Best baby monitor: How to find the right one for your family

Technology allows you to have ears (and sometimes eyes!) on your baby at all times. Here’s how to wade through the glut and find the best baby monitor for your needs.

People sometimes complain that modern moms and dads are too nervous and overprotective, and that “back in our day,” parenting was a more relaxed and hands-off endeavor. But anyone with a newborn knows that the early days are a time of incredible joy…and intense neuroses. And if those supposedly “lax” parents of years past had had access to the kind of technology we have now, we bet they’d be just as excited to use it.

In fact, in addition to being a practical and convenient way to check in on little ones, baby monitors give parents the freedom to take care of their other duties with peace of mind: They’re always just one cry, coo, or cough away from being by their baby’s side.

Understanding your family’s living situation and personal preferences is key to picking the best baby monitor camera and baby items for you, so here are some things to take into consideration.

Things to consider when buying a baby monitor

Gone are the days when monitors were little more than CB radios delivering crackling noises that might be your child crying or might just be static interference. The best baby monitors are baby essentials and are much more sophisticated and allow for more technology integration, mobile device usage, stat monitoring, and much more.

Knowing your own needs is important—for example, if you have a small living space, an audio-only model may suffice—and will ensure you get a device that does what it intends and works with your parenting style. Here are some of the variables to keep in mind as you research.

Do You Need a Baby Monitor With Video?

Opting for a baby monitor with a high-quality video camera along with traditional audio allows for immediate peace of mind: You can literally see and hear your baby in real-time. The best baby monitors offer high-def video, a wide-screen camera for optimal viewing, night vision, and an alert system if your baby is moving too much. Some cameras offer pivoting to change views, while others are stationary.

A video baby monitor gives parents access and control so they can relax (or, you know, get laundry done). Higher-end models even utilize HD video to obtain data that can then be analyzed to offer sleep-tracking guidance. Apps can take sleep footage and replay it in a timelapse reel, allowing you to observe your baby’s sleeping patterns.

Best overall baby monitor with video: Nanit Plus – Smart Baby Monitor

Great Design With A Reliable Picture

High definition video baby monitor with sleep tracking and night vision. Amazon

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An award-winning, innovative baby monitor, the Nanit offers an impressive variety of video capabilities including HD bird’s-eye view, night vision, sleep tracking, sound and motion notifications, and temperature and humidity checks. Be aware that the Nanit includes a free one-year subscription to your video history and data, but after that, you’ll have to pay for access.

Or Is an Audio-Only Option the Best Baby Monitor for You?

While audio-only devices might seem old-fashioned compared to their shiny new video competitors, they still get the job done. One major advantage of these types of baby products is that they’re generally cost-effective. Some audio-only options even combine older radio technology with newer WiFi connectivity, as well as some neat bonus features, like a two-way radio, temperature monitoring, sleep analysis, and the ability to download soothing songs and stories to play for your child through the app

It’s important when buying any monitor, but particularly a radio-based one, to consider the frequency range: You need to be sure the signal reaches anywhere you plan to go, potentially even outside. The best baby monitors have rechargeable batteries with a good lifespan. When fully charged and within range, audio monitors can be very reliable, especially if you have spotty WiFi in your home. Hybrid audio-only baby monitors combine older radio technology with the ability to connect via WiFi and smartphones, which gives you more modes of use.

Best baby monitor, audio-only: Motorola Audio Baby Monitor

Stay In The Know

This model features 900-foot 2-way radio and WiFi smartphone connectivity. Amazon

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This audio baby monitor is a great option, as it’s powered by traditional radio connectivity up to 900 feet. Plus, it uses smart technology to connect to an app via WiFi. A high-sensitivity microphone picks up even the slightest sound and can record and analyze noise to determine sleep quality. Two-way radio functionality allows parents to talk and soothe their child through the monitor. You can also download songs and stories to play for your baby, as well as monitor room temperature and turn on a nightlight.

Are You Looking to Boost Your Nursery’s Design Quotient?

If you don’t want your baby’s room to look like the surveillance hub at a casino, there are styles that combine form and function. Some baby monitors take the necessary camera feature and playfully turn the shape into a friendly robot; others try to minimize size and use rounded organic shapes in bright colors and soft silicone material.

While enjoying the look of the monitor is important, obviously nothing is more crucial than safety and functionality. The best baby monitors offer all the features you want and still look good.

Most attractive baby monitor: Lollipop Baby Monitor with True Crying Detection

Three Color Options To Match Your Style

Candy-colored WiFi-connected video baby monitor with advanced crying detection. Amazon

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This unique-looking baby monitor comes in vivid pastels and is made out of flexible non-toxic silicone. The camera is encased in a round white built-in speaker that gives the device the look of a cute cartoon eyeball. Loaded with smart capabilities, it connects through an app and can accurately detect crying, see in night vision, track sleep quality, and play lullabies and white noise.

Do You Need Sleep Stats, Stat?

For the sleep-deprived tech-savvy parent, being able to study your baby’s patterns with the hope of improving them is a pretty cool feature. By gathering digital sound files, high-definition video, and temperature, humidity, and vitals info, apps can provide helpful guidance to get the baby (and you) to sleep. A smartphone app then relays detailed charts and information to helps kiddos stay healthy and sleep soundly. Some monitors that provide sleep analysis do this through audio only, some through audio and video, and others include a wearable component to monitor the baby’s oxygen and breathing.

Best smart baby monitor for sleep stats: Miku Smart Baby Monitor

Secure And Super Smart

WiFi-connected HD-video baby monitor that accurately tracks sleep and vitals. Amazon

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This award-winning video baby monitor offers high-definition video and sound along with the ability to track sleep without any wearables. For best results, strong WiFi is necessary throughout your home, as the data is transmitted and analyzed via smart tech on your smartphone app. Data is secured with an embedded crypto chip, two-factor authentication, and 256-bit encryption.

Is It Important for Your Baby Monitor to Track Vitals?

Your particular parenting needs will determine which features matter to you. For example, baby monitors that track vitals can measure a baby’s pulse rate and blood oxygen levels via wearables like a sock or blanket wrap, or other non-wearable gadgets. The data is then sent to the product’s base station, which keeps parents informed with real-time updates and alerts in case any abnormalities are detected.

No device will ever replace good parenting, so think of a vitals-tracking monitor as an extra protection measure, like wearing a high-tech belt with suspenders. Especially because technological errors can occur—like server crashes or the wearable getting placed in the wrong position—parents could potentially receive inaccurate results or false alerts. So they should only ever be used as an addition to—not a substitution for—good parenting.

Best baby monitor that tracks vitals: Owlet Smart Sock 3 Baby Monitor

Features Quick Charge Tech

Tracks baby’s oxygen and heart rate with real-time readings and alerts. Amazon

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Owlet’s smart baby monitor has advanced features which allow parents to track a baby’s vital signs with a wearable smart sock. Set up the base station within 100 feet of the baby’s crib and Bluetooth technology will transmit pulse rate and blood oxygen levels. The base station will glow depending on the levels reported, and parents will get alerts to their smartphones.

Brands to know

The baby-monitor market is vast, and consumers have a lot of choices between brands and models. We’ve picked a few of the major players to get you familiar with the best manufacturers currently on the market.

VTech

Originally called Video Technology Limited, VTech started out in the late 1970s as a video game console manufacturer. Founded by Allan Wong and Stephen Leung in Hong Kong, VTech created a version of the OG video game Pong in 1977, before gradually expanding its consumer electronics offerings and portfolio to include computers, portable electronics, and educational tools.

Nanit

Describing itself as a “collection of scientists, parents, and designers,” Nanit focuses almost entirely on products and services geared toward parental child care. A startup that received $6.6 million in seed funding in 2016, their products connect through proprietary mobile applications.

Owlet

Founded by BYU chemical engineering major Kurt Workman and electrical engineering major Zach Bomsta when both were new dads, Owlet began selling its “smart sock,” which could detect a baby’s vital signs through a simple, wearable sock-like device, in 2015. The company now offers a wider range of baby monitors and other care devices.

Best budget baby monitor: What you get for under $50

There are a variety of baby monitors available with a budget in mind. In general, you can get simple video monitors that include one small camera and a transportable parent unit to see and hear your baby (including night vision) and monitor the temperature. However, most video monitors with higher ratings are over this price point. Most monitors in the audio-only category are under $50, and our choice for a budget pick is the VTech DM221-2 Audio Baby Monitor. It’s highly rated, has a range of up to 1,000 feet, and provides parents with a vibrating sound-alert and LED-light visual when it detects sound. Additional features include a talk-back intercom that allows parents to soothe their baby, as well as a night-light feature and customizable volume.

Now get shopping for your monitor!

Technology has been rapidly changing the baby-monitor market. The best options provide you with a reliable and secure way to check in on your baby to be sure of their safety. With loads of choices, you can go big or small, high-tech or low—but whatever you decide, you’ve now got some of the best baby monitors currently on the market to choose from—so you and your little one can catch some much deserved Z’s.