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Everything you need to know before buying a baby monitor

Pick the right one for your family

A plethora of baby monitors on a purple background Credit: Reviewed / Tim Renzi

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If you've got a new baby on the way, you're probably in the market for a baby monitor. Whether it's your first kid or your fifth, baby monitors are a new baby must-have. They are crucial to sleep training and safety monitoring and can give stressed-out parents some much-needed peace of mind.

We've tested the best baby monitors on the market, from non-Wi-Fi baby monitors that rely on audio, like what you or I grew up with, to the best video baby monitors that even include Wi-Fi-baby monitors with smart cameras.

All this choice means you can pick a monitor that perfectly fits your needs, but the search for the best baby monitor for your family probably leaves you with a lot of questions as you decide which one to buy.

Below are the most frequently asked questions about baby monitors and our answers, following months of testing and years of collective experience.

If you'd like to learn more about which baby monitors we’ve tested and which we think are the best, be sure to check out our guides to the best video baby monitors and the best audio baby monitors, too.

Do I need a baby monitor?

A bunch of baby monitors on a purple background.
Credit: Reviewed / Tim Renzi

There are so many types of baby monitors to choose from; the options can be daunting.

None of the parents at Reviewed feel like they could have gotten through the first year or two of parenting without a baby monitor. While it’s a frequent assumption that you may not need one in a small space, in our experience a baby monitor is invaluable, even while living in an 800-square-foot, single-floor apartment.

Here is why we recommend getting a baby monitor, even in small space living or co-sleeping scenarios.

You have a light sleeper

We have news for you: Every baby is a light sleeper during the first six months of life. A simple check-in can often signal to an infant that it’s time to shake off the sleeps and party with Mom and Dad. A nearby monitor allows you to check in without stirring a lightly sleeping baby.

The slightest creak of a door can take a trip to dreamland rapidly off course; a baby monitor will ensure you won't wake them up while checking in on their well-being.

Drama-free sleep training

Sleep training is always a fraught process, even if you take the most gentle approach. A baby monitor can make for a far smoother experience. A good video monitor allows you to check in on a quiet child who may just be silently staring at their mobile above their crib—letting you know to let them be as they self-soothe into a slumber.

It also lets you know if their fussiness is just them getting comfortable, or if they need a little hug and reassurance—making for a less anxious sleep training process on both your parts.

Poking your head in during sleep training can be a very confusing practice for a little one. A good video monitor allows you to easily keep tabs on them, while also giving your baby the consistency—and quiet—they need.

Temperature checks

HVAC and heating systems aren’t foolproof. Rooms can overheat or the temperatures in them can drop drastically. A baby monitor with a temperature sensor is invaluable in ensuring your child is sleeping in a room at a safe and comfortable temperature.

Most video baby monitors offer air quality, temperature, and humidity readings. We highly recommend you look for monitors that offer these features, both for the comfort of your little one and their safety.

The best temperature for a sleeping baby is between 68°F and 72°F. A room that goes too far out of that range can be uncomfortable for baby or, in extreme circumstances, lead to hyperthermia or dehydration.

It's a small but useful feature and, for this writer, one that we couldn't have lived without—especially when traveling and staying in unfamiliar rooms with less predictable heating and cooling units.

What are the types of baby monitors?

Credit: Reviewed / Tim Renzi

Which baby monitor you choose will depend on your living situation and your comfort level.

Audio baby monitors

Audio baby monitors allow you to listen in on your baby without video. They are the kind most of our parents had when we were infants and they are best for families that really want to keep things simple.

Audio baby monitors are the most basic of the bunch and the most affordable of baby monitors, but what you save in cost is usually at the expense of useful features.

Audio and video non-Wi-Fi baby monitors

Video baby monitors have a screen for you to keep a watchful eye on your baby. The non-Wi-Fi versions tend to require very little technical know-how to set up or use, but you can often find ones like the Vava Baby Monitor, one of the top-ranking video monitors we've tested, that have highly useful features like 2-way audio, seven volume levels, real-time temperature monitors, and a communication range up to 900 feet.

An added appeal to video non-Wi-Fi baby monitors is there’s no need to keep up with software updates or worry about security and privacy concerns. These types of monitors generally only work, however, when the camera and monitor are within close range of each other.

Wi-Fi-enabled baby monitors

Wi-Fi-enabled monitors are appealing to parents who want to keep tabs on their baby when they are out and about, when traveling, or in any other situation where they may need to monitor at a longer range. They also tend to have smartphone alerts that many parents can't live without.

These types of baby monitors often have apps that download to a phone and many have special features like breath, movement, and sleep tracking as well as options to download video and photos of your child.

Wondering how to choose a baby monitor? We'll tell you

Cubo Ai Plus Smart Baby Monitor on a purple background with a stuffy.
Credit: Reviewed / Tim Renzi

The Cubo Ai Plus Smart Baby Monitor really goes the distance with features!

Here is a quick breakdown of features to look for when shopping for a baby monitor.

Range

Range determines how far away you can be from your baby or their nursery and still be able to get quality sound and video. If you have a larger home, if you want to be able to take your baby monitor outdoors, or if you live in a home with thicker walls—all of these things will be impacted by the range your baby monitor offers. Consider these factors before buying a baby monitor.

Video quality

If you choose a video monitor, look for one that has high-quality night vision. A grainy image will make it more challenging to track your baby’s comfort and safety visually.

Remote adjustments

Remote panning and adjustments, while not 100% necessary, can come in handy when you’ve got a kiddo that doesn’t tend to stay in one reliable spot while sleeping.

Portability

Some cameras require a wall mount and can’t really be moved once installed. If you’re someone who wants a camera they can take with them while they travel, this is something to consider before buying a baby monitor.

Battery life

Quite simply, this determines how long you can carry the parent unit of your baby monitor around on you before it loses its charge and needs to be plugged back in.

Specialized features

Besides watching your little one, some monitors come with loads of bells and whistles. Some play music or come with an internal sound machine. Others allow for two-way communication with your tot.

Still others, like the Cubo Ai Plus Smart Baby Monitor really go the distance with features like text or email alerts with motion or audio detection, temperature and humidity settings, and smart home compatibility.

Which is the best baby monitor?

A V-Tech baby monitor with a cute star-shaped stuffy.
Credit: Reviewed / Tim Renzi

For some, an audio-only baby monitor may be enough. For others, they'll want something with a wider range of features.

In many cases, the choice is subjective. Do you want the specialized features of some of the higher-end models? Do you just want to keep it simple with an audio-only, Wi-Fi-free baby monitor? Or, do you want something in between?

For a more comprehensive breakdown of some of the best baby monitors available right now, check out our in-depth guides to the best video baby monitors and the best audio baby monitors.

By reading up on each standout feature, as well as the pros and cons of each monitor, you'll be able to determine which is the best baby monitor for you.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.