Considering a movement monitor for your infant? We considered more than 26 choices before purchasing 7 contenders for testing to help you determine the right monitor for your needs. For some parents, having a movement monitor in the nursery provides peace of mind for a better night's sleep by helping to limit 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 can potentially ease some parental anxiety surrounding sleep. Remember safe sleep guidelines should always be followed with EVERY sleep to help reduce the risk of SIDS, no matter what kind of monitor you choose.
Editor's Note: We updated this movement monitor review on June 8, 2023, with the removal of a discontinued Angelcare monitor. On February 6, 2023, a significant update was done to reflect four new products, including several new award-winners.
The Snuza Hero SE is a straightforward wearable that monitors movement that indicates breathing by attaching to a diaper edge. This monitor has an in-nursery alarm that goes off after a vibration stimulation is used to rouse little ones from a deep sleep where movement might stop. We like the simple design, the easy-to-use interface, and the quick setup.
This wearable is relatively bulky and could be uncomfortable for little ones or difficult to place if clothes are worn. It also only alerts inside the nursery. While this s the fastest way to stimulate your baby, it could go unheard by parents depending on home design and how deeply parents sleep. However, this can be mitigated with the addition of a sound monitor or if you have your little sleep in a bedside bassinet in your room. We love this monitor and think it is a great choice for those who want to monitor movement without all the confusing bells and whistles or for those who travel frequently and need an on-the-go option.
The Nanit Pro Complete Set Monitoring System is a do-it-all monitor with movement, sound, video, and more. If you want something that will last the life of your monitoring years and work for the movement that indicates breathing, this is one to consider. This unit has a cloth, wrap-around wearable viewed by the camera and analyzed with an algorithm to determine breathing. It is easy enough to use when you get the hang of it and can alert you to almost anything from motion in the room to temperature and humidity. If you want all the information possible, the Nanit should be on your shortlist.
The Nanit is expensive and has a more involved setup process that requires tools and patience. You'll need to wall-mount your camera and download an app. The app requires an account; after a year, you'll need a subscription to use all of the features. This monitor has loads of alerts, and they pop up with a notification similar to that of a text or missed email. This means you might not notice them or sleep through them. We couldn't get it to go off for breathing, so how loud that alarm remains to be seen. If you are prepared for the setup and phone adjustments to ensure monitoring, a tech-savvy parent might be really pleased with this monitor.
The Monbaby Smart Button v3 is a wearable movement monitor in the shape of a button that attaches to clothing and works with your smartphone. This inexpensive option is highly portable, uses Bluetooth, and can tell you what position your little one is in for an older infant who might roll. This wearable is easier to use and more comfortable for little ones, making it a logical choice if the bulkier options are unappealing.
This unit connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and we experienced some connectivity issues. The battery life on the button is also short, and had to charge it more frequently than the competition. However, if budget is a concern and you want a tech-centric option that alerts on your phone, we think most parents will be happy with the functionality of this button.
The Sense-U Baby v3 is another button-style wearable similar to the Monbaby. However, it has some perks that make it more desirable, depending on your goals. This monitor uses WiFi and has better range as a result. It comes with a base station that has an alarm, so you are getting two potential ways of receiving an alert, the base, and your smartphone. It is easy to use, has a straightforward app, and provides positional information in a portable unit suitable for travel and use outside the home.
This monitor is more expensive than the similar competition. It requires a smartphone to work, and we did experience some connectivity issues. However, if you want a technology-driven monitor that connects to your phone that is easy to use and wear, it is a high-ranking option in our tests.
We purchase all of the movement style monitors in this review (as well as all baby gear we test). 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.
Our testing of movement monitors for babies covers 5 rating metrics:
Expected Reliability (25% of overall score weighting)
Set up (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (20% weighting)
Monitoring Capabilities (20% weighting)
Alerts (15% weighting)
EMF (informational purposes only)
Since 2012, we've purchased and tested more than 26 movement monitors and over 100 monitors across multiple monitoring types. Our tests include multiple tests per metric to rate reliability and other functions.
Movement products are subjected to more than 27 individual tests to rank performance. The critical metric for movement monitors is the reliability score, which corresponds to 25% of the overall movement score. Our Reliability results combine real-life experience during testing and extensive research online to capture the experience of a vast swath of users. We record and rank reports related to reliability, false positives, and potential failures. We test and compare everything about the monitors, from the user interface and setup to the daily functioning and alerts or alarms offered by the monitors. This new round of monitors offers more than any other group we've tested in this category. With advances in technologies and changes in monitoring goals, it was a wild ride making comparisons and running tests with tiny testers.
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 the test 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.
Analysis and Test Results
We purchased and tested each movement monitor in this review for expected reliability, setup, ease of use, alerts, and more. Products were used in real homes and compared side-by-side in our in-house lab to determine how they compare and which are the best choices for different situations.
There are several value products in this category, including some impressive and versatile award winners. Depending on your goals and needs, you can find a great movement monitor without breaking the bank. The Monbaby Smart Button v3 is less expensive than comparable wearables and connects to your smartphone for easier monitoring. It is a straightforward and inexpensive choice for families that works via Bluetooth. This makes it more portable than some of the competition and doesn't require extensive setup or worry about an in-nursery alarm. If you want more functionality and a one-and-done solution, you'll like the Nanit Pro Complete Set Monitoring System. While it has a higher price tag than the competition that offers fewer monitoring features, this unit is less expensive than its similar competitor, the Miku, and it performed better in testing. The upside to this monitor is you won't need to buy a different option as your little one grows out of the movement monitor phase as it includes video and sound that is useful for years of monitoring your child.
Parents purchase monitors to gain peace of mind that they will be able to sleep and still monitor their new baby should the little one need help in the middle of the night. Movement monitors should function to keep tabs on the movement that indicates breathing is happening as expected and thereby help ease fears and concerns about potential SIDS. If a monitor doesn't function as expected, then it is unlikely to help ease anxiety and won't increase your odds of getting a better night's sleep. While you might be worried the alarm won't go off when it should, false alarms are also a concern.
False alarms can be a frightening experience (for parents and babies), and they often result in more questions than answers. Their occurrence makes reliability a critical consideration and the number one complaint of most parents when it goes wrong. Historically, in our experience, the sensor pads were the most reliable because there is no risk that the sensor will move or become dislodged. Products like the Babysense 7 had fewer false alarms reported than the wearable products when properly set up and for infants who have not begun to roll or move significantly during sleep. New analysis indicates this may no longer be the case.
The primary cause of false alarms seems to happen when wearable monitors lose contact with the baby's body and can no longer sense movement. As your baby becomes mobile, there is a chance of a wearable product losing contact with the baby, especially for the diaper clip wearables like the Snuza Hero SE. For this reason, the sensor pads were thought to result in fewer false alarms as they encompass a wide area of the mattress and are not dependent on a calm and stationary baby. The BabySense 7 comes with two pads, which potentially translates to even fewer false alarms as it covers more of the area than the single pad with some competitors. However, it seems that outside factors can influence how well these sensor pads work and things like an overhead fan or a vibrating air filter can result in a poorly operating monitor.
Recently, in our research and analysis, we've seen an increase in reports indicating that wearable monitors are proving to be more reliable when it comes to a lack of false alarms. Users, by and large, report fewer false alarms or problems with the wearable options than they have in the past, and analysis seems to indicate they might actually be more reliable than the sensor pads when used correctly. While any device can fail if it becomes detached from the baby or isn't used according to directions, most wearables performed well and offered peace of mind for parents by not alerting them when everything is fine. The button-style monitors attach to the clothing and seem less likely to dislodge or stop transmitting. The Nanit has a wrap that is also unlikely to be disclosed and is then "read" by the Nanit camera to monitor breathing. As long as the wearables stay connected, they seem to be the more reliable option. The highest-ranking option for expected reliability is the Snuza Hero SE and the Nanit. The Miku Pro Movement thought there was a breathing baby in our crib during testing when the crib was empty! The upside is the ghost baby was breathing; the downside is the monitor shouldn't think there is a breathing baby in a crib where no baby resides.
Some of the competition offers a super simple setup that includes putting in a battery, turning it on, and attaching it to your baby. Other monitors require a ladder, stud finder, camera placement, app download, account setup, and even a subscription. While any firs time setup is typically a one-time deal, it could be something you struggle with if you aren't comfortable with tools or if you hope to use your monitor away from home.
Both the Miku and the Nanit require a camera to be mounted above the crib or on a stand (sold separately). They have wires to route, studs to find, and apps to download. You need to set up an account, and you may or may not need a subscription down the road. While they might come with almost everything you need for installation, it is a lot more work than plugging in and using a monitor. You will need to prep these before your little one is ready for bed. The easiest to set up are the two diaper clips that require nothing more than ensuring the battery is in place and turning them on.
Always route cords out of your baby's reach to avoid potential injury or death from accidental strangulation. Even if your baby cannot roll/move or contact the nearby cords, it is vital that you install your monitor safely the first time to avoid potential future problems. Do NOT save this for a later time!
Ease of Use
Parents should consider how challenging a monitor is to use. Factors such as functionality, buttons, settings, smartphone interface, and battery changes all come into play for this metric.
Our testing included reviewing the user interface compared to the competition, How portable the unit is, how it connects, and the reliability of the connection to a parent unit if one is available (including smartphones).
The Snuza Hero SE and the Levana Oma Sense are extremely portable, do not require extra parts or a smartphone, and have only a few buttons. They are easy to attach to little ones and easy to operate with only a few minutes of manual review. If you want the quickest, easiest, most portable options, you can't go wrong with the clip-on monitor.
Portability includes evaluating which options are the easiest to take on the road with you when you travel or for trips to grandma's house. In short, the wearable options are far easier to take when traveling due to their smaller size and the way they function. The sensor pad-style monitors require a specific kind of mattress and a hard surface underneath. They also involve a fairly intensive setup. This all means when you reach your destination, there is a potential that you'll need to modify the crib offered to you, and it may not be suitable to work with your monitor at all. The diaper clips or the Monbaby are the best travel choice as they do not require WiFi, mounting, or a special mattress.
Wearable units do not work in a moving car or stroller as they can't differentiate between a baby's movement or the movement of a vehicle or stroller. This incompatibility is not a fault of any monitor but a result of the design and how it determines a baby's movements.
In the days of yore, okay, maybe not that long ago, movement monitors typically didn't do much else. Angelcare was one of the few companies that paired their movement options with sound or video. Now, there are more monitors that do a significant amount more.
The Nanit is our favorite all-in-one option with video, sound, movement, motion, temperature, and more. This monitor could be the only option you need to buy for the life of your monitoring years. While it isn't our favorite video monitor, it certainly gets the job done and ranked well in this review. The Miku also includes these monitoring capabilities, but we like it even less for video, and it didn't perform as well in our movement testing as the Nanit. It is also more expensive than the Nanit without offering a benefit to justify the hike in cost.
The button monitors also offer a bit more information by relaying your little one's position; they don't provide video or sound. The Snuza and Levana monitor nothing but movement indicative of breathing.
A movement monitor is only as good as its ability to alert you or your baby that there is a problem. If the alert or alarm associated with no movement is not enough to rouse your baby or you, then it isn't useful in the way we think parents want. In the past, most of the monitors had an in-nursery alarm with the idea that it would rouse the baby and they would begin to breathe, with the idea of the parent being alerted as secondary. The problem is false alarms can result in unnecessary and potentially traumatizing and startling awakenings for no reason. This could affect sleep hygiene for babies and caregivers over time with no real benefit. In our current round of monitors, many of them only alert on the parent device/smartphone, which might be better for false alarms, but could go unnoticed by a sleep-exhausted parent who sleeps through the alarm or alert.
To complicate matters, it is difficult to get all of the monitors to alert if you have a breathing baby, and some refused to be tricked by our lifelike doll stand-in. As a result, our alert testing and scoring are based on the kind of alerts the monitor offers, how that alert or alarm is relayed, and what, if any, adjustability it has in the monitor or the volume and occurrence of the alarm. These scores should not be confused with how loud the alarms were and whether or not the alert or alarm will rouse you from a deep sleep. The Nanit Pro and the Sense-U Baby earned the best scores for alert testing.
The app-reliant monitors use the phone settings for things like alert and alarm volume notifications or sounds being relayed from the nursery (for sound monitors). Therefore, you need to make sure your phone settings are properly set for your monitoring goals.
Depending on your house size, where the nursery is, and if the monitor is covered, an in-nursery alarm (like those on the Snuza and the Levana) could be hard to hear. Because of this, we highly recommend that monitors without parent units be combined with a sound monitor if you hope to hear what is happening with the monitor.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)
The jury is still out on the effects of EMF on the human body and the sensitive developing systems of babies. Nevertheless, we believe there is enough evidence to indicate potential harm, so we think parents should consider the EMF (Volts/meter) emitted by all products in use near their little ones. We believe that a "better safe than sorry" approach is smart and that parents should make thoughtful and informed choices when selecting products that emit EMF. Every home has an ambient EMF level, and each new product brought into the home can increase the EMF emissions. However, putting an EMF-emitting device directly on your baby is entirely different in our minds. It is a nonessential practice, and we think parents should weigh the pros and cons before doing so. This concern is why we test each product to determine how much EMF it generates.
The highest level of EMF on average are the two button style monitors of the Monbaby Smart Button and the Sense-u Baby with readings of 2.5 each. The remainder didn't register an EMF level above the average ambient room reading during testing.
For some perspective, we also tested the EMF on a smartphone in various configurations of Bluetooth, WiFi, with active and non-active calling, and some wearable fitness monitors. This testing provides comparable information on how the wearable monitors' EMF compares to items we use or wear daily. We believe parents can better relate to this data, given the rising concerns about radiation from cell phones and cancer. A smartphone with WiFi on and making a call measured 17 V/m at a one-inch distance. At 1 inch away from the meter, the Fitbit has an average reading of 3 V/m.
Even though conclusive data about how much EMF is dangerous is lacking (and will likely remain so for ethical reasons), we don't recommend high EMF emitting products for the first six months (when movement monitors are useful), especially as there are excellent alternatives 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 concerned that some baby monitoring products have significantly higher EMF than the adult products we hear about.
Because of the concerns and supporting data involving the long-term use of smartphones next to your head and the potential risk of radiation and cancer related to EMF, we don't feel comfortable (our opinion) using a high EMF emitting product directly on a baby.
We recommend that any EMF emitting monitor you feel is necessary should be placed as far away from your baby as possible without disrupting its performance.
Some parents find that this type of monitor provides peace of mind they would not otherwise have. However, movement monitors are not medical devices; you shouldn't rely on them to prevent SIDS or monitor any medical condition or issue. If using a movement monitor can help increase your odds of a good night's sleep, you might consider making it a part of your nursery and monitoring routine. There is likely something for everyone in our broad lineup. Whether you want a video combination or just a simple wearable, we've tested them all. Sweet dreams!
No matter what kind of monitoring decisions you make, nothing replaces safe and smart sleeping practices to reduce the risk of SIDs. Babies must always sleep on their back, in their own space, on a firm surface, using only a tight-fitting sheet for bedding (no blankets, lovies, pillows, bumpers, etc.). Providing a safe and comfortable sleep space for your little one is more crucial than choosing any monitoring device. This safe space should have good airflow with a fan or air filter nearby to increase circulation. There should be no smoking, and the room should be a comfortable temperature for an adult in lightweight clothing (no overheating the space or keeping it too cool).