Your baby needs constant attention, but you can't be in its room every hour of every day. That's what baby monitors are for. What started as audio-only infant care devices to let you listen in on your child from another room, have since added video cameras and connected features to the mix so you can always keep an eye on your little one. There are still some great audio monitors out there—here we're focusing on models that also provide some form of video feed.
The air-quality feature monitors Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) levels. These are organic chemicals like acetone or benzene. The EPA says these chemicals are found in paints, paint strippers, aerosols, cleaners, disinfectants, solvents, etc and can cause serious health issues including eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system and even cancer. The Home will alert you to high VOC levels, which indicates it may be time to open a window or increase air circulation in your house. It does not monitor carbon monoxide.
With more than 24,000 Amazon reviewers giving this monitor a near five-star rating, we’re proud to include the Infant Optics DXR-8 video baby monitor on our list of best baby monitors. Parents rave about its crystal-clear picture in both light and darkness, and the interchangeable wide-angle lens for larger viewing areas (sold separately). Not only that, the DXR-8 has the ability to pan and zoom across baby’s room without parents having to enter the room and move or adjust the camera. We think these features make the Infant Optics DXR-8 the best video baby monitor.
Why spend money on a baby monitor, which serves a single specific purpose, when you could use an indoor home-security camera that you can repurpose once your kid leaves the nursery? We wondered the same thing, so along with with dedicated video baby monitors, we tested a Nest Indoor Cam, currently among our top-rated wireless home security cameras.
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.
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 want a monitor only 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.
Our testers preferred the Baby Delight’s parent unit — its buttons were more responsive than Angelcare and it was easier to set up. This movement monitor uses a cordless magnetic sensor instead of a pad. Because the sensor is clipped onto your baby’s onesie, right next to their chest, the alarm won’t go off if you forget to disarm it before a middle-of-the-night feeding.
Monitor options: We wanted easy, intuitive, responsive controls, whether they were on a touchscreen or physical buttons. We also wanted the monitor to withstand being knocked off of a nightstand or messed with by a toddler, and generally be tough enough for the rigors of life in a home with young children. We didn’t really care if we could set an alarm, use the monitor as a night-light, or play chintzy music through the camera—but seeing the temperature in the kids’ room was a detail we appreciated.
The most troubling pattern you see in the one-star Amazon reviews is the reports of battery life declining (or failing) over time. This is part of a larger trend in baby monitors in general, and our take on it is that the battery tech within these monitors is just not at the level people have come to expect after living with good phones and tablets and other quality electronics. Reading the negative reviews for this and many other monitors reminded us of the kinds of problems people had with rechargeable batteries years ago. Here’s a good example of what we mean. So for now, for any baby monitor, set your expectations accordingly.
The best monitor for sound in our tests is the Philips Avent SCD630, with a score of 8 of 10. This monitor has the best sound activation and background cancellation features in the group, and while the sound is bright, it is also clear without an echo. Most of the competition earned 4s and 5s for sound, with all of the Wi-Fi monitors only earning 4s. It seems that no matter how good your parent device might be, the Wi-Fi cameras struggle for the most part to transmit clear sound with good sound features.
Traditional versus Wifi Baby Monitors: Starting around 2010, parents began to switch from using baby monitors with a yoked camera and screen, to using wifi cameras that can stream over smart phones, tablets, and personal computers. At the time, there weren't very many wifi cameras aimed towards the baby gear market, so people were going with familiar wifi camera brands like Nest and Samsung. Over the next few years, companies slowly began introducing baby-themed wifi cameras onto the market. While even high-quality HD wifi cameras can be found for under $50 (like this one) nowadays, companies began to realize they could package a wifi camera as a baby monitor, change the colors and themes of the app, and charge 3-4 times the price. And they continue to use this strategy to this day! So which is better? Well, this really comes down to one thing: do you want to be able to view the nursery while you're not at home? If you answer yes to this question, then you need to use a wifi monitor as opposed to a typical baby monitor. A wifi baby monitor (or any wifi camera) will connect to your internet (some are wired, some through wifi only) and stream live (well, slightly delated) video to an app on your phone. That will work in the house or out of the house, as long as you have a fast internet connection. So you can simply BYOP (bring your own phone) and leverage 20th century technology! That seems really appealing, and we highly recommend some of the newer ones (like the Cocoon Cam, Lollipop, and Nanit), but there are some things to keep in mind when figuring out the type of monitor to buy:
There are a few things you can demand from a decent HD video baby monitor, like a crystal clear image and good night vision capabilities. And there are things you can expect of a good Wi-Fi-enabled monitor, like easy remote access from a smart device with real-time streaming audio and video. Then there are things you might hope for from a baby monitor, like two-way talk and solid battery life.
Yes and no, it depends on what you want your device to do and what levels of EMF you are willing to accept. If you are looking for video and sound then you're in luck, all of the video products offer both and products like the iBabyM6S can give you crystal clear visuals with sound and fun baby specific features. If you are interested in sound and movement, only a handful of movement products come with sound, and they are all mattress style devices. If you want movement, sound, /and video, then you are limited and potentially introducing high EMF levels to your baby's nursery. The BabySense 7 is offered as a package with a camera, but the EMF levels were high in our tests making it one we aren't big fans of. To avoid this, and to get the best of the best options, we suggest combining two products (movement and video) and incurring a slightly higher cost to avoid higher EMF. Movement products are only good up to about six months or when your little one begins to roll over by themselves. Because movement can lead to false alarms and can't take the place of safe sleep practices or reduce the occurrence of SIDs, we think parents can get a good night's sleep with a video product with sound and forgo the movement options if budget is a concern.
We tested each product we purchased in key metrics that allow them to function as expected, or provides an additional feature or benefit. Monitors act as something of a lifeline for parents, so it is important that they work well, have adequate range, provide useful images, and are easy to use. If a product doesn't work well enough to instill confidence, then it will fail to offer parents the one thing they really want, more sleep.
During our tests, we found ourselves among the fraction of buyers having problems with the display on the DXR-8. Our first test unit worked fine out of the box, but after a couple of hours running on battery, the display became distorted and nothing would fix it. Likewise, you’ll find a few complaints on Amazon of owners experiencing dead pixels after about a year of use (here’s one and here’s another). The good news: Those folks reported that Infant Optics replaced their monitors (as they did ours) even though some were out of warranty. In fact, the company consistently receives decent feedback on customer service.
You might prefer one that has lights as well as sound. All the audio monitors we rated had this feature. The Philips Avent DECT SCD510, which sells for about $120, has a series of small LED lights on the parent monitor. The louder the sound in your baby's room, the more lights go on, so you'll notice his crying even with the unit set on mute. Audio monitors are generally less expensive than audio/video models.
Long Range: Monitors that don’t connect to WiFi have a limited range, usually around 600 to 1,000 feet. While this is large enough for all but the biggest houses, we asked our testers to find out how far they could wander away — and how many walls they could put between them and the baby unit — before they went out of range, as well as to report back on what happened when they did. Sometimes there was an alarm or a notification, but other times the screen simply froze.
The interface on the monitor, aka the parent unit, is basic, simple, and intuitive, while many of its competitors have awkward controls. When panning and tilting the camera, for example, the Infant Optics responds immediately and can move in very small increments. The text on the menu displays look like something off of an old Motorola RAZR, but the commands are easy to interpret and less confusing than those of some competitors. A group of four buttons makes it easy to pull up the menu and make a change (to the volume, say) without losing sight of the image on the screen. Other nice minor touches, like a display that constantly notes the temperature in the baby’s room, appear on this model but not on all of its competitors. This is not a touchscreen, but frankly, if you’ve ever used an iPhone, you’ll find the touchscreens on most baby monitors to be sorely substandard.
The iBaby M6 is your ultimate nursery assistant! This adorably sleek model wins our top pick for the best baby monitor with wi-fi. Not only can you keep tabs on baby through your iPhone or tablet, the iBaby monitor also allows you to live-stream footage to as many as four people (Hello, Grandma!), take, store and share photos of baby, and speak or sing to baby via two-way communication. Parents can remotely control the camera so that it swivels, tilts and pans for a larger viewing area. Baby’s first robot? We think so!
This monitor may also be one of the simplest to set up. Just plug it in and start using it. That’s it! It’s great if you don’t have the time (or the tech knowledge) to connect your monitor to your wireless network or your phone. It allows you to quickly connect four cameras to check on the nursery, the play room, your toddler’s room and the living room all at once. It’s like your own kid-monitoring surveillance system. You can choose an 8-second rotation that automatically switches between rooms to let you know what’s going on.
Both Baldwin and Kay recommend iBaby’s M6S Wi-Fi video monitor for its design and ease of use. Resembling a little robot, the iBaby offers 360-degree views and 110-degree tilt, 1080p video with night vision, and even comes equipped with lullabies. Other features include temperature, humidity, and air-quality sensors, which Baldwin admits are bells and whistles, but could be useful depending on what kind of parent you are. And, of course, everything comes straight through to your smartphone or tablet, which can also remotely control settings. And while some parents may be concerned about potential hacking of Wi-Fi monitors, Baldwin found that the risk is fairly low and usually occurred in cheap, off-brand models.
Electromagnetic fields (EMF), or dirty electricity, is something we think needs to be discussed when talking about wireless baby monitors. Given that all wireless devices give off some level of EMF, we feel it would be negligent not to discuss the potential for possible health risks associated with the kind of radiation emitted by wireless products. While the jury is still out, and studies being done are not conclusive yet, there is enough evidence that EMF might potentially cause health problems that we feel it is better to be cautious when it comes to children's exposure than to ignore the possibilities.
Baby monitors these days have some seriously cool features. You can view your baby on a screen that has HD resolution and night vision, hear the tiniest of cries, talk into a microphone and play your favorite songs. With so many great options, it can be hard to narrow it down to decide what you need most in a monitor—which is why What to Expect moms did it for you. They nominated their favorite baby monitors, and these were the picks that topped the list.
The camera, which is the most elegant looking of the testing group, sits on a magnetic base that unfortunately cannot be mounted on the wall and must sit on a surface. The camera itself cannot be tilted or panned. It can only be adjusted manually within the concave base—meaning it can be pointed downward, at least a little bit, but its wide-angle lens lessens the needs for dramatic angle adjustments. The unit also include a “privacy mode” where the decorative cover can be rotated to block the camera and signal it to not record any audio or video.