Baby Monitor Buying Guide
What is a Baby Monitor?
There are a large number of baby monitors available on the market and that can make finding the right one a somewhat daunting task. This process can be even more complicated if you’re a first time parent since you’re not quite sure what to look for in terms of features, and what pitfalls to avoid. Lets take a look at some things that parents have learned over the years about purchasing a baby monitor.
Baby Monitor Price
This is the clearest difference between the baby monitors that you find on the market. There are numerous low cost options that you can find, but tests show that there is a dramatic and pragmatic difference between low cost monitors and more high end versions. The qualitative difference that you’ll experience will be in regard to clear signals over distance and through walls, as well as freedom from interference by neighboring monitors and other wireless devices in your home. Some other subtle differences such as sound sensitivity exist as well. The bottom line is that when it comes to purchasing a baby monitor that really works well, you’re going to need to spend a bit more money. Consider it an investment in the connection that you will feel to your child.
Baby Monitor Range
Unfortunately, many studies have shown that there’s a dubious correlation between manufacturer’s claims regarding the monitor’s range and what is actually experienced in the home. That means that you should know what kind of range you’re looking for but also be a bit skeptical about what the manufacturer’s claims are. Understand the size of your home and what distance your child’s room is from, say, the kitchen and your bedroom. Purchase a monitor that has the appropriate range and then test to make sure this range is verified.
What Type of Monitor Do You Need?
This depends upon a number of factors, but no matter what kind of monitor you get you can be sure that you’re going to sleep more and better with the confidence that the monitor will awaken you if your baby needs your assistance.
- Sound Monitoring:
This is the most important form of monitoring and is the original style of the analog monitor. What you’re mostly going to rely upon to keep in contact with your baby is sound. Newborns will cry to alert you to their need to feed, have their diaper changed, or when they’re uncomfortable with the temperature of the room just about every 2-3 hours. In between these fits you’ll be able to get some sleep before the crying begins again. When the baby gets older this period of time will increase. By 6 months you should be able to enjoy 4-6 hour periods before the baby cries again.
The more confident you are in your sound monitor and its ability to wake you up, the better sleep you’ll be getting. This is especially important for first time parents who are more anxious about falling asleep. For all these reasons, sound monitoring is the most important kind of system for keeping in contact with a newborn child.
- Video Monitoring:
Sound monitoring is the basic way of staying in touch with your child and video monitoring can really not alert you at all when something is happening in their room. That being said, video can play a key role in helping you to determine whether you need to make an immediate trip to the baby’s room. You’ll be able to discern if your child has awoken briefly and then is soothed back to sleep on their own. For this reason, video monitoring can be a great addition to your sound monitoring. Video monitoring is also beneficial if you have more than one child and want to keep an eye on two separate areas of your home at the same time.
- Movement Monitors:
Movement monitors are a tad controversial, but a welcome tool for new parents who fear their child will stop breathing. These systems are specially designed to alert you if your child stops moving. A movement sensing pad is placed under the crib mattress and this detection pad is sensitive enough to pick up on small movements that a baby normally makes while sleeping. If this movement stops, an alarm is sounded and alerts you to the problem. This alarm is useful during the first 6 months of life when the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are most high. Some researchers believe that the effectiveness of these monitors is questionable and they do take a bit of experimentation to get them to work properly.
Do You Need 1 or 2 Parent Units?
When you have two parent units it will save you from having to constantly move both the monitor and power supply as you move from room to room. Many families do get by just using one monitor, putting the power supply in their bedroom and take the parent unit with them to the kitchen or various other rooms in the home. This seems to work fine and isn’t too much of a hassle. If you do choose to do this be sure that the monitor’s battery life is sufficient. What you will find is that within a year the battery life of the monitor will have degraded to a fraction of what it once was. If this happens you can replace the rechargeable batteries or bring the power supply along with you.
That being said, purchasing a two parent unit will eliminate much of the hassle that is mentioned above. This will keep you from having to move the monitor from one location to another. If you decide to get two then it’s a good idea to put one in the master bedroom and place the other in the kitchen or living area. This second monitor will move around a lot, dependent upon where you are in the house when your baby is sleeping during the day. Do keep in mind that some higher end models do not have a 2nd parent unit.
When it comes to operating a quality monitor, it all comes down to range, clarity, and interference-free results. Even if you have a monitor that has great range, this can mean nothing if there is interference from any other monitor or electronic device that happens to be on the same frequency. Also, keep in mind that the clarity of sound will decrease as you reach more distance. What you really want is a fine balance between these three elements.
Baby Monitor Range
Manufacturers will always state on the box what “range”their monitor can reach. There is what is called an “open field”range test to reach the conclusion as to what unobstructed range the device is capable of. These specifications can unfortunately be misleading for several reasons.
- You do not use your baby monitor in an open field and therefore the actual range is going to be different. Open range does not take into account the walls that are between you and your child.
- Parents who test monitors at home universally agree that the range is different than that stated on the box and each parent will experience a different range capability dependent upon the nature of their home.
- Those monitors that test differently than their stated range can even have a different range when in an open field! Parents who have conducted their own open field tests state that the range is still different from that listed on the box.
So, how do you get a sense of the real range of your monitor? The only way to figure this out is to perform your own tests in your home. Once you have a good sense of the actual range you’ll be better able to smartly place your parent monitors.
Baby Monitor Clarity
Clarity refers to how clear the sound is that comes from your baby’s room and this also pertains to image quality for a video monitor. It’s not important that what you hear from your baby’s room is crystal clear, but you do need to clearly hear when your baby is making sound or crying. The kind of clarity you really want is freedom from hissing. Some cheap monitors will create an annoying hissing sound when monitors are in neighboring rooms and this will drive most people totally insane. In terms of image clarity, you want a video monitor that makes it easy to see what’s going on in your baby’s room either day or night.
Baby Monitor Interference
There are two possible types of interference you may experience with a baby monitor.
- Degradation of Sound Quality: This kind of interference will happen as the distance and number of walls is increased. These obstructions will cause the signal to get weaker and more background noise will become evident. You’ll notice this more from low-cost monitors where the interference can become almost intolerable.
- Radio Frequency Disturbance: This happens when other devices of the same frequency such as baby monitors at neighbor’s homes or wireless telephones will interfere with your own signal. The more high end models can be quite impervious to this kind of interference and that’s why they’re worth the investment. Lower cost models will still experience interference after you try changing the channel several times. This interference is frustrating and bothersome to listen to during the day or night.
If you ever experience the above interference, then it is highly suggested that you return your monitor with the receipt. It’s not worth using a monitor that is this frustrating to listen to. Moral of the story: be sure to keep your receipt.
- Only purchase a monitor from a retailer that has a return policy.
- Carefully unpack your monitor in case you need to return it.
- Immediately test the monitor for interference when you bring it home.
- Test the range of your monitor before using it.
- If interference occurs, be sure to return the monitor as this is not fixable.
Baby Monitor Battery Life
Does battery life really matter? The truth is, this shouldn’t be a major consideration. Most monitors will have a similar battery life and all offer rechargeable parent units. Some of the less expensive models boast of having a larger battery life but this does not mean that they’re better because of it. The only time that battery life becomes an issue is when you temporarily move the monitor away from the normal location. You’ll be doing this a lot if you only have one parent unit. When you have two parent units then you’ll have no trouble with the batteries whatsoever. Do also keep in mind that battery life will degrade with time and you’ll certainly notice after your child turns one year old.
Owning a high quality baby monitor is going to make your job as a new parent so much easier. It’s the ideal way to let your child sleep in their room while you do things around the house, all the while being able to hear them in case they cry for you. A monitor also allows you to get more sleep during the night because you can rest assured that you’ll be awoken by the monitor when your child needs feeding, changing, or reassurance. The benefits to owning a monitor are countless, but that doesn’t mean that all monitors should be considered the same.
There are a lot of inexpensive monitors on the market that claim things that aren’t quite true. For instance, the range might be inaccurate or they produce unwanted interference that simply can’t be fixed. It’s always advised that you do a good test of your monitor before throwing away the packaging or receipt. It’s also suggested that you bite the bullet and spend a bit more money on a higher quality monitor.
Once you find the perfect monitor for your home you’re going to be amazed by the peace of mind and comfort that it brings. It’s nice to put your child down to a nap while you accomplish things around the house such as cooking, laundry, or entertaining friends. A high quality monitor will provide very clear sound and light indication when your child is awake and calling out. Whether you purchase one parent unit or two, you’re going to find that the monitor brings convenience, comfort, and security to your household.
- Philips: http://www.usa.philips.com/c-p/SCD535_00/avent-audio-monitors-dect-baby-monitor
- Vtech: http://www.vtechphones.com/products/product_detail/1704
- Graco: http://www.gracobaby.com/products/pages/secure-coverage-digital-monitor.aspx