Considering a movement monitor for our newborn in 2020? We researched over 15 contenders for our roundup of 6 potential monitors for testing to help you find the best choice for your family. Some parents consider movement monitors to provide peace of mind while baby sleeps, so they can get a better night's sleep by helping to assuage fears of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Movement monitors track the baby's breathing movements and while movement monitors don't claim to prevent SIDS, a reliable monitor may help provide peace of mind and we can help you decipher the difference and advantages of each monitor type. Remember safe sleep guidelines should always be followed with EVERY sleep to help reduce the risk of SIDS.
The Best Movement Monitor Review of 2020
The Babysense 7 is a sensor pad monitor that goes under the crib mattress. It is easy to use and works well right out of the box with minimal preparation. This monitor has a straightforward control unit you place on the front of the crib that receives data from the two pads and sounds the alarm (with red lights) if your infant stops moving for a set period. The Babysense 7 is a reliable monitor with few false alarms that operates on AA batteries to limit the use of potentially dangerous cords. Also, it continues to work reasonably well once your little one is mobile (up to one year old), unlike the wearable monitors that have an increase in false alarms as your baby begins to roll and move.
Like other mattress sensor pads, the Babysense 7 needs a hard surface under the mattress to work properly, and it is one of the most expensive options in this review. It also isn't the best choice if you want a parent device to avoid alarms inside the nursery. However, it is easy to use and works well for a more extended period than competitors. We think most families will appreciate its simplicity and few false alarms and can always add a video or sound monitor for versatility.
Read Review: Babysense 7
The Snuza Hero SE is a clip style wearable with a unique vibration feature that rouses a baby gently from a deep sleep, so they move enough (theoretically breathing) to stop the vibrating alarm. This product is the only one we reviewed with this rousing feature. We like the simplicity of this monitor and the ability to use it while traveling as it doesn't require special bedding like the sensor mattress pads.
This clip can be uncomfortable for some babies, and it doesn't work well if your little one is old enough to roll over or crawl as the sensor can dislodge or lose contact with the baby. This unit also has no parent unit, so if the vibration doesn't rouse baby, then an audible alarm will emit from the clip, and you won't hear it if you aren't nearby. If you don't hear the signal, it will continue to alert, which could be upsetting for little ones. Some parents didn't like the shorter battery life, while others experienced false alarms when the clip lost contact with the baby's belly. However, if you travel frequently or want a monitor that stimulates the baby into movement (a unique function in our experience), then the Snuza Hero is an excellent choice.
Read Review: Snuza Hero
The Snuza Go is a budget-friendly wearable that clips to the front of your baby's diaper with a flexible sensor that rests on the infant's abdomen. It is easy to use and travels well. This unit has a simple design that requires no setup or crib modification, giving parents that straight out of the box satisfaction you can't find in the mattress style monitor. This option is similar to the Snuza Hero, but it lacks the stimulation feature for the peaceful rousing of the baby.
The Go doesn't have a parent unit, and the loud nursery alarm can cause unnecessary upset for the baby. Some parents also feel that the battery life is too short, and replacements are challenging to locate, but the lower price of the Go can offset this potential problem if budget on your brain. The Go isn't a great choice for older babies on the move, as this can result in false alarms, so it has a limited lifespan. Overall, this monitor has a very reasonable price for a straightforward unit that works for younger infants while traveling.
Read Review: Snuza Go
The Angelcare AC403 is a movement and sound monitor, something no other option in this group can claim. We like that this sensor pad device is reliable, has a good range, and useful sound monitoring. This product works well, has a budget-friendly price, and comes with a parent unit with a battery backup for transportability. This monitor has movement sensitivity adjustability, which can help limit false alarms by determining an ideal setting for your specific situation.
Be sure to route all cords out of your baby's reach to avoid potential injury or death from accidental strangulation. Even if you think your baby cannot roll/move or contact the nearby cords, it is crucial that you install your monitor safely the first time to avoid potential future problems. Do NOT save this for a later time!
While there is much to like about the AC403, it isn't ideal for travel, and the sensor pad requires a hard surface under the mattress. So, you may need to do some crib modifications, and hotel cribs are typically not compatible. Also, it doesn't work with memory foam or hollow-core mattresses, something to consider when you purchase a crib mattress. Angelcare does offer the Angelcare Wooden Board for Monitors accessory, for use with its movement monitors to easily solve this hard surface requirement. Also, users report that the sound monitoring is subpar with excessive white noise, or it is too quiet to hear softer crying. The major downside is the unit only has one sensor pad, and you can't buy a second one. One pad instead of two means its potential lifespan is shorter as it won't work well when your baby starts to roll or move away from the pad. However, this monitor is reliable with sound monitoring, adjustability, and includes a parent device. Plus, you can continue to use the sound monitor alone after your baby outgrows the movement component.
Read Review: Angelcare AC403
The Monbaby Smart Button is a unique wearable button that attaches to your baby's clothes. The button is small, portable, and more comfortable than the clip-style wearable. We like the reasonable price (comparatively) and the smartphone capabilities that provide and record a lot of information. Plus, this Wi-Fi capable device means you don't need to stay close to the baby's location to hear the alarm.
This product requires access to Wi-Fi, and some users feel that the app is challenging to navigate. The button itself is useless if you lose it or accidentally run it through the washer and dryer, which is something a sleep-deprived parent could easily do. However, if you make removing the button a habit, and you figure out the app, then the Monbaby is a high-tech choice that can keep you informed without disrupting your little one.
To provide a complete picture and information, we believe it is crucial to discuss the monitors we don't recommend, especially if we feel there is a potential health concern related to our decision.
Not Recommended Due to High EMF
Owlet Smart Sock 2
The Owlet Smart Sock 2 functions like a pulse oximeter. The sock is worn on a baby's foot and continuously monitors oxygen saturation and heart rate. This "sock" connects via Bluetooth to a base that communicates with an app on your smartphone to alert you. This monitor collects and tracks data and avoids waking the baby with a false alarm inside the nursery. It is essential that you understand that the Owlet is not a movement monitor and it only tracks oxygen saturation and heart rate, not whether or not your baby is moving in a way indicative of breathing. Also, the Owlet is not a medical device and should not be used to treat, monitor, diagnose, or prevent any medical issues. However, you can use your HSA or FSA pre-tax health saving accounts to purchase this monitor.
While the concept is cool and the technology intriguing, the Owlet Smart Sock 2 is a product we do not recommend as a result of disappointing Electromagnetic Field (EMF) test results that are far higher (8 V/m) than the competition and everyday products like personal fitness monitors. In our opinion, the EMF levels from the Owlet are too high (for more information on EMF and our testing, please see the EMF section below.) While each parent must weigh the pros and cons to make the right decision for their baby, we believe the unnecessary and uncertain potential health risks related to high EMF exposure is reason enough not to use the Smart Sock. In our opinion, this is a classic instance of implementing the precautionary principle.
Also, the Owlet is expensive, with a price that is more than three times some of the competition. Although they offer financing options, it is still expensive for a product with inherent problems (i.e., false alarms if the sock falls off and a sock-based system that is unusable once baby outgrows the sock). Nonetheless, the Owlet's tech gadgetry will intrigue and potentially addict some parents, and we worry parents will consider it a medical device when even the company says it isn't. Plus, it shouldn't replace safe sleep practices. While we think this kind of tech is cool and intriguing for the unique information it provides, until the levels of EMF are lower, it isn't a product we feel comfortable recommending based on our EMF test results.
The Owlet is different than the other products in this review. This monitor doesn't track movement but instead keeps track of blood oxygen saturation and heart rate, which makes it seem like something your pediatrician might prescribe for a sick child. However, Owlet and the FDA stress that this monitor is not a medical device, and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or monitor any medical problem. No monitor, including this one, should be used in place of basic safe sleeping practices like putting your baby on their back to sleep on a firm mattress, using only a tight-fitting sheet with nothing else in the sleeping area.
Why You Should Trust Us
Consideration for inclusion in our movement monitor review begins with our founder, board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier chooses products with safety and efficacy in mind. The in-house test team is led by Bob Wofford, father of 7, and our Senior Review Analyst. Wendy Schmitz, a Senior Review Editor, helps with test result analysis and ranking of products to determine award winners. Over time we have tested 14 different monitors designed for movement. Our vast experience over the last seven years, helps us provide the details you need to find the right monitor for your baby.
We purchase and test the majority of the products in our reviews, including this review for movement style monitors. The products are tested side-by-side for ease of use, EMF, false alarms, and features. We used two different brand EMF meters during testing to ensure accurate readings for each product and across models.
Movement Monitor Buying Advice
Movement monitors are considered an essential tool by many parents hoping to protect their infant from the dangers of sleep-related death. Most parents have a fear of SIDS, and we understand this. Even though movement detecting monitors are not approved or endorsed by the FDA or the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to aid in the prevention of SIDs, many parents consider purchasing one if there's even a tiny chance that it can potentially prevent a sleep-related death. While these products are not medical equipment, nor is there proof that they save lives, they could potentially provide peace of mind for some parents. Video monitors let you see your little one, and you can hear them on a sound monitor, but how can you confirm that they are still breathing? Many parents have spent significant time staring at a video monitor, looking for signs of movement to ease a worried mind. You could go to their room to check, but no one wants to unnecessarily wake a sleeping baby or bother crossing the house in the middle of the night if they don't have to.
For important tips on SIDs prevention and the safest sleep practices for your baby, read more information about how to protect your baby in an article written by our founder and board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Best sleep practices are the ideal way to help prevent sleep-related injuries or death and are far more important than choosing the best monitor.
Types of Movement Monitors
There are two basic types of movement monitors that have similar principles of monitoring the movement of sleeping babies. One style is a sensor pad that goes under the baby's mattress (above left), while the other style is something a baby wears (above right). There are pros and cons to both, and choosing the right option for your newborn will depend on your overall goals.
The most reliable products utilize sensors pads under the crib mattress. These units can sense even the slightest movement, like breathing. If the movement stops for longer than a pre-determined time, an alarm sounds on the nursery unit or parent device depending on the model. This kind of movement device is best for at-home use as it requires a hard surface under the mattress to function correctly and has limitations on the type of mattress it will work with. These sensor pads aren't compatible with memory foam mattresses and most travel or hotel cribs. This type of product also continues to be useful after little ones can roll or crawl (unlike wearable monitors). The Babysense 7 and the Anglecare AC403 are both sensor pad monitors.
Wearables clip onto the baby's diaper, attach to clothing, or slip over the foot. Depending on the model, they are as small as a button or as large as an 80s style beeper. Wearables typically have more false alarms than sensor pads because the device can easily lose contact with the baby. However, wearables can be ideal for traveling. These monitors are small and don't require special crib considerations, but they can fail or have false alarms. They can also be challenging to attach to clothing if your baby is already sleeping, and they can dislodge if the baby is awake.
These units do not work in a moving car or stroller as they can't determine if the movement is the baby or the movement of the vehicle or stroller. This incompatibility is not a fault of any monitor but a result of the technology design and how it determines a baby's movements.
Having a parent unit means you can move further from the baby and still hear the alarm or receive the alert. Some monitors are compatible with smartphones and send an alert to your phone via an app. However, many monitor alarms are on the sensor itself or the nursery unit. Purchasing a product without a parent unit means you need to stay within hearing distance of the alarm, or you may miss it. Some parent devices can be programmed to only alert the parents instead of sounding in the nursery. This feature can be useful if your device is prone to false alarms. That way, the baby can continue to sleep peacefully unaware. Combining the movement monitor with a sound monitor can mitigate some of these problems, and choosing two monitors is a popular solution for many parents. Still, it can be more expensive to buy and maintain two monitors. The Angelcare AC403 comes with a parent unit (or two) that doubles as a sound monitor, which solves the problem of alarms in the nursery and being able to hear your baby when they cry.
False alarms can be a frightening experience (for parents and baby), and they often result in more questions than answers. Their occurrence makes reliability an important consideration and the one thing most parents complain about. In our experience, the sensor pads are the most reliable because there is no risk that the sensor will move or become dislodged. Products like the Angelcare AC403 and the Babysense 7 had fewer false alarms than the wearable products. The primary cause of false alarms seems to happen when wearable monitors lose contact with the baby's body and are no longer able to sense movement. Contact loss can happen if the sock with Owlet Smart Sock 2 falls off, the button on the Monbaby Smart Button loses contact with baby, or the Snuza products shift away from the baby's belly. As your baby becomes mobile, there is a chance of a wearable product losing contact with the baby. For this reason, the sensor pads result in fewer false alarms as they encompass a wide area of the mattress and are not dependant on a calm and stationary baby. Also, the Angelcare AC403 has a sensitivity adjustment on the nursery unit that can be altered to suit the specific needs of your nursery and child, thereby decreasing potential false alarms.
Ease of Use
Parents should consider how difficult a monitor is to use, including the setup, buttons, settings, smartphone interface, and battery changes. The Babysense 7 and the Angelcare AC403 are both straightforward to turn on, but they have some adjustment settings to manage at least once. The AC403 specifically can be challenging during the initial setup. Alternatively, the Snuza Go and Snuza Hero require less initial preparation but can be frustrating to attach to a squirmy or sleeping baby resulting in false alarms or sleep disruption. Parents also complain that the battery compartment is hard to open, making battery changes a dreaded chore. The Monbaby Smart Button and the Owlet Smart Sock 2 can also be difficult to attach, and the sensor and smartphone can fail to connect, making the monitor nothing more than an expensive, useless accessory.
Most of the monitors in this review alert inside the nursery, so they need to be loud enough to wake you from a dead sleep in a different room. This nursery alarm should wake a baby from a deep sleep, who is theoretically not breathing, without the potential delay from a slow waking parent running to the nursery. However, this also means the alarm can potentially scare your little one, which will lead to crying as opposed to gentle stimulation to encourage movement or breathing. Also, depending on the size of your house, where the nursery is in relation to your bedroom, and whether or not the monitor has become covered, the alarm could be difficult to hear. Given these variables, we highly recommend that the monitors without parent units be paired with a sound monitor. The Angelcare AC403 has a dedicated parent unit that doubles as a sound monitor, so you are sure to hear the alarm, and those that work with a smartphone should be able to alert you as long as you are within range and connected, however, a delay could happen.
The Angelcare AC403 sensor pad has an adjustable sensitivity. The highly sensitive pads sensor pads on mattress style monitors can pick up ambient noise and vibration from heating vents, fans, or household appliances. If the pads pick up ambient interference, the monitor will not alarm if the infant stops moving because the sensor will think the interference is the baby. It is important to test your monitor while using everyday appliances in proximity to the baby's room (specifically fans, air filters, white noise makers, and heaters in baby's room). If the alarm does not function, then the sensor on the AC403 can be adjusted to eliminate interference. The wearable monitors are not affected by low-level ambient vibration and do not have an adjustable sensor, but don't mistake this to mean they are suitable for strollers or car seats; they are not. In fact, none of the movement monitors will work when used in a device designed to move as the monitor cannot tell the difference between a baby's movement vs. the movement of the product. If you choose the BabySense 7, you'll need to remove ambient interference from the room or away from the baby's crib.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)
While the jury is still officially out on the effects of EMF on the human body and the sensitive developing systems of babies, we believe there is enough evidence that indicates potential harm that parents should consider the EMF (Volts/meter) emitted by all products used close to or on their little ones. We believe that a "better safe than sorry" approach is smart and that parents should make thoughtful and informed decisions when choosing EMF emitting products. While each home has an ambient amount of EMF and each product added to a home can up the EMF emissions, putting an EMF emitting device directly on your baby is something different, and we think it should be thoughtfully considered. With this in mind, we tested each product to determine how much EMF it emits when in use.
The Owlet Smart Sock 2 has a significantly higher level of EMF than all of the movement competition and more than any of the video monitors included in our video monitor review. Our two EMF meters registered an average of 8 V/m when placed next to the Owlet Smart Sock v2. We are not comfortable with this level of EMF right on a baby. This result is 73% that of the EMF emitted from an iPhone while making a phone call, 3x higher than a Fitbit fitness monitor (more on this below), and 12x that of the ambient EMF in our testing area!
In comparison, both Snuza models emitted no EMF over the ambient room reading (0.4 V/m). The Owlet emits almost twice as much EMF than the Monbaby Smart Button (which is also high in our opinion). The mattress sensor pads from the BabySense 7 and Angelcare AC403 emit no EMF over the ambient room in our tests. In our opinion, this means any of the movement monitors are potentially better for your baby than the Owlet Smart Sock v2, with those that emit 0 V/m over ambient being preferable.
To give you some perspective, we also tested the EMF on a smartphone in various configurations of Bluetooth, wi-fi, and calling active and not active and some wearable fitness monitors. This testing puts into perspective how the wearable monitors EMF compare to everyday items that you use or keep on your person. We feel parents can relate to this data as concerns about radiation from cell phones and cancer have increased in recent years.
A smartphone with the Wi-Fi on and making a call, measured 17 V/m at a one-inch distance, while the Owlet emitted 8 V/m at one-inch - that is 73% of the EMF emitted by the cell phone. At 1 inch away from the meter, the Fitbit has an average reading of 3 V/m, which is significantly less than the Owlet Smart Sock v2 with an 8 V/m reading and the Monbaby Smart Button with a 5 V/m.
Even though there isn't conclusive data concerning what level/duration of V/m is dangerous, we don't recommend high EMF emitting products for the first formative six months (when this kind of product is useful) especially since there are good alternatives available that do not have this issue. Babies are more susceptible to EMF than adults because they are still developing and have thinner skulls. Given this information, we are disturbed that some products for baby monitoring have significantly higher EMF than the adult products we hear so much about in the media. We feel there is no real engineering reason why the Owlet Sock should have such high EMF readings when the FitBit is less than half that of the Owlet but uses similar technology transmitting similar information to your smartphone. We consider this to be a product design flaw on Owlet's part, and the EMF level is just too high for our comfort.
Curious, we also measured the EMF level in an older Owlet Smart Sock v1. The EMF reading at 1-inch from the sock for the v1 is significantly lower with a reading of 1.4 V/m, while the v2 sock has a reading of 8 V/m. The v1 reading is much closer to the ambient EMF levels of 0.7 V/m, which we feel is a more acceptable EMF level. Our EMF measurements of the Owlet Smart Sock v2 show that it has higher EMF transmissions at the baby by a startling 5.7x more. At such a high level, we cannot in good conscience recommend the Owlet Smart Sock 2. We can't say why the company decided to increase the EMF level of the Bluetooth radio transmitter in the baby's sock so dramatically. Still, it is our opinion that putting such a high EMF source on infants is a disturbing engineering oversight by Owlet in the v2 design.
In our opinion, given the concerns and data to support the theory that smartphones should not be used for long durations next to your head because of the potential risk of radiation and cancer related to the EMF emitted by the phones, we do NOT think it is a good idea to use an EMF emitting product directly on your baby. Especially one that emits 12X more EMF than the ambient room levels.As such, we recommend that EMF emitting monitors that you feel are necessary be placed as far from little ones as possible to still be functional. Given that the Owlet Smart Sock v2 must be directly on your baby, we believe it should be re-engineering to emit significantly less EMF (at least lower than that emitted by a FitBit) before it would be a product we'd feel comfortable recommending. Despite the cool nature of the concept and the potentially useful information, it can provide to parents.
Movement monitors are not a medical device, and you shouldn't rely on them to prevent the occurrence of SIDS, or to monitor any medical condition or problem. However, these types of monitors can provide peace of mind for many parents, and if they help improve your potential ability to get good sleep, then who can argue with that? We believe there is an option for most parents in our winner's circle of monitors. No matter what your eventual decision concerning baby monitors, nothing should take the place of safe and smart sleeping practices to reduce the potential risk of SIDs. Babies should always be put to sleep on their back, in their own sleep space, on a firm sleep surface, and with only a tight-fitting mattress sheet for bedding. You should not put any blankets, toys, or bumpers in your baby's sleep area. Creating a comfortable and safe sleep area is also beneficial. It includes adequate airflow with a fan or air filter, never smoking around your baby or in your baby's room, and keeping the room from becoming too hot with a temperature that is comfortable for an adult in lightweight clothing.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz