Many baby monitors actually work against the very thing you need them for most: getting some sleep! Whether you’re sitting up at night staring at the screen or pressing your ear to the speaker to see if you can hear anything, a lot of available monitors require your full participation. Not the Owlet Smart Sock 2. This smart monitor actually helps you reclaim hours of much-needed sleep as a new mom. Instead of studying a screen or jumping up every five minutes to check on your baby, this tiny device gives you hard proof that your baby is still OK in the next room.
Baby's exposure could potentially be even lower if parents place the camera on a wall at least 15 feet from baby (a distance still good for night vision to work properly with most monitors). Given the sensitivity of baby's developing systems we recommend placing the monitor as far away from the baby as possible while still being able to utilize the night vision as intended and see baby's face to determine if they are awake or sleeping at a glance. For most of the products, this distance is between 10-15 feet from the baby.
The main reason you’re going to need a baby monitor is to answer a simple, but time-honored, question: Why the hell is my baby crying? It’s only been in the last 30 years or so that parents have relied on the remote surveillance of their sleeping children. For the eons before that, it was a combination of natural, ear-piercing cries, and sleeping in the same yurt.
In our lab tests of the talk-back feature, the voice heard through the camera was clear, but our hands-on parent testers had mixed results when it came to whether their kids were calmed when using this feature. (We’re not surprised that a disembodied voice coming out of a camera isn’t exactly as soothing as someone coming into the room to soothe baby.) This feature might be more useful with older kids, so you can easily remind them that it’s time to go to sleep.
While ranking among Amazon’s top-selling baby monitors, the Motorola MBP36S and MBP33S, which are listed on the same page, have more negative reviews than positive ones. Many reviewers complain about poor battery life and deficient quality and durability. BabyGearLab also gave these monitors a low rating, citing the “disappointing images and sound on a hard to use parental unit.”
The iBaby shares several advantages over RF monitors that are common to Wi-Fi models as a category. It can be accessed from your phone anywhere. Multiple phones can connect to it. You access it via an app and don’t need to worry about finding, charging, and keeping track of a separate dedicated monitor. Some other “advantages” are add-ons we don’t consider necessary. You can record the camera’s footage, for example, or read parenting tips within the apps, or receive notifications or alerts when the monitor detects motion or sound. You can get air-quality alerts (we did not test them for accuracy). In other ways—pan/tilt, night vision, image quality—the iBaby is similar to RF video monitors like our pick.
The picture on the parent unit’s screen is clear and sharp, so much so that our hands-on parent testers could see whether their child’s eyes were open or closed. The on-screen colours are true to life, and we felt it had one of the better picture qualities of all the video monitors we tested. All of our testers liked the size of the screen and felt the level of brightness was good. A nice feature is the ability to turn off the picture and just use the audio—ideal whether you want to be able to listen in while doing other tasks or when you’re trying to get some shuteye.
The Arlo Baby camera, which comes dressed as an adorable green bunny, connects to your wireless internet and connects to your phone via the associated app. It streams 1080-pixel video footage, even at night, and has an 8x zoom to let you see exactly what’s going on in the nursery. There’s a two-way talk feature, night light and smart music player, as well as an air sensor and baby crying alert, letting you keep a watchful eye on your little one.
While we chose the Withings Home as our top pick, we know that not everyone wants a camera that connects to their phone. One expensive alternative that we grew to love was the Motorola MBP36 ($230). Its video sharpness doesn’t compete with the Withings Home, nor can it see nearly as wide, but the 3.5-inch screen still captured subtle movements, and you can change the camera angle remotely. Oddly enough, though, our absolute favorite feature was the design of its LED audio monitor. Both clear and soothing (the LEDs aren’t blinding, they’re just gentle, subtle lights), we kept it running long after formal testing was complete. We also found its range to be above average, as we were able to sneak down two flights of stairs in an old brick building and maintain signal. Three flights down, outside our building, we found the connection to mostly freeze, but the monitor never gives up—it keeps scanning for hints of frequency to give you audio and video updates. As a company, Motorola is a long-time pro at juggling radio frequencies across their products. Here, it shows.
"For 2 or more children this is fantastic! You can pair multiple cameras and set the monitor to scan back and forth viewing multiple rooms. The lens change feature is also nice (a zoom lens...included) allows you to get a close view of the crib/swing/etc even if the camera has to sit far away. The (wide angle lens.... optional purchase) allows you to view most of the bedroom. This is great for older kids rooms so you can see if they get out of bed and what they are doing… Long-lasting battery provides reliable charge: 10 hours in power-saving mode, 6 hours with the display screen constantly on."
We tested more than a dozen cameras over the course of 40 hours of research and testing. The Withings Home delivers top-notch picture quality, has the widest angle lens, includes many bonus features like lullabies, background audio smartphone support, privacy mode, a soothing nightlight and Apple Watch support. There’s even support for streaming to the latest Apple TV. Its cloud-connected features alert you to noises and movements consistently, and because the signal beams to your iOS device (or Android, if that’s how you roll) rather than a short-throw standalone video monitor, you’re never out of range.
Security is a mixed bag, especially as baby monitors get more high tech. If tech giants like Apple and Google run into security flaws, high-tech baby monitors are sure to experience similar problems. However, some less high-tech baby monitors aren't secure, either, and many suffer from signal interference. We've checked each company's security policy to find the most secure options for you.
Many of the baby monitors we've tested are internet-connected, letting you watch infant with your phone or tablet through an app just as if you were checking a home security camera. Because of this, you might not actually get a standalone display to go along with the camera. They aren't out of the question, however; some camera-only baby monitors offer viewers as an add-on or in a bundle. And if there aren't any available, you can simply get an inexpensive tablet like the Amazon Fire to use as a dedicated viewer.
We prefer RF monitors to Wi-Fi, but if you’re seeking the latter, we don’t recommend getting the Ezviz Mini, the Palermo Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor, or the LeFun C2, all of which Amazon reviewers report have connectivity issues, among other problems. We dismissed two other Wi-Fi monitors we tested—the Arlo Baby by Netgear and the Evoz Glow Baby Monitor—for being harder to set up than the iBaby Wi-Fi monitor. They were not notably better than the iBaby in some other way, and they share the other significant shortcomings of Wi-Fi monitors as a category.
The Infant Optics DXR-8’s interchangeable optical lens, which allows for customized viewing angles, truly sets this monitor apart. It gives the option of focusing in on a localized area or taking in the whole room. Couple that with the remote pan/tilt control and night vision and you’ve got a monitoring system that not only grows along with your baby, but one that can be adjusted to follow her around the room as she plays. Parents can calm their baby with the two-way talk feature and monitor the temperature to make sure the baby is safe and secure.
The battery life even when it was "working" is terrible. The screen would glitch out all the time. Now, 10 months in, the last 2 months the power port is broken as a million other reviews have stated. We tried to work around it and have to get the cord "just right" and pulled at an angle, and put something heavy on the cord in order to get it to charge. Now that hardly works. Also, when the blue light is on that it's "charging," half the time it's not even charging any longer, and holds zero charge. I've had the monitor die on me multiple times in the middle of the night recently as it continues to deteriorate. I've been sleeping terrible (my kid is not a good sleeper, still has acid reflux) waking in a panic to look at monitor only to find yes, it is indeed dead.
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.
The Motorola MBP36XL wasn’t the fastest-charging battery we tested, but it was reasonable. Most of our hands-on parent testers were happy with the battery life on the parent unit, and they were able to fully recharge it in under five hours. We really like that this monitor also has a rechargeable battery on the camera, which can be used for up to three hours—the more flexibility you have at nap time, the better. One feature this monitor doesn’t have that a few of our parent testers would have appreciated is a sleep or power-save mode.
This year alone we have seen over 30 new baby monitors enter the market, most of which are low-quality products being mass produced in China. They are cheap and might even work well for a few weeks or months, but give them a little more time and they will start to have all sorts of issues. We've seen way too many melting chargers, malfunctioning screens, and units that are completely dead after a few months. Don't waste your money! Here's some of the factors we consider in our testing: