There are three types of monitors for keeping tabs on your little sleeping (or not sleeping) angel: audio, video, and smart. Each of these monitors are comprised of one component that goes in your baby’s room and another that stays with you – and each of the monitors listed below include a “walkie-talkie” feature so you can speak to your baby remotely. Check out our top picks in each category.
Audio-only monitors are the most basic kind of monitor and will clue you in on the bare minimum, namely whether baby is sweetly babbling to herself in her crib or screaming bloody murder. These monitors are inexpensive and tend to have great range and substantial battery power. Some parents use an audio monitor as their primary monitor and find it to be perfectly sufficient. Others use them as a backup or for travel or to keep at Grandma’s house since they’re a bare-bones but reliable and pocketbook-friendly choice.
Pros: Sound quality really holds up even when you’re far away; 5-level light-up sound indicator gives you a visual on how loud your baby’s fussing (comes in handy if the sound is off or if you’re in the shower and can’t hear the monitor); Comes with 2 parent monitors and a belt clip (food for thought: Can you even clip a monitor onto sweatpants?)
There are benefits to being able to see and not just hear your baby, like knowing whether she woke up because she a) lost her pacifier, b) broke free of her swaddle, or c) decided to stand up and practice “legs.” Video monitors come in handy during the toddler years, too, since you’ll get a heads-up if your little chimpanzee is trying to scale the side of the crib. The general downsides to video monitors are that their range is often spotty, battery power can be frustratingly low, the screen will inevitably stop working at some point, and the price point can be steep.
With over 12,000 Amazon reviews, we aren’t alone in singing the praises of this monitor – the best video monitor we tested.
Pros: Easy breezy setup, great range, impressive battery life, and high quality images allowing you to see exactly what your baby is doing; Sound-activated LEDs lights indicate noise level; Power-saving mode (audio-only) kicks in when baby is quiet; Charges via USB (with spare cable included); Interchangeable lens; Temperature monitoring; Infant Optics customer service gets rave reviews.
This model comes in a close second place, as its range is shorter than Infant Optics’. If a wide range is not a concern for you, consider this model, as it has so much to offer.
PROS: Easy setup; two parent monitors (a standard-size one and a small wearable one, like a watch); Ability to turn on lullabies or white noise remotely; Parent unit can pair up to 4 cameras, so you can use one system for multiple children: Ability to record videos and take photos which is a feature usually only available in smart monitors; Can be wall-mounted; Temperature monitoring
Cons: Range needs improvement.
Best Bang For Your Buck…
It turns out you don’t actually need to spend more than $100 to get a fabulous monitor.
Pros: Easy to set up (with or without wall mounting); Built-in thermometer; Can pair up to four cameras; Good range; Daylight picture on the large screen is crystal clear (it’s pretty good at night, too); Intercom/ lullaby features let you play music remotely; Sound-activated VOX mode extends overnight battery life; Quick and easy adjustment of volume and screen brightness, and if you tend to obsess over whether baby is too cold or too hot (WELCOME TO THE CLUB), you can set it to alert you when the temperature drops above or below your preferred range. Bonus: The minimalist design is totally inoffensive.
Cons: A USB charger would be nice and the battery life isn’t amazing (but it’s definitely good enough).
With smart monitors, the camera connects to an app you download on your phone. We recommend using these not as your primary monitor but as an additional monitor — for a few reasons: 1) watching your baby will drain your phone battery, 2) your phone may kick you out of the app if you’re not actively using it, and 3) your access is only as good as your WiFi availability. On the major plus side – you can see your babe from work or date night or wherever you may be. Bonus: if your baby happens to do something particularly adorable, you can save the video.
Our Two Picks…
This is a great-looking, basic, smart monitor for the novice user – – it pretty much functions quite like a video monitor that uses your phone as the parent monitor.
Pros: Price; 360 degree turning; Can play lullabies and voice recordings; Quickest setup of all the smart monitors we tested; Travels easily; Grants access to all alerts/ features without having to purchase an additional service; Temperature/humidity measurement*.
*Note: This worked fine on our test model, but a number of Amazon reviewers have noted that it didn’t work well for them.
Cons: Does not integrate into another smart system, can’t add other cameras.
While not expressly designed to be a smart baby monitor, we’re fans of the Nest, and if you have other Nest products in your home, this is definitely a good option for you. You just install the camera in your baby’s room (either on the wall or its magnetic stand) and plug it in. Download the free app on your smartphone, pair the camera to the app, and you’re in business. Assuming your WiFi works, you’ll be able to see and hear your baby on your smartphone anywhere you go.
Pros: Easy setup; Can add multiple cameras into the same account, which is useful for additional children/nanny cam/etc; Can capture video footage (Say baby wakes up with a little bump on her head – you can find out what she was up to last night.); Can set up alerts and see snapshots of key “action moments” (rolling over, etc.) via the Nest Aware program, at an additional cost; Ability to see all your Nest products (smoke alarms, thermostats) in the same app; Can use as a security camera once you’re done using it as a baby monitor.
Cons: Optional alert program costs extra ($100 or $300/year).