- Video monitors let you see and hear
- Sound monitors let you hear
- Movement monitors track the baby's movements
We test for ease-of-use, range, features, and all the specifics you need to make the best buy.
Related: Best Audio Baby Monitor of 2020
The Vtech DM221 has the features you need, coupled with the best sound clarity in our sound review. The DM221 offers easy to set sound activation and adjustable mic sensitivity to create a peaceful environment for a quality night's sleep with a parent device that only makes a peep when your little one does. The DM221's parent unit 2-way talk to baby feature sounds natural on the baby's side, so your infant won't be terrified by a robotic voice or static sound offered in some of the competition. This unit is a budget-friendly choice that will work for almost any family and easily solve monitoring needs for a reasonable price.
This unit has a shorter range than some of the competition, making it potentially less appealing for larger houses or homes with more than 4-5 walls of separation between the nursery and the parent device. However, if your home is compatible with the DM221, then it is hard to find a better sound only option with higher quality sound than this unit.
Read review: Vtech DM221
The V-Tech DM111 is a bare-bones sound option that relays sound without all the frills of a more expensive device. The DM111 relays the noise from your baby's room to the parent device with no muss, no fuss, all with excellent sound quality. With a simple plug and play design, it is easy to use, making it an excellent choice for parents who aren't tech-savvy or for grandma who may find fancier products frustrating. This monitor is the cheapest option in any of our monitor reviews, but you won't be sacrificing sound quality or usefulness for the price.
This monitor doesn't have sound activation, so there is some white noise transmission all the time. This constant noise may not be a deal-breaker if it comes from a fan or noise maker in the baby's room, and some parents even find the sound useful for sleeping or reassurance that the unit is working. The DM111 is an excellent choice for families on a budget who want to hear the baby and don't need all the frills commonly found in more expensive alternatives or monitors of other types. It is also so cheap that it could be a great backup monitor to pair with a movement or video option, and it could be useful as a travel monitor.
Read review: Vtech DM111
The Philips Avent DECT SCD720/86 is a high-quality sound only monitor with useful features and intuitive user interface. This monitor brings the best of parent and baby-centric features together in one easy to use device. It has sound activation and adjustable microphone sensitivity to create a silent monitor when your baby is quiet. Plus, it has a nightlight, lullaby, and temperature sensor to keep your little one content and potentially calmer.
This monitor is somewhat expensive compared to other sound units and video options. So, if your budget is tight, this may not be the one for you. Alternatively, if a monitor with the best true-to-life sound is your top priority, then the SCD720/86 should be at the top of your shortlist.
Read review: Philips Avent DECT SCD720/86
Related: Best Video Baby Monitor of 2020
The Nanit Plus is a Wi-Fi monitor with movement monitoring capabilities designed more with nurseries in mind than much of the Wi-Fi competition. This camera is easy to use, uses the Internet for connectivity virtually anywhere, and has may baby-centric features such as a nightlight. The Nanit is one of the best options for parents who are looking for a monitor designed especially for baby as opposed to a security camera. This monitor includes sensors for temperature and humidity. It features a nightlight and some nature sounds or white noise. The app has a user-friendly interface and will continue monitoring even if the screen is locked or while using another app. You can even take pictures or record and save videos of your little one. All of the baby centered features make this monitor a good choice for parents who want a Wi-Fi monitor but are less concerned with longevity. This option mounts above the crib for a better view and can connect to Alexa.
The Nanit doesn't offer the best sound quality, but honestly, none of the video monitors we tested do. It is also one of the most expensive options in our video lineup. However, if you like the idea of a baby-centric video monitor designed for little ones, then the Nanit Plus is the one for your shortlist.
Read review: Nanit Plus
The LeFun 1080p Wi-Fi camera is a Wi-Fi ready camera that pairs with your smartphone or tablet. This simple camera has true-to-life video, can be viewed anywhere you have a connection, and is budget-friendly. The LeFun is great for watching your baby, but it can also be used as a nanny cam or for security after your little one is older. We love that the LeFun has a very wallet-friendly price and can be used for many years retaining its value long after the standard monitoring device is useful.
Because the LeFun relies on an Internet connection, it can fail if your Internet is not reliable. So, if you'll experience sleepless nights worrying about connectivity or your Internet connection, then you'll want to consider something that doesn't need the Internet. However, if you have a large house, you could be restricted to Wi-Fi due to the range limitations of dedicated products. Pairing this option with a budget-minded sound monitor could be the perfect working solution for many families. For families looking for a product to use for years to come that allows them to see little ones from outside the home, it is hard to beat this inexpensive camera.
Read review: LeFun 1080p Wi-Fi
Related: Best Movement Monitor of 2020
The Snuza Hero SE is a wearable device that clips to your baby's diaper. It has a unique vibration alert that aims to rouse little ones into moving to avoid the impending alarm that will sound audibly if the baby doesn't move. This vibration feature means that false alarms could be potentially less likely to result in a crying baby, but they could cause a lack of deep sleep if they happen chronically. The Snuza is a simple wearable that is easy to use, portable, and had few false alarms during our testing. While it is not a replacement for safe sleep practices, it could provide some parents with increased peace of mind for a better night's sleep.
This unit only works until babies can roll or crawl. It can be uncomfortable for some babies or ineffective if your baby is too small or their diapers don't fit snuggly in the waist. We worry parents will rely on this type of device to prevent SIDs, and therefore, caution that there is no evidence that it does or can prevent SIDs from occurring. However, if you want to know that your little one is moving at a predictable rate, and this knowledge will help you sleep better, then the Snuza could be the best choice that won't break the bank or require mattress or crib adjustments.
Read review: Snuza Hero SE
The Babysense 7 movement product is a sensor pad mattress monitor that seems to have fewer false alarms than wearable products. The BabySense 7 is easy to use and doesn't require much setup or preparation outside of placing the sensor and control unit. This unit even works well after your baby learns to roll over, unlike the wearable options that become less reliable as your little one's age.
The BabySense 7 (and other mattress sensors) require a hard surface under the mattress to work, and they don't work with all mattress types, so you'll need to research your mattress to ensure it is compatible. This requirement means it also isn't suitable for travel. The BabySense doesn't have a parent unit, which means an audible alarm will go off in the nursery to startle a sleeping baby. This design is intentional to stimulate the baby to wake up and breathe but could be upsetting to a peaceful baby who was breathing fine. Overall, if you want a movement device that works well with a longer lifespan than a wearable option, then the BabySense 7 is a great choice with minimal fuss.
Read review: BabySense 7
BabyGearLab has tested over 81 different baby monitors in our quest to find the absolute best products available. Our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a board-certified pediatrician, heads our product selection team with an eye for performance, quality, and functionality. Since the beginning, Bob Wofford, Senior Review Analyst, and father of 7 created our test procedures and is constantly modifying and updating our processes to adapt to ever-changing technology and features. Bob has been testing monitors since 2013. Wendy Schmitz, a Senior Review Editor, and mother of 2 joined baby monitor testing in 2014, bringing her scientific background to the team. The monitor team is rounded out by Senior Review Editor, Abriah Wofford, who began testing monitors in 2017. With over 23 years of combined experience using and testing 81 total monitors from the video, sound, and movement types, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more experienced group of experts than this team.
If you want to keep tabs on your baby while catching some zzzs, there are a few different monitoring types to consider depending on what your goals are or what information you hope to receive. Traditional baby monitoring informed parents when their baby was crying or needed assistance. Over time, monitoring has evolved into watching your baby or knowing when they stop moving predictably. Knowing which products do what can help you determine which kind of product is the right choice for your family.
Sound devices relay what is happening in the nursery with sound only. An excellent audio monitor is virtually silent when the baby isn't making noise so that you don't hear or are disturbed by white noise or constant static. This basic monitor maybe all you need if your goal is hearing when your baby is crying. This style can be straightforward with sound relay only like the V-Tech DM111, or it can have bells and whistles such as a nightlight, 2-way talk, lullabies, and microphone sensitivity adjustment features like the Philips Avent DECT SCD720/86. Most parents can get by with a sound only device as it provides the only information you need to respond to a crying baby.
Video products add the element of visual spying on your baby. This feature allows you to determine if your baby is crying but calming down without you or if you need to head to their bed. Most video products work well in the dark and have adequate sound, so you can see and hear what is happening. Some options are "dedicated" with a camera that talks to a parent unit, like the Levana Jena or the Philips Avent SCD630. In contrast, others use Wi-Fi to send information from the camera to your personal device (smartphone/tablet) like the LeFun 1080p Wi-Fi and the Nanit Plus. Wi-Fi enabled options are great for larger houses where range might be an issue, and it's also useful for viewing your little one when you are away from home. While video capability isn't mandatory for getting a good night's sleep, it can provide more information to help you determine your little one's needs before you get out of bed, thus potentially increasing your sleep time. With the price of video products being lower than ever (some even lower than sound only options), it is no longer considered a luxury, and many parents are choosing video over the sound. However, proceed with caution! Spying on your newborn can be addictive and can potentially lead to less sleep defeating the purpose of getting a monitoring device.
Movement monitoring products sense the type of normal movement associated with a baby's breathing. These products attempt to discern when your baby has not moved within a prescribed period (typically 20 seconds). This lack of movement could potentially indicate that they are not breathing. While this may seem like a no-brainer for parents worried about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), these devices aren't foolproof and do NOT protect against SIDS. They have not been approved by the FDA as a medical device, and are known to have false alarms where the baby is fine and then suddenly awakened by a loud (in nursery) alarm. While it is an intriguing concept, we caution parents that this type of monitor is not a substitute replacement for safe sleeping practices and doesn't prevent SIDS. However, if you are willing to accept possible false alarms, it can provide another layer of monitoring that helps some parents achieve better sleep with increased peace of mind. Be forewarned; movement sensing is only useful until your baby can rollover. At that point, they become unreliable with an uptick of false alarms (in our experience), even if the manufacturer claims otherwise.
Movement monitors do not claim to prevent SIDS, but they can potentially provide peace of mind for parents, which could lead to better quality sleep for parents. To reduce the likelihood of SIDS, you should practice safe sleep guidelines for EVERY sleep (with or without a movement device). No monitor should replace safe sleep practices, and no monitor has been proven effective at reducing the occurrence of SIDS.
The most reliable kind of movement sensing product is the mattress pad design. This type of product goes under the mattress (typically on a hard surface) and is only compatible with certain kinds of mattresses. These products relay messages to a nursery located device that then alerts parents on a parent device or with a loud audible alarm in the nursery (model dependent). The BabySense 7 is an excellent example of a sensor pad that works under your baby's mattress. The problem with this kind of monitor is it will wake your baby if the alarm goes off. It startles infants that have perhaps stopped breathing (which is good). However, it also means that a false alarm will wake a peacefully sleeping baby (who is breathing fine) for no reason.
A wearable movement monitor attaches to your baby's diaper, clothing, or as a sock (depending on the model). The majority of wearable monitors alert inside the room with only a handful of options relaying to a parent device (smartphone or similar). In our experience, many wearables have frequent false alarms or high Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Levels (which we try to avoid). The Snuzo Hero SE is a cost-effective wearable with a unique vibration feature and very low levels of EMF, making it an exception to this general rule. If your bedroom is a far distance from the nursery, and you may not hear an in-nursery alarm, then you should seriously consider buying a sound or video monitor to help relay the alarm directly to your room. Otherwise, your little one could be startled awake and unable to self-soothe without your assistance, and you'll be unaware, or they may need your help, and you won't know.
Yes, and no, it depends on what you want the device to do and what levels of EMF or subpar metric results you are willing to accept. If you are looking for video and sound, then you're in luck, all of the video monitors have both and products like the Nanit Plus can give you clear images with adequate sound and fun baby-centric features. If you'd like sound and movement monitoring, only a handful of movement products come with sound, and they are all mattress style devices, which can impact the style of mattress or crib set up you choose. If you want movement, audio, and video in a single product (package), then you are very limited and potentially introducing high EMF levels to your baby's nursery or buying a product that has disappointing qualities. The BabySense 7 is available as a package with a camera, but the EMF levels on the camera were high in our tests, making it a combo we don't recommend. To avoid this, and to get the best of the best, we suggest combining two products (movement and video). This combo might cost you a little bit more, but we think it is worth it to avoid the higher EMF. Because movement monitors only work till about six months, have false alarms, and can't replace safe sleep practices or reduce the occurrence of SIDs, we think parents should choose a video product and forgo the movement if their budget is tight. You might also consider a Wi-Fi video monitor with a sound monitor backup. The sound monitor doesn't need the Internet to work, so you won't miss a monitoring minute even if your Internet goes down, and they typically offer better sound quality and features like sound activation for a quiet monitor. This setup would allow you to hear your little one via a good quality sound product and then peek in on them via your video option if need be.
The lifespan of your potential device depends on your needs and the type of device you choose. Movement products have the shortest lifespan with efficacy for only 6-9 months old or when your baby starts rolling and moving. On the other hand, sound and video products can often work for years, well past toddlerhood. Video products arguably have the most extended lifespan because they can help keep tabs on older children as they nap and play. Wi-Fi cameras have an extended lifespan, as some of them can graduate to watching a babysitter or for security purposes. The LeFun 1080p Wi-Fi is designed for multiple functions including for security and can be used for years to come in several applications. If the duration of use is a concern for you, then the Wi-Fi video products, like the LeFun 1080p Wi-Fi, should be your go-to choice to get the most bang for your buck.
Finding the best baby monitor for your family can be simple when you narrow down your options using a few key considerations to keep you on track and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
A lot of parents discover that a sound monitoring device will more than meets their needs. These parents plan to run to baby's nursery every time they hear a cry, and therefore, don't need video capabilities. Using a sound product is the cheapest option to find a quality unit that functions well. However, if you need or want to view your baby from other locations, then a video option is the only way to do this. Buying a Wi-Fi enabled monitor means no range limitations, you can see your baby away from home, and often with higher quality images. Wi-Fi also means the future potential of double duty as a security camera or nanny cam; this can add value you might not be thinking of right now (but should). And, some of the cameras are so inexpensive they will cost you less than a sound only product. Monitoring your baby's movement is a luxury that most parents don't need, and it can give a potentially false sense of safety that creates concerns. If you're worried about SIDs, studies indicate that placing your baby to sleep in their own bed, in your room , (using safe sleep practices) can go a long way in preventing SIDs and could potentially be more effective than monitoring. This set up comes with the advantage of being nearby for nighttime feedings. Choosing a great bedside bassinet may be a better solution than a movement product, or any other kind of monitor in the early months of babyhood. However, if your heart demands a movement product for peace of mind, then we encourage you to consider a sound or video option to pair with it, so you are sure to hear the alarm from another room.
A baby monitor's range can make or break whether or not it will work in your home. Depending on the distance from your room to the nursery and your home type or interfering appliances, you could have limitations in the products that will work. If your house is large or has more than a handful of walls between the two rooms, you'll likely be stuck using a Wi-Fi option (assuming you have the Internet). If your home is smaller or has fewer walls, then more products will be potential options for you. Many of the wearable movement monitors work in the baby's room and do not rely on communicating with a parent device. However, if your room is out of earshot, then you'll never hear the alarm, making the unit practically useless without pairing it with a sound monitor. If you think range might be an issue in your home, we recommend choosing your product carefully and purchasing from retailers like Amazon that traditionally have a generous and simple return policy. Also, don't let the monitor sit in the box; you'll want to try it right away and return it immediately if it doesn't work well where you plan to use it. Do not believe the manufacturer's range claim. We often find these claims to be wildly inaccurate during testing.
Once you've determined the type of monitor you want and have considered your indoor range (with wall count), then you can peruse the potential options and their features. Budget-friendly products usually lack bells and whistles but are often highly functional. If you desire more features such as nightlights, lullabies, and talk to the baby, then they may cost more, and the unit might be more challenging to use. The one feature we feel is practically a non-negotiable is sound activation. This feature helps keep your baby monitor silent when your baby is quiet, thereby, increasing the chance you'll get a restful full night's sleep.