Smartphone baby monitors have become extremely popular in recent years. Having gone through raising an infant ourselves we know how stressful it can be & all the things you wonder about, especially in the middle of the night.
We shared our list of the 10 Must Have Baby Products which were the things that helped us raise our newborn babies. So we thought we would share our tips about how to choose a baby monitor that you can also use with your smartphone.
WHAT IS A BABY MONITOR TRADITIONALLY?
The first ever baby monitor was called the Zenith Radio Nurse which was released in 1937. This Zenith Radio product was developed by Eugene F. McDonald, designed in collaboration with Japanese-American product designer Isamu Noguchi.
A baby monitor for most people will be considered to be something like a baby alarm or a device that is used to remotely listen to sounds made by your newborn or infant. In the simplest form, it alerts you to sounds like the baby crying, which is sent from a microphone via the transmitter unit.
Some might even provide two-way communication and you can talk to your baby to try and settle them. Over the years baby monitor devices have evolved to also include video monitoring (sometimes called a baby cam) and more recently things like movement monitoring, breathing or sleeping.
WHY DO PARENTS USE A BABY MONITOR?
Broadly speaking parents will use a baby monitor to reduce their anxiety levels when trying to care for their newborn baby. It is the easiest way to hear when an infant wakes up when you are not within hearing distance and doing something in another room of the house. If a baby does wake up or cry, this could be because they are hungry, need their nappy changed or just having a restless sleep.
Depending on the monitor you are using they will give you alerts via a device you carry with you like a portable speaker, small video screen and some may even send you an alert via your smartphone. Luckily most of them provide wireless options and compatibility with either Android or iOS devices to provide plenty of connectivity and installation options.
For many parents ‘Night Anxiety’ is a very real thing that we all experience. Mother Nurture has written an article about this topic with 5 important tips to help parents. In fact, the feeling of being overwhelmed, uncertain and isolated whilst being sleep deprived is a real problem that many parents suffer.
This is evidenced by the incidence of anxiety and depression post birth. So much so, clinicians even have a name for the extreme instances which affect 10-20% of mothers, perinatal depression. Perinatal depression has long lasting effects on parents and babies, costing an estimated $538M every year to Australia. This is ignoring the cost of the ‘Baby Blues’, anxiety and stress that doesn’t meet the threshold of perinatal depression.
This is why parents use a baby monitor or other products to help reduce the burden and pressure they are feeling.
WHAT TYPES OF BABY MONITOR ARE THERE?
Audio only baby monitors
An audio baby monitor lets you listen to your baby while they sleep in their bed and let you hear their noises like cries while minimising background noise. You can get these devices in analogue or digital versions. Some of these might even include the ability to play back white noise to soothe your baby.
Video Baby Monitors
You can add video to a baby monitoring device to hear and see what is happening. With a small camera mounted onto a wall or bedside furniture you can watch as well as listen to then. Some models will include the ability to zoom or move the camera to see around the room. Others will also include night vision to see your baby when the room is dim or completely dark.
There is quite a lot of debate amongst health professionals, parents and medical companies about the methods needed to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Literature shows that so called ‘SIDS’ devices, DO NOT reduce the incidence of SIDS. See Rednose’s article on it, here. Movement monitors have been designed to let parents know if the baby hasn’t moved for a certain period of time. Helping parents understand what is normal and abnormal motion for their baby.
Wireless Baby Monitors
Today there are quite a few monitors that will connect to your wireless network that lets you use your computer, smartphone or tablet to be used as the receiver. You can watch the video on screen or even get notifications so you know what is happening with your baby
A baby monitor that can work over an internet wireless network can let you view your baby while you are at work or out and about.
Smartphone as Baby Monitor
There have been quite a few apps created for iOS or Android that can turn your smartphone into a baby monitoring device. What some people will do is use an old smartphone and set it up as a camera and audio recording device that sends information to your new phone.
WHAT DID WE USE FOR OUR BABIES?
We didn’t use any monitoring per see. However, we did call our midwife several times and turned to doctor google a lot as well. You just don’t realise how anxious you can become when you become a parent for the first time.
We could have done with monitoring when our oldest was 3 months old while we were on a short family holiday in a tropical climate and were constantly worried about hydration and feeding. When we came back to Adelaide it was the middle of winter and our Amali kept waking in the night. We spoke to a sleep consultant and paid $300 dollars for a sleep plan. Although by far and away the most useful advice the sleep consultant gave us was, is she cold? We put another blanket on and she was fine. She had adjusted to the tropics but took some time to adjust back to the Adelaide winters.
We used a baby monitor so we could listen out for crying when we weren’t in the house. We bought one that came with white noise as well, which was invaluable when we were travelling. The other monitoring device we used quite a bit was a digital thermometer, our first point of call when our girls were looking a bit sick or not quite right was to know what their temperature was like.
SMARTPHONE BABY MONITORS FOR IOS OR ANDROID
Nanit is one of the best options when it comes to high quality video monitoring. You do pay a premium for it as it does offer a few more smarts.
- Tracks room temperature
- Tracks sleep
- It is a body wrap, camera and app
Owlet is one of the best monitors when it comes to monitoring blood/oxygen levels. If all you are interested in is my baby getting enough oxygen, Owlet is one of the more comprehensive solutions.
- Measures blood/oxygen levels
- Tracks heart rate
- Tracks sleep
- Bluetooth connection
- It works with a sock, app and base station
iBaby is a good middle of the road option, it is not too expensive and comes with some extra smarts that a standard monitor doesn’t come with
- Camera, app
- ‘Smells’ soiled nappies
- Light and sound show
- Tracks room temperature
- Wifi connection
MonBaby is a good value for money option. It tracks motion to give an indication of normal movement at a very reasonable price.
- Tracks movement
- Tracks room temp
- Tracks position of baby
- Bluetooth Module, App
Project Nursery is a very basic but effective baby monitor. If all you are looking for is a camera, this is one of the most cost effective options
- Camera, app
- Tracks room temp
- Wifi connection
FeverSmart is one of the few that tracks core temperature, it is also a registered medical device. If you are interested in tracking core temperature over an extended period of time (<1 day) FeverSmart is a good option.
- TGA approved
- Core temperature
- Module and app
Ok technically this product doesn’t have a Smartphone component but we thought it an important one to include because Oricom is one of the few medical grade SIDS alert products. They have gone through the most regulatory control to design their product.
- TGA approved
- Tracks movement
- Matt, monitor
The Goldilocks Suit provides the most holistic view for your babies wellbeing and gives actionable feedback to help you deal with the situation. Its an all-in-one baby monitor. Not only will it tell you if your baby is awake, but will give insights into why and give you the confidence to deal with the situation quickly and effectively.
Our aim when designing our product was to not only provide monitoring but tracking and education across many different important areas.
- Tracks core/room temperature
- Tracks sleep
- Tracks feeding
- Tracks development goals
- Tracks movement and breathing
- Provides coaching content from clinicians
- Singlet, module and app
10 BABY MONITOR FEATURES TO CONSIDER
1. How many functions can it provide?
When you start doing your research you will notice two things immediately;
a) There are thousands of baby monitoring products.
b) The prices of baby monitoring products vary from $50 to $1,000+
The big thing that differentiates a lot of products apart from the brand is exactly how many things can it actually do. Some are single-function devices and others can do quite a few things. Therefore cheaper is not always the better option.
When we set out to design the Goldilocks Suit we knew that most parents want their lives simplified so it would be important to try and reduce how many things are being used to care for a baby, minimise the number of devices or items needed.
2. Is it portable or able to be used everywhere you go?
Most baby monitoring products ‘live’ in your home and it isn’t practical for you to take them everywhere you go. So if you are visiting family, going on holiday, heading to a friends house or just going for a weekend drive, most baby monitoring devices will get left at home.
The Goldilocks Suit or Owlet Smart Sock have been designed to be portable, staying with your baby wherever they go. It helps to give you 24/7 peace of mind when caring for your baby. These devices can also record and track aspects of their development like sleeping patterns or breathing.
Being able to monitor a baby while travelling was one of the big requests we heard from many parents that we spoke to when developing the Goldilocks Suit. A baby doesn’t spend all their life at home in their bedroom so being able to use a monitor anywhere was high on the list of needs.
3. What connection does it have – wired or wireless?
A lot of monitors will use DECT which is a low-frequency band that’s exclusive for voice-only communication compared to the 2.4 GHz frequency band, which is commonly used by other home devices such as cordless phones, video game controls or wireless devices. Depending on your home environment these types of devices might encounter interference compared to Bluetooth where in most cases it is a one to one connection.
In our research we found that using the latest Bluetooth V5.0 LTE was the right balance between wireless freedom vs low electrical emission vs battery life vs reliable connectivity.
4. What batteries does the monitor system use?
In most cases a baby monitor and the modules will always be on so getting a unit that can either be plugged in or recharged will be more useful to avoid needing to replace batteries every few days. You also want to make sure it is easy to understand how much battery life is left so there are no surprises or the possibility of back up batteries.
For many parents they told us that long battery life was a big consideration factor. It led our decision making to use the low power consumption of Bluetooth in our module which can operate for many hours between charging.
5. How big is the receiver?
Life gets so busy these days and we are used to carrying a mobile phone in our pocket and that is why we designed Goldilocks Suit to work with an iOS or Android phone so that you don’t have to carry other portable receivers.
If you are thinking about a more traditional monitor then the size and weight of the portable receiver becomes very important. You want to be able to move around the house freely with something that is light or that can fit into your pocket. Some models might have the option for extra handsets.
6. Does it work well at night?
Doesn’t matter what type of device you choose – is it easy to use at night time? Can you easily see the display, the buttons or notifications? If it is a video monitor, how well does it work in a dark room? You might find out later that you need to leave a night light on to help your monitor work properly.
7. Sound filtering
The clarity of the sound or video image coming through from the baby’s room to the various handsets is super important. After all, if you can’t hear or see him, then what’s the point of having a monitor at all? Ambient and background noises can be annoying when picked up and amplified by a baby monitor: Look for a features list that includes a sound activation feature that will filter out noise.
8. Power cords
How many different cords does the system need to operate. There could be cords going from a camera to a base station then to the power plug. All of these need to be kept out of reach to avoid any potential hazards. Wireless models may potentially solve this problem and have a charging station placed somewhere else in the house.
How does the device give you notifications? Are they audible warnings, beeps, lights or even things like pings on your mobile phone? A baby monitor that turns its speaker on only when there’s a cry detected won’t keep you up all night listening to ambient noise, like the air conditioner in the baby’s room.
10. Notifications vs Tracking & recording
Of course the whole purpose of monitors is to provide an alert or notification if something changes. Although some devices will go a step further and track or record this information over time. So it means you have a log with a history of your baby’s development that can show progression or changes.
WHAT IS THE BEST BABY MONITOR IN 2020?
We are biased of course, but we think the Goldilocks Suit is the best baby monitor available in 2020 with its unique blend of intuitive design, portability and mix of tracking or recording functionality. Although we recommend trying to look at independent, non-commercial, sources for reviews and comparisons to try and determine what might suit your needs.
1. Product reviews
You can see what people think of different baby monitors after using them in real-world situations on websites like Product Review. This website has a few checks and balances to try and verify reviews. Although some companies might be better at prompting people to post reviews vs others, so it is important to keep this in mind.
2. Independent tests
Choice publishes round ups every once in a while which have free and paid options for you to read.
3. Consumer review and comparison sites
On face value these may seem useful, Canstar Blue is one of the leading sites that has reviewed baby monitors, although make sure you read the fine print
“Canstar Blue may earn a fee for referrals from its website tables, and from sponsorship of certain products. Fees payable by product providers for referrals and sponsorship may vary between providers. Generally, sponsorship fees are payable in addition to referral fees. Sponsored products are clearly disclosed as such on website pages. They may appear in a number of areas of the website such as in comparison tables, on hub pages and in articles. Sponsored products may be displayed in a fixed position in a table, regardless of the product’s rating, price or other attributes. The table position of a Sponsored product does not indicate any ranking or rating by Canstar. The table position of a Sponsored product does not change when a consumer changes the sort order of the table.”
4. Special interest sites
There are some great special interest websites like Australian Dad do annual reviews about baby products. Although similar to the comparison sites, keep an eye out for paid vs non-paid articles.
‘This Article May Contain Compensated Links. For More Info, Read Our Disclaimer Here.’
5. Shopping site reviews
Sites like Amazon and eBay enable people to leave reviews on products and this could be another good source of information to see what real world use looked like.
It isn’t an easy task to work out which is the best baby monitor overall because there are so many different opinions and sources of information available, some genuine and others potentially helped with commercial funding. What is important is to decide how you want to care for your baby & what suits your particular situation.
WHAT TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A BABY MONITOR
How many receivers do you need?
Do you need just one base in your bedroom to listen in on her overnight? Or do you have a large home where an additional handset could come in handy in the kitchen or living room? Are there multiple floors where extra receivers would be helpful? Think about how you’ll be using the monitor when reviewing features and models. For large homes you may want to get a monitor that comes with multiple handsets, or portable ones, so that you can listen in on her from any room in the house.
How wide a range (or how strong a signal) will you need?
Every monitor’s packaging will tell you how much area it covers, but these numbers can be misleading, especially when multiple walls, or your home’s wiring, block or interfere with the frequency. Once you buy a monitor, test it to see how well you can hear voices and sounds from the nursery coming through the monitor’s base and the other handsets you’ve placed around the house.
Do you work from home?
If you think you’ll be on business calls while she’s napping, a light up audio indicator can let you get work done while keeping the monitor on mute. The lights will let you know how loud she is cooing or crying.
How long will you use a baby monitor?
In the first few months you’ll want to have a monitor with you to know when he’s asleep or awake, but as the baby reaches 6 months and starts sleeping through the night more frequently, you can probably keep the monitor on, but at a lower volume so you only hear if he’s very upset. Some parents may want to keep a monitor in the nursery until he’s in a toddler bed and can come get you if he needs something.
Is your home likely to experience frequency interference?
There are two types of interference concerns when it comes to monitors. The first is the distance from the monitor in the nursery to the handsets in your home, and the second is the radio frequency the sound travels on. If there is a neighbor close by with a baby monitor or even a radio, those frequencies can disrupt the sound on your monitor. A monitor that uses encrypted digital or DECT technology can help reduce interference and keep all sound transmissions clear and secure.
Does the place you are buying from have a return policy?
Always ask about and get the return/exchange policy in writing. It’s sometimes printed on the back of the receipt. When you get your monitor home, be sure to test it thoroughly by checking the video screen in daylight and at night, and seeing if the sound is clear in various rooms in your home. If it’s not, then exchange it for another model. And hold onto your receipts and packaging until after the baby’s born: Even if the sound and video are clear, you may find that the battery dies too quickly with regular use, or the microphone doesn’t pick up your baby’s particular cry.
How long is the warranty on the product?
Some products may have a warranty that is longer than one year, although you may only need it for the first 6 months of your infant’s development.
Is it free to use all the features in the App?
Some Apps might be free to download or free to use the basic features, but then require an additional subscription to use all the elements available. It is important to know what these costs might be.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT BABY MONITORS
Is there a baby monitor that works with the iPhone?
Yes – there are lots of different baby monitor products that work with the iPhone. We designed the Goldilocks Suit to work with both Android and iPhone smartphones.
How can I turn my phone into a baby monitor?
Some people will use an old mobile phone and place it in the baby’s room, then use an Baby Monitor App to send video and audio to your regular smartphone in another room. The Baby Monitor 3G is a great example of this
Can you connect a phone to a baby monitor?
Yes some baby monitor products will have the option of an App that can connect to the monitor so you can either see information or control the device.
Are WiFi baby monitors safe?
Wifi baby monitors from reputable companies have their wifi power levels set well below the acceptable safe limits. However it is best practise to not have it close to your baby and turn it off when it is not needed.
Is there an app for a baby monitor?
Yes there are lots of apps for baby monitoring. Some will just show you audio and video so you can see what your baby is doing. Others, like the Goldilocks Suit, will monitor things like breathing, sleeping or feeding while also recording your baby’s development and give you parenting tips when you need it.
Are video baby monitors worth it?
A baby monitor can help parents reduce their anxiety levels when trying to raise their infants
Do you leave the baby monitor on all night?
Normally you would leave a baby monitor on all night long so that you can get some rest and sleep.
At what age should you stop using a baby monitor?
This might be dependent on the baby and your situation. Normally you would use a baby monitor for at least the first 6 months if not longer.
How long should a baby monitor last?
A reliable baby monitor should last 12 months or longer
Do baby monitors give off radiation?
Everything gives off radiation, including you! So all baby monitors give off some sort of radiation, particularly if they are communicating with a phone or monitor. The standard ways of communicating are using wifi, Bluetooth or Bluetooth Low Energy. With wifi generally being the most powerful and Bluetooth Low Energy being the least powerful.
Do baby monitors cause cancer?
‘From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them.’
Do baby monitors use a lot of electricity?
The amount of electricity a baby monitor uses will depend on what type it is and its features. Each manufacturer can disclose the power requirements of their devices. Some will be battery operated and others will require a power outlet.
Do I really need a baby monitor?
No. If you think about it you don’t really need a baby monitor, the human race has survived thousands of years without baby monitors and it was only in the 1930’s did they first exist. Although the technology is so clever that a baby monitor can help make parenting easier by removing some of the guesswork involved.
What can I use instead of a baby monitor?
You could hire a full time carer instead of using a baby monitor. The carer could monitor your baby 24/7 to reduce the stress and anxiety involved with raising your baby.
Do you need WiFi for baby monitors?
No, not all baby monitors use WiFi, some will use other methods of sending their signals. The Goldilocks Suit uses the latest Bluetooth V5.0 BLE technology which is low emissions, low power and very safe to use.