The Best Movement Monitor Review
Which Baby Movement Monitor is the best? We assembled 6 of the top monitors available, and put them through the ringer with real world, head to head testing. Whether you are looking for a stand-alone monitor, or an additional level of security to augment your current audio/video unit, we have you covered. After months of testing, the units were rated on Reliability, Ease of Use, and Portability. Read further for our findings.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Movement Monitor
Read Full Review: Angelcare AC401
Best for the Budget Minded
Read Full Review: Levana Oma
Top Pick for Simplicity
Read Full Review: Babysense 5s
Analysis and Test Results
The responsibility of becoming a parent is hard to imagine until you actually hold your child for the first time. The bond and desire to nurture and protect is hard to ignore from that moment forward. It's no surprise then, that when the time comes to put your child in their own crib, walk away and close the door, sleep time can really become an anxiety-inducing experience. Thus, many parents find themselves sleeping with, or within arms reach, of their new addition. At some point the need for mom and dad to get some quality sleep reaches a critical tipping point. Today, most parents have either an audio, or video monitor to allow them to keep tabs on their child in the nursery when they are out of the room. Standard baby monitors allow you to monitor noise, and in the case of a video-equipped monitor, view your child in real time. That way, if they are crying or upset, you'll know. What they cannot do is alert you to a potential emergency. Enter, Movement Monitors. This class of baby monitors are another tool being used by many parents, to provide an extra level of safety and peace of mind. These units are designed to alert the caregiver if movement is not detected for a preset period of time, or if movements are irregular. The monitors are highly sensitive, detecting even the slightest of movements, such as when your baby is breathing.
Currently, there is much controversy over both the safety and effectiveness of movement detecting monitors. Manufacturers cannot make the outright claim that a product is designed to prevent or provide an early alert of a SIDS event, but the language used in advertisements clearly plays on parent's fear of SIDS. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have never approved a product to prevent SIDS, and they do not regulate this type of monitor. The American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institute of Health, both recommend against the use of monitors to prevent SIDS. None of the above mentioned agencies actually cite specific safety concerns related to the use of the monitors themselves. We suspect that the regulatory agencies feel that the use of these units provide a false sense of security, and distract from the core recommendations for the prevention of SIDS. There is credible scientific research showing that sleeping on the back, in a crib, without blankets and toys, is the best defense against SIDS.
Despite the recommendations against the use of movement detecting monitors by public health and safety agencies, there are many positive personal reviews from devoted users of the monitors we tested. Many users credit the monitors for saving the life of their child, or alerting them to abnormalities in sleep patterns that needed medical treatment. Despite the propensity of positive anecdotal evidence, it is beyond our capacity to recommend the use of movement detecting monitors. If you do choose to use a one, we recommend that you do so in addition to following the safe sleep practices outlined by the NIH, and the AAP. For more information on implementing safe sleep practices in your home, please click on the following links:
How Can I Reduce the Risk of SIDS?
Baby Products with SIDS Prevention Claims
Types of Movement Monitors
These units vary based on where their sensor is located. Currently, there are two primary types: "diaper attachment" and "under the mattress". During our testing, we found that sensor placement was the primary factor affecting reliability. We invite you to read on as we discuss how each works.
Under the Mattress
For more information, take a look at our article How To Select The Best Movement Monitor.
Criteria For Evaluation
False alarms can be a frightening experience, and often leave the user with more questions than answers. The common scenario during our testing was to hear the alarm, followed by a two-parent mad sprint to the baby's room with an occasional mom vs. dad collision in the hallway, enter the room, and find baby crying. We'd then be left with the question of what really woke the baby up? Was it just a false alarm or was it actually the monitor stimulating the baby to breathe after sensing a period of breathlessness? It's hard to know for sure, but needless to say, we quickly determined that reliability was the most important rating metric.
We found the most reliable products to be the units that utilize a sensor or multiple sensors under the mattress in the crib. With the weight of the mattress holding the sensor in place, there is little to no risk of the sensor moving or becoming dislodged. Movement of the sensor was the primary cause of false alarms during our testing, and was only an issue with the units that attached to the diaper or clothing of the infant.
The Editors' Choice winning Angelcare AC401 was the most reliable unit that we tested, followed closely by the Top Pick award winning Babysense 5s. Both utilize an under the mattress sensor connected to a nursery unit with wires that run to a nursery control unit. Neither of these units is affected by a change in position of the baby, such as a roll onto the side or stomach. The lowest scoring units were ones that attached directly to the diaper, the Levana Oma and the Levana Oma+. When tested on infants less than 3 months of age the rate of false alarms was minimal, but as the infant gets older and starts to move around and roll, issues with false alarms increased in frequency.
Ease of Use
Both the Angelcare AC401 and the Babysense 5s use under the mattress sensors and must have a hard surface under the mattress, so they cannot be used with most travel cribs, and may not be compatible with roll away cribs from hotels. The Baysense 5s scored higher than the Angelcare AC401, only because it has fewer components and is easier to pack.
These units are not a medical device, and should not be relied upon to prevent SIDS, or any other medical condition. They do however offer a bit of peace of mind, and if that helps you get some much needed rest, who can argue with that? Once you incorporate the additional step of remembering to activate the monitor into your regular bedtime routine, it becomes as standard as turning off the lights. While false alarms can be both stressful and disruptive, they are infrequent. After months of testing, a movement monitor has become part of our routine, and now it is hard to imagine going without one.
— Curtis Smith
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