A beginner’s guide to buying a baby monitor

Infrared cameras, two-way communication, movement monitors and wi-fi - when it comes to choosing the right baby monitor, what’s a gimmick and what’s a ‘gimme-that-now’?

Baby panda with monitor

Finding good pictures of baby monitors is hard. Here’s a cute baby panda instead

Here’s my list of must-haves and what you can leave behind when it comes to making that major tech purchase.

Must have: Good quality camera

Gone are the days of sound-only monitors – you want to be able to see bub, preferably in HD quality. While some vantage points may only enable you to peek through cot rails, there’s a definite comfort in seeing your little one snooze away. Make sure the camera’s infrared, to ensure quality night vision.

The downside of a good camera is that it will mean your monitor replaces Netflix as the channel-of-choice for at least the first three months.

Must have: Bloody good power

The handset absolutely needs to have rechargeable batteries, and they have to last a good four or five hours without a blast of mains power. If it’s only powered when plugged in, move on, daddy. But also make sure that the batteries aren’t in-built and can be removed – rechargeable batteries only have a certain number of charge cycles in them, and it’s going to be in constant use.

Must have: Wide range

An overlooked aspect of baby monitors. If you want to sit out in the garden or on the balcony when baby sleeps, or want to be downstairs when baby’s up, make sure your monitor has the power to travel through walls and round corners.

Wide Range

If your monitor can break through the space-time continuum, you’re onto a winner!

The range different units have differs greatly, so check this out. Also, keep in mind that internal brick walls can block or reduce some signals, so assess the capabilities based on your home.

Maybe: Sensor pads

This is probably the biggest decision when it comes to monitor purchase, and this is a choice of genuine personal preference.

The sensor pads sit under the mattress in the bassinet and then the cot, and alert you if no movement is picked up for a short period of time. After our baby was born prematurely, we embraced a sensor pad baby monitor as for three weeks, he’d been hooked up to machines and we took great comfort from the constant reassurance the technology gave us.

The model we had was pretty reliable, although the ‘no-movement’ alarm sounding (false alarm) in the middle of the night on one occasion scared the absolute bejesus out of us. We only stopped using the sensor pads after almost two years because they broke – and we probably won’t bother with baby number two, although my wife may beg to differ.

Maybe: Temperature gauge


Not a necessity, but keeping an eye on the temperature in baby’s room is a good side benefit, especially in properties that don’t have central heating.

Maybe: Wifi-enabled

The tech’s pretty cool – you can open the app wherever you are and see baby sleeping, or playing, or whatever they’re doing. I can see the appeal, however if you’re not in the house, then hopefully someone else is looking after bub, and you should just get on with whatever you’re doing.

Dad Baby Monitor Wifi Plane

Cool, but a potential gateway into becoming a helicopter parent

Chances are, when you and your partner have the rare opportunity for a night out alone, you’ll spend the majority of time talking about your little person – there’s no need to spend all night watching them, too.

Don’t bother: Two-way communication

Obviously one-way comms is a vital component of any baby monitor (just remember that what you say is being broadcast around the house). But two-way? If it’s a feature of the baby monitor, fine, but don’t make a choice based on it.

Even if the sound quality is perfect (often, it’s more robot-like), the static camera suddenly sounding like mum’s or dad’s voices emerging from a light in a dark corner, is enough to spook anyone, never mind a tiny tot.

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