As an expectant parent (and now a new father!!) who also happens to be an ob/gyn as well as a technophile, I am frequently asked for advice about baby monitors. Before preparing my future child’s nursery, I thought there were only 2 types of monitors: audio only and audio + video. However, after searching the Internet, talking to friends who have kids, and making a couple trips to my local electronics store, I learned that I was really wrong!
In fact, the 2 types of monitors are really the Nest Cam and everything else. However, before breaking down the differences between the 5 major monitors on the market, here are some general things you should think about when looking for a baby monitoring solution.
RANGE: How far can I go while still keeping my baby in sight (or sound)?
SECURITY: Is this device analog or digital? Digital devices (including Wi-Fi) typically encrypt the audio and video streams which allows for improved privacy (especially important when living in an apartment building).
DISPLAY: How well can I see my baby? Is it all grainy? Can I zoom in? Can I pan-and-tilt? Does the monitor have night-vision?
AUDIO: How well can I hear my child’s cries without having to listen to tons of static? Also, does the device offer push-to-talk features to let me speak to the child remotely? Lastly, does it play lullabies?
BATTERIES: Is the device rechargeable? Does it need to be plugged in? Is the device a hazard or a risk for the baby eventually pulling it into the crib?
SIZE: Is the monitor going to take up the entire night table or can I carry it around my home?
MULTIPLE RECEIVERS: Am I forced to take a receiver everywhere I go? Can I set up 1 receiver in my bedroom and 1 in another room? Will the device allow me to use my smartphone or tablet as a receiver?
SETUP: Probably the most important feature I care about! How easy is the device to actually set up and use? Do I need to call tech support just to get the device online?
The reason I say that the Nest Cam is in a group of its own is because it is the most dramatically different monitor out there. The Nest Cam is truly a home security solution. It was designed to allow for low-profile continuous video and audio monitoring of “spaces” such as rooms, basements, and backyards. The Nest Cam has beautiful iPhone/Android/desktop interfaces that allow for easy-to-navigate video reviews, but it’s really a security camera, not a baby monitor. As I quickly learned from my product review, the Nest Cam is limited in that it does not have the ability to pan and tilt; despite having a 130-degree wide-angle camera lens, it cannot move unless you move it. The quality of the video is spectacular, but to review the video at a later date (a 10- or 30-day interval) requires a subscription to the cloud-based NestAware service, which can cost as much as $300 per year! And, the monitor requires either a computer or a smart device to receive the image. If you don’t have a connected device, that could be another big expense. In short, I bought 2 Nest Cams to monitor events in my apartment, but it’s not what I’m going to use to monitor my baby on a nightly basis.
Summer Infant Babble Band
When I first started writing this article, I had my mind set on video-based monitors only. However, after speaking to friends with toddlers, I realized that video is a luxury, not a necessity. If the baby is crying, you are going to go in the room instead of using grainy night-vision-esque video to try to figure out the reason for the crying. The Babble Band is the “first and only wearable audio monitor for parents to monitor and feel close to baby wherever they are in the house.” This wearable device, which is audio only, let’s you hear your baby’s cry from your wrist. However, if you want to go to sleep or sit with guests who may not want to hear the audio, you simply press a button to switch the device to vibrate mode, which alerts the wearer to activity/noise with a pulsing vibration. The audio is digitally encrypted and the monitoring device serves as the charging base for the wearable receiver. The Summer Infant Babble Band was the cheapest baby monitor I reviewed.