Movement monitors are considered by many parents to be an essential tool to protect your child from the dangers of sleep related death. As parents, none of us are immune to the fear of SIDS. Regardless of the fact that movement detecting monitors are not approved or endorsed by the FDA or the AAP, most of us are happy to invest in such a product, if there's even the slightest chance that it could potentially save our child. Beyond the potential to alert us to a serious medical situation, these units provide that coveted peace of mind parents so often crave. Sure you can see your child on a video monitor, and hear their cry on a sound monitor, but are they breathing? Every parent has spent a few minutes staring at the video monitor looking for anything to put his or her mind at ease. You could go in the room and check, but we're pretty sure no one wants to break the "never wake a sleeping baby!" rule.
Parents are busier than ever, and in most families, both parents work. If a movement detecting monitor gives you enough peace of mind to use your child's nap time to sit down and work or catch up on the laundry, or, more importantly, get some much-needed rest at night, then we think it is worth every penny.
Types of Movement Monitors
Sensor Pad Monitors
These units use one, or multiple sensor pads placed under the mattress to sense movement. Wires run from the pad to a nursery control unit, and some come with a wireless parent unit.
- Most reliable option.
- Work well even with infants able to roll over or crawl.
- They require a hard, stable surface under the mattress, and may require crib modification if your crib has a slat-type bottom.
- More complicated to set up than diaper attachment units.
- Difficult to move around, not ideal for travel.
- Not compatible with memory foam mattresses.
- Not compatible with most travel cribs, and may not work with hotel cribs.
Diaper Attachment Monitors
These units clip directly to the diaper and sense movement with a soft flexible sensor that contacts baby's abdomen.
- Small and compact, ideal for travel.
- No special crib or sleeping surface requirements.
- Can be used in travel cribs, hotel cribs and even car seats.
- Not reliable once infant is able to roll over or crawl.
- Can be difficult to put on the diaper after infant is asleep.
- Alarm can be muffled and difficult to hear if infant rolls onto their stomach.
When choosing a movement detecting monitor, you should consider both features overall design, and how they affect performance.
Angelcare AC401, was equipped with a wireless parent unit. We found the parent unit to be a big advantage, primarily because it extended the range at which we could hear the alarm. If you purchase a monitor without a parent unit, the range of the alarm can be minimal. Combining the movement monitor with a sound monitor can mitigate this.
Best Baby Monitor Review.
Babysense 5s have adjustable sensor pads. We found this to be a critical feature for sensor pad units. The highly sensitive pads 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 as designed if the infant stops moving. It is important to test your monitor while using the heater, or other appliances in close proximity to the baby's room. If the alarm does not function, then the sensor can be adjusted to a lower sensitivity to eliminate interference. The diaper attachment monitors we tested were not effected by low level ambient vibration, and do not have an adjustable sensor.
None of the monitors we tested are medically approved devices in the United States. No monitor can take the place of proper sleeping precautions recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the NICHD. You can read more about that here.
When using monitors with cords, all cords should be routed to manufacturer specifications, and be out of the child's reach. None of the monitors we tested will work in a stroller or moving vehicle due to ambient background noise and motion. Infants often fall asleep in car seats, and the diaper attachment units will work in a car seat (not while in vehicle) but a car seat is not a safe sleeping environment for an infant, and the infant should be transferred to a crib. It is also important to note that this type of product will NOT work effectively if parents are bed sharing with their child.
Choosing the Right Monitor
Here are a few questions we recommend asking yourself as you work through the process of selecting the right movement detecting monitor for your family.
Do you already own a sound or video monitor?
If you already own a sound or video monitor, you should consider a movement detecting monitor without a parent unit. Movement monitors with included parent units are often more expensive, and you will have the hassle of carrying, and charging two parent units when you leave the room. The sound monitor you already have will extend the range of the alarm. We think the Babysense 5s is a great choice.
If you do not already own a sound or video monitor we recommend you choose a movement monitor with a wireless parent unit. Ideally a monitor that not only alarms for movement, but also functions as a sound monitor. This is a convenient way to go and eliminates having to activate multiple systems at bedtime. In our opinion, the Angelcare AC401 is an excellent option.
Do you plan to travel with your movement monitor or take it to other locations?
If being able to take your monitor everywhere is a primary concern, then diaper attachment units would be your best choice. They are small, easy to pack, and can be used effectively in travel cribs, hotel cribs, and virtually anywhere else your infant may nap. They lack reliability once the infant is able to roll or crawl, but they will get you through the first 6 months which is statistically the period with the highest incidence of sleep related deaths. We like the Levana Oma in this case.
If you do not plan to take your monitor with you while traveling, we recommend a sensor pad unit such as the Angelcare AC401, or the Babysense 5s. Sensor pad units are harder to set up, and may require crib modifications, but when it comes to reliability, they are the best. During our testing we found both of the above-mentioned models to be effective and reliable even with infants that are crawling and rolling.