Baby Monitor Buying Tips
by Suzanne Koup-Larsen
When my first child became a toddler, her baby monitor fell victim to her “let’s-see-what-happens-when-I-drop-this-on-the-floor” phase. It broke. I didn’t miss it. The baby’s-room unit had a belt clip and battery power for portability, but the parents’ unit was tethered to the wall by a power cord. That’s backwards! It’s the parent who moves around while the baby stays in one place.
So I was happy to shop for a new monitor while expecting my second child. Here are some ideas to consider before you buy a monitor or add one to your baby’s registry.
Not a Necessity
A baby monitor is not a safety necessity. Some people prefer to do without one because they want some downtime once the baby is safely in the crib; they don’t want to be on alert at all times, listening for every little sound. As a friend of mine once said, “If my baby really needs me, she’ll cry loud enough for me to hear her.”
But many consider baby monitors a must-have. Christina Cipoletti a product manager for Graco Baby Products, says monitors give parents “controlled freedom,” or the flexibility to go down in the basement, work in the garden or walk to the mailbox, and still stay connected to the baby.
“We recommend them for all parents for peace of mind,” says Sean Elwell, RN, injury prevention coordinator at the duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. Monitors can prevent nursery injuries by giving parents an extra heads up that something’s going on. “It gives parents a chance to get upstairs before they hear the thump on the floor,” says Elwell.
According to Cipoletti, the four main things to look for when shopping for a baby monitor are:
Sound Quality. You want a clear connection to the baby, without much static or other sounds drowning out what you’re trying to hear. If the monitor makes annoying sounds, you’re more likely to turn it off.
Privacy. Because baby monitors operate on common household frequencies, it’s possible to pick up signals from your neighbors’ monitors, telephones, or other appliances. If you can pick up their frequencies, it’s possible they can
receive yours too.
Portability. Does your receiver comfortably go where you want it to go, or are you limited as I was?
Range. How far does it let you go? Consider obstructions in your home that might limit the range.
Also, consider the size of your home. If you live in a 1,000-sq.-ft. apartment, you might not need a monitor. But if you live in a larger home with multiple stories, you may need help picking up your child’s whimpers and sighs.
What Is the Cost?
With a wide price range ($15 to $300), you must decide which bells and whistles such as clips, alarms, lights and vibration you want and are willing to pay for. While the $200 Digital SCD 589 model from Phillips received Consumer Reports’ top overall score, other top-rated monitors cost less than $100.
Generally, audio-only monitors cost less than $100. Video drives the price a bit higher. Digital signals cost more than analog. If privacy is an issue, you might want to pay a bit more for a secure digital signal.
Return Policy and Testing
Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, author of the Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety ($12.95), says check the store’s return policy before you buy, then try out the monitor before the baby arrives. That way, you can return or exchange it if you discover problems.
Test the monitor in different locations and at different times of day to see if it interferes with appliances such as cordless or cell phones. Make sure you’re not picking up interference or conversations from neighbors’ appliances or baby monitors.
As I discovered, keep the monitor out of reach of your other children! Also, make sure there are no choking or strangulation hazards, such as cords, within reach of the baby’s crib. The monitor should pick up the baby’s sounds from several feet away so keep it out of the crib.
Don’t let a baby monitor give you a false sense of security. You can’t hear every potential problem. “It will not reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or other problems,” says Schaefer-Wilson.
“It’s a great tool and a great asset, but it doesn’t take the place of being very active in your child’s care,” says duPont’s Sean Elwell.
Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.