camera isn't aimed at the baby at all, and you can't see a thing. Most of the baby monitor systems would require you to go back into your baby's room and manually adjust the camera. Some of the systems we review below have remotely adjustable camera angles, so you can pan side-to-side, tilt the camera angle upward/downward, and zoom in or out, without having to go back into your baby's room. Super convenient, and a critical feature to stay at the top of our best baby monitor list. It's also nice to have a relatively wide-view camera, like the Summer Infant wide baby monitor, so that even if you don't have wireless camera panning and tilting, the odds of still seeing your baby are pretty high if you have a wide-angle camera.
Gone are the days of silently peeking into the nursery to check on your napping baby and then, whoops, accidentally waking them up (“No, no, please no!”). A baby monitor uses a camera to watch over the crib, while you carry a handheld device that lets you know what’s going on with your child at any given moment, no matter where you are in your home. There are also other monitors that track sleep or breathing either with a clip or sock.
A word of caution about extremely cheap baby video monitors (we're talking devices that cost less than $50): they're not known for their security and can be hacked. Be sure to always change the default password of any connected device you purchase. You can also protect yourself by sticking to known vendors who post frequent firmware updates and have easy-to-reach customer support.
Motion and audio sensors: In the old days, parents were forced to endure a consistent ambient hiss from their audio monitors while they listened for their child’s stirrings or cries. Mercifully, many modern baby monitors will stay in “quiet mode” until they detect motion and/or sound, which will trigger an alert, such as activating the handheld video display or pushing a notification to your smartphone.
Beyond that, we wanted to hear from an expert on the products’ (perceived and real) security risks. So we spoke to Mark Stanislav, the director of application security for Duo Security and the author of Hacking IoT: A Case Study on Baby Monitor Exposures and Vulnerabilities, whose research has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, CNET, Good Morning America, and Forbes.
Lullabies: Monitors often include a selection of soothing sounds to help your baby drift off to slumberland. These can be traditional nursery rhymes of the rock-a-bye-baby variety, nature sounds, white noise, or some combination of all of them. It’s a good idea to check them out before you play them to your sleeping child to determine whether they might help or hinder their sleep.
The Levana Lila is the second highest ranking dedicated monitor in the review, and 5th overall. This budget-friendly option has the longest battery life of any dedicated monitor we tested and scored well enough for ease of use and sound clarity that you won't be frustrated. Unfortunately, this monitor has a shorter range than the Philips Avent SCD630 and the fewest features in the group (which makes it easier to use). So it may not be a good choice for parents that want all the bells and whistles. This monitor does sport 2-way talk to baby, sound activation, and automatic screen wake/sleep, which are some of the most important features in our mind. The Lila has no zoom, and the field of view is rather small for a camera that is not remotely operated (no pan or tilt). However, if you want a dedicated monitor for the simplicity and peace of mind with less chance of a dropped signal, and budget is a factor, then the Lila can't be beaten.
If you struggle with technology and don't need or want to see your baby from any other location besides your home, you might want to stick with the dedicated monitors that require little setup and have fairly intuitive user interfaces. This isn't to say that most people can't sort out the Wi-Fi monitors, but it is undeniably less work to just plug the camera into an outlet and go than it is to sign up and download software applications.
Among the negative reviews, the most consistent complaint has to do with connectivity issues—either difficulty linking up initially or randomly dropping the connection while in use. These represent a slim minority among mostly positive reviews, and we did not have similar issues during our test. One consequence of losing the connection (whether it’s by a dropped link or via manually unplugging the camera) is that disconnecting causes the parent unit to emit a sharp, loud, repetitive beep. It is annoying—especially so if it happens in the middle of the night—but you should rarely hear it under normal circumstances.
Movement monitoring devices do not claim to prevent SIDS, but they could potentially provide peace of mind for a better night's sleep for parents. To reduce the likelihood of SIDS, you should practice safe sleep guidelines for EVERY sleep (with or without a movement device). Always put your baby on their back to sleep, they should have their own firm sleep space with a tightly fitted sheet. Read our article on How to Protect your Infant from SIDS and other Causes of Sleep-related Deaths for more information about best sleep practices and setting up a healthy sleep environment for your baby.
The handheld unit's 5-inch screen is the largest in our review, complementing the camera's wide-angle lens. However, its resolution is the same as smaller units, so the video quality, while acceptable, is poorer. Also, you can't move the camera remotely, a feature you may not use if you only watch your baby as they sleep. The Wide View 2.0 makes up for its video quality with a user-friendly design. It only takes a few minutes to set up and a couple hours to charge the handheld unit. The handheld unit lets you adjust the volume and has an uncomplicated menu. This simplicity comes at the cost of common features – the Wide View 2.0 doesn't track room temperature, and it can't play lullabies through the camera unit. Because this is a simple video monitor, the battery lasted nine hours before it needed to recharge during our tests. The overall best baby monitor, the Infant Optics DXR-8, went 10 hours before shutting off, so this is a very good result. The Summer Infant Wide View 2.0's handheld unit has a limited indoor range compared to most other baby cameras – it’s good enough for most homes but insufficient in particularly large ones. Summer Infant offers a one-year warranty, which is average for video baby monitors.
Are you a Mac fan? If so, you’ll love the amazing functionality and ease of use provided by the Cloud Baby Monitor app—which turns your iPhone, iPad or computer into a monitor with just one download. At just $4, a fraction of the price of traditional baby monitors, the Cloud Baby app brings you a host of functionality at the touch of a button, including white noise, night light and lullabies—all controlled remotely. But what makes this the best baby monitor app is the high-quality and industry-standard secure audio and video monitoring capabilities.
If initial impressions mean anything, this is definitely one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck baby monitors on the market. It has some fantastic features, and is offered at a great price point at around $70! Here are some of the best features: first, it has very clear daytime video and crystal clear sound. Using 2.4Ghz communications, like most others on this list, it does a great job connecting, staying connected, and providing superb sound quality. It also is expandable with additional cameras - up to 4 additional cameras to be exact, which means you can really get one of these everywhere. Need one in the playroom, nursery, by the bassinet? Having up to 4 cameras connected is awesome, and the base station provides the easy ability to switch which camera you're looking at. Of course, it only comes with one out of the box, but you can buy extra cameras for about $40 each. We also liked that there is no complicated setup like with some of the IP cameras on this list, which means that there is no connecting to your internet router, or trying to get a phone app to connect. Of course, that also means you can only watch from the base station, not on your phone. About that base station. You can control whether you want digital video and sound, or sound only, and you can also remotely zoom in on your baby as needed (only 2 zoom levels though), but you cannot remotely pan or tilt the camera. There is a 2-way intercom (twoway talk) so you can talk to baby, or play one of the included lullabies. With the screen on, we were able to get the base station's battery to last for about 7 hours, and with just sound the battery lasted for about 11 hours. So definitely long enough for nap times during the day! Like many of the other ones on this list, you can put it into standby mode and have it voice activate automatically when the camera's microphone hears something in the room (like a fussy baby). We thought this feature worked really well and wasn't overly-sensitive and false alarming all night, which could get really annoying. So there are a lot of things to love about this baby video monitor. With such a low price, the feature list is obviously limited. We also thought the nighttime video quality really left something to be desired. We kept trying to increase the brightness to help, but it still was pretty poor relative to other units on this list. Finally, when we first reviewed this system we purchased 3 of them. After 1.5 years, only 1 of them is still working perfectly, 1 of them is a bit glitchy from time to time, and the other one had a screen failure. So we see some reliability and consistency issues with these baby video monitors, and that's the primary reason that it's not higher up on our list. In any event, we do recommend this camera, especially given the overall bang for the buck. But given how cheap it is, don't expect any miracles, or to be buying something to last you until you have grandchildren!