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A baby monitor is one of those new-parent essentials that often tops a registry. The gadgets can be invaluable for peace of mind and sleep-training purposes, according to Elizabeth King, the founder of the sleep-consulting company Sleep Baby, who encourages parents to “take what a monitor tells you and use your gut and your parenting knowledge to react to your baby.” But with so many options out there, from audio-only monitors to Wi-Fi-enabled ones to others that track biometrics, choosing one that’s right for your family can be a bit daunting.
According to Jennifer LaBracio, the gear editor at the baby-registry website Babylist, the right baby monitor will depend on “the space you live in and your personality and parenting style.” For example, a family that lives in a big house might need something different from one that lives in a smaller apartment. A smart monitor that can analyze sleep patterns might make some parents feel more confident, but it could cause others undue stress. To help you navigate the vast universe of baby monitors, we spoke to LaBracio, King, and eight other experts — including parenting bloggers, sleep consultants, and parents — about their favorites. Their recommendations below include everything from traditional video monitors to “smart” devices that can track how your baby is sleeping to a simple and truly affordable audio monitor, should that be all you require.
Type: The biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether you want a baby monitor that uses a local radio frequency to transmit video and sound to the parent unit or one that’s Wi-Fi-enabled. There are pros and cons to both. The connection on a standard local video monitor is more reliable than on a Wi-Fi-enabled one since it doesn’t rely on the internet, which could go out at any given moment. It’s also more secure and is less likely to be hacked since it’s not on any sort of network. But this means you can’t watch the baby when you’re outside the house. Plus the range between the camera and the display unit can be limited depending on the size and layout of your home. (All the devices on this list top out at 1,000 feet, which is on the higher end.)
Wi-Fi monitors allow you to check in on your child from the office or a rare date night out — or anywhere in the world, for that matter, via an app on your phone, giving you more flexibility and control. While most companies promise a secure and private connection, there’s always the possibility of getting hacked, which sounds terrifying but actually doesn’t happen that often. Wi-Fi monitors are generally more expensive. But an internet-connected device means it can be a smart one, providing you with a lot more data tracking and insight into how your baby sleeps.
Video display: Because the point of a monitor is to keep eyes on your baby when you’re not in the room with them, being able to see your child clearly is important. Look for a monitor that provides a high-quality HD-video feed (and sound), and if you’re using one with a physical screen, make sure it’s big enough (most of the non-smart units on this list have five-inch screens).
Pay attention to the physical camera as well. Some Wi-Fi monitors’ cameras are fixed, meaning you can’t pan, tilt, zoom, or otherwise adjust them remotely, which you can do with a radio-frequency unit. But depending on the positioning of the camera, you should be able to get a clear view (a lot of the smart monitors are placed directly over the crib, giving you a bird’s-eye view of your little one, which takes care of the problem).
Features: At its most basic, a video monitor will show you what’s going on in your baby’s room. Non-Wi-Fi models like the ones on this list come with other convenient features to enhance that experience, including night vision, a two-way talk radio, a room-temperature indicator, a time display, and remote pan, tilt, and zoom abilities.
Smart monitors come with all these features and then some. The latest crop uses the camera — sometimes with accessories, sometimes without — to track the sleep habits of your baby and other data such as breathing patterns. This turns the monitor into something of a virtual sleep coach that analyzes when your child falls asleep (and how long it takes them to do so), how long they sleep for, whether they wake up during the night, and more. A smart monitor can also help you sleep better at night, especially if you’re anxious about whether your baby is breathing normally, for instance. That being said, some of this data could be unnecessary for most parents, so think about what will actually be useful to you before you settle on a monitor.
Wi-Fi smart monitor | 1080p HD camera | Sleep metrics | Optional wearables
The Nanit smart monitor received the most recommendations of any monitor we heard about with five of our experts telling us it’s a favorite. Made for the tech- and data-obsessed parent who wants to know and track everything about their baby, it has won a number of awards including being named one of the best inventions of 2018 by Time magazine. It’s an over-the-crib Wi-Fi camera that not only offers standard video-monitoring capabilities but also provides data, including sleep metrics, via its app. The bird’s-eye camera captures real-time HD-quality video and uses what the company calls “computer vision” to track whether your child is awake, sleeping, or fussing — no wearables required. Nanit synthesizes this data to generate nightly sleep reports and sleep scores, even providing tips on how to help your baby sleep better. As the Bump’s executive editor, Lauren Kay, puts it, “The Nanit is a two-in-one monitor that also gives you helpful training and guidance when it comes to sleep, which is different from a lot of the competitors.”
Natalie Nevares, the founder of Mommywise and a sleep-training expert who coaches new parents, says the Nanit is her favorite of all the cameras she’s used over the years. LaBracio loves it, too, telling us she recommends it all the time for its data-tracking ability. (It’s one of the most popular smart monitors among Babylist users and, anecdotally speaking, among new parents.) “You can pick up on patterns and sort of take a step back and see how your baby is sleeping the whole night,” she says. Jennifer Saxton, the founder of the Tot Squad, loves the monitor’s sleep-tracking feature, saying it helps eliminate the guesswork of trying to figure out how long a baby has been asleep. “The data tracking helps me understand exactly when the baby fell asleep (so I can predict how long I have until she will be up again), and the summary data of her average bedtimes and number of night wakings really help with watching trends during sleep training,” explains Saxton. Echoing this praise, Fathercraft co-founder Paul Zalewski says, “Nanit’s ‘smart features’ are actually useful,” adding that his business partner made significant changes to his son’s bedtime routine based on the Nanit’s analysis. “When a ‘smart product’ can actually deliver on a promise — in this case, that promise is more sleep for babies and parents — that’s pretty spectacular.”
Still, Nevares reminds us that any monitor — even one as advanced as the Nanit — won’t be 100 percent accurate, and sleep consultant Jennifer Metter adds that any data you get from a monitor like the Nanit should be considered in consultation with your baby’s doctor because “parents do not know how to identify what normal, healthy sleep looks like for babies and children.” And as much as LaBracio personally loved having access to these sleep insights for her infant, she agrees that it’s helpful to be familiar with infant sleep patterns so you’re not too caught up in the details the analytics provide. “If you’re a person who is going to get more anxious from seeing the data, then it’s probably not the monitor for you.”
If you want even more insights into how your baby is sleeping, you can use the breathing band (which comes with the Nanit Pro; you can also get it as a swaddle, sleep sack, or pajamas), which tracks a baby’s breathing motion in real time, without a sensor, by way of the camera. “We used the breathing wear for peace of mind with our infant, especially once she started sleeping on her stomach,” says Saxton. You can also purchase Nanit’s smart sheets, which let you to track your baby’s physical growth through the camera. To save a few bucks, you can buy everything in a bundle, but for most families, the Pro camera alone should be more than sufficient. The Nanit Pro includes a free one-year subscription to your video history and data with purchase; after that, you’ll have to pay $5 a month or $50 a year. But you can still use the monitor’s basic live-video monitoring without a subscription — you just won’t have access to any of the analytics or sleep insights.
Wi-Fi video monitor | 1080p HD camera | Parent unit included
If you’re looking for a straightforward, non-fussy Wi-Fi-enabled monitor, this brand-new model from Motorola, released earlier this year, is your best bet. LaBracio had a chance to try it out, and she recommends it for three key features. The first is its “fresh and new” design. “It’s black and white and more modern and sleeker-looking than a lot of what’s out there.” (The 1080p camera, with its rounded head and body, reminds me of Wall-E, the Pixar robot.) The second is how “very self-intuitive” and “super-easy it is to use.” All LaBracio did was plug it in without even reading the instructions, and it “worked beautifully.” The third is how it can be controlled through either the screen (as with non-Wi-Fi models) or an app. (Most Wi-Fi monitors don’t come with a separate video monitor.) If you don’t feel like setting up the app for whatever reason, you can still use the screen, as LaBracio did on a recent trip. “I didn’t set up anything other than just the monitor. I plugged it in and it was ready to go,” she says. “I could carry the parent unit around the house where we were staying, and it was super-easy.” Something to keep in mind: When you’re using the parent unit, the range tops out at 1,000 feet. Other features include the five-inch color display — which she calls “huge,” though she admits the clarity doesn’t to compare with more expensive models like the Nanit or Miku — as well as two-way talk, noise-level-indicator bars, infrared night vision, room-temperature monitoring, a wall mount, and remote pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities. “It’s different from what else is out there,” LaBracio concludes. It combines the ease of a standard plug-and-go radio-frequency baby monitor with the convenience of a Wi-Fi-enabled device.
Non-Wi-Fi video monitor | 1,000-foot range | 720p HD camera | Five-inch display
Two of our experts told us the Eufy is their top choice for a non-Wi-Fi-enabled baby monitor — that is, one that uses a radio-frequency-based system to transmit information and requires both a camera and a “parent unit” (or separate viewing device instead of an app on your phone). “It feels like a modern tech product versus something that you would’ve seen ten years ago,” says Zalewski. “Its parent unit is slim and lightweight, the image quality is excellent, and the user interface is intuitive. Compare that to most other non-Wi-Fi monitors and there’s a world of difference.” The Eufy’s parent unit has a large five-inch display screen, while the camera, which includes a wide-angle lens attachment, can pan 330 degrees and tilt 110 degrees. It has two-way audio, a coverage range of up to 1,000 feet — which is helpful if you live in a larger home — and the ability to connect to up to four cameras (sold separately), a feature loved by Suzie Zeldin Russell, a co-owner of the SmartSitting network for child-care professionals. “It’s very easy to switch between cameras, so we can watch our baby nap while checking on our toddler in the playroom,” she says. “We have recommended this monitor to countless friends and consistently get rave reviews in response. Of all the baby gear we own, this is among the very best.”
Non-Wi-Fi video monitor | 1,000-foot range | 720p HD camera | Five-inch display | LED sound indicator
The Infant Optics DXR-8 Pro baby monitor is the newest version of the DXR-8 model, which is extremely popular among Amazon users, with more than 48,000 reviews on the website, as well as Babylist users, according to LaBracio. I am a longtime fan of this line and have used both models, and I can attest that the Pro is an incredible improvement over the original device, which I already loved. I still use the Pro (my son is 3 years old) and recommend paying $40 more for it. The Pro has all the features of the original but is better. One of the main upgrades is the five-inch HD screen, a noticeably larger, crisper display than the 3.5-inch original. As I wrote in a review of the Pro, making the switch was quite literally like going from low- to high-def. The enhanced night vision on the 720p video feed is so clear we could actually see my son’s open eyes at night, which we couldn’t do with the original monitor. The Pro also comes with active noise-reduction technology that reduces background noises such as fans, but because it doesn’t work when a sound machine is on, this feature is less important for our purposes. Another feature that sets the DXR-8 Pro apart from the Eufy is its LED soundbar, a favorite feature of Nevares’s, who uses the older device as a backup on her consults in case the Wi-Fi cuts out on a smart monitor. The audio indicator allows you to turn off the sound (and the screen) but still see whether there’s noise coming from the room by way of LED lights that flash green and red. “I like to be able to have the ability to turn the volume off and watch the baby and not hear it,” says Nevares. Like the Eufy, it can be paired with up to four additional cameras (sold separately), a feature that Strategist contributor Kelsey Osgood says she really appreciated when she had a second child 19 months after giving birth to her first. It also has pan and tilt capabilities and comes with an interchangeable zoom lens. (You can buy a wide-angle lens separately.)
Non-Wi-Fi | Audio only | 1,000-foot range
If all you want is a no-fuss audio monitor and you don’t need to see into your child’s room, VTech’s DM221 is a favorite of LaBracio, Kay, and Dave Baldwin, a freelance journalist and the former gear, technology, and play editor at Fatherly. Using digital audio technology, the DM221 offers clear audio transmission with a range of 1,000 feet and eliminates the crackle of analog models. A two-way intercom allows you to talk to your baby, while a five-level sound indicator can visually alert you to cries. The transmitter has a soft night-light for your child, and its compact size makes it perfect for travel. Plus you can’t beat the price tag.
Wi-Fi smart monitor | 1080p HD camera | Sleep metrics | Breathing monitor | No wearables required
Like the Nanit, the Miku Pro is a smart monitor that provides sleep-tracking and breathing-pattern data. But unlike the Nanit, it requires no wearables at all: It can track a baby’s breathing and sleep patterns through its patented camera alone (the Nanit requires the breathing band to track breathing). That was a huge plus for LaBracio. “If you’re interested in tracking respiration and stuff like that, the Miku is excellent because you don’t have to put anything on the baby,” she says. “You can just put your baby in your crib, and the Miku detects it all” — no special bands, clothing, positioning, accessories, or charging required. In addition to providing live breathing monitoring and sleep reports that show when the baby fell asleep, the duration of their sleep, their sleep quality, and their wake-up time, the Miku displays the temperature and humidity levels in the nursery, has an ambient-light monitor, comes with custom Ole Wolff speakers, and has two-way audio that can play original sleep sounds and lullabies, making it an “audio step up from the Nanit,” according to LaBracio. It also comes with a crypto chip for what Saxon calls “really hard-core security functionality.” Unlike the Nanit, the Miku doesn’t have a monthly charge to access sleep analytics and past footage.
Wi-Fi video monitor | 1080p HD camera with color night vision
Instead of getting a baby-specific monitor, many families choose to use a camera from their home’s existing security system. But as LaBracio observes that people are moving away from hacking their Nest and Ring cams and increasingly opting for smart Wi-Fi-enabled baby monitors that provide analytics like the Nanit and Miku. Her prediction: “In the next couple of years, those types of higher-priced monitors will become the standard and outpace video monitors.” Still, they’re expensive and will put you out a couple hundred dollars. According to LaBracio, one new-to-market security camera that has been gaining some buzz for its friendly price is the Wyze Cam V3. It’s what Babylist senior visual designer Tonya and mom of two uses. “I love the Wyze Cam because it’s affordable, super-easy to set up, and can be quickly moved to any room in the house,” she says. It comes with two-way communication, which she says is “great for the toddler years,” and the option to use a micro-SD card for storage, which helps her feel more secure than keeping personal data on the cloud. The Wyze Cam has 1080p color night vision, which makes it ideal as a baby monitor, and it comes with a mount that can be installed three ways.
• Dave Baldwin, journalist and former editor at Fatherly
• Lauren Kay, executive editor of the Bump
• Elizabeth King, founder of Sleep Baby
• Jennifer LaBracio, gear editor at Babylist
• Jennifer Metter, sleep consultant
• Natalie Nevares, founder of Mommywise
• Suzie Zeldin Russell, co-owner of SmartSitting
• Jennifer Saxton, founder of Tot Squad
• Tonya, senior visual designer at Babylist
• Paul Zalewski, co-founder of Fathercraft
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