Baby Monitors for the Nursery

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A good baby monitor is an essential item for new parents. After all, you can’t spend every minute of every day and night staring at your little one, and with a baby monitor you can keep an ear or eye out for them while they’re napping, but catch some sleep or get on with other things. The range available now goes all the way from simple, audio-only monitors that alert you when baby’s crying to sophisticated Wi-Fi systems that can stream video to a tablet or smartphone, so there’s something for every need and every budget.

Types of Baby Monitor

Traditional baby monitors have two parts: a baby unit which captures sound and possibly video from the nursery then transmits it wirelessly to a parent unit, where it comes through the screen and speakers. While the baby unit is normally powered by a mains adaptor, the parent units run from batteries, so that you can carry them around the house and still be alerted when baby cries. The most affordable models use a straightforward digital radio signal to broadcast audio from baby unit to parent unit, but more expensive models tend to use the same DECT technology used in cordless phones, giving you a clearer sound.
 
A new breed of Wi-Fi baby monitors gets rid of the parent unit entirely, instead connecting to your home Wi-Fi network, then transmitting audio and video to a smartphone or tablet using an app. This doesn’t just make use of technology you already have, but opens up other features, such as the ability to stream
video over the Internet to a parent or grandparent far away, or even record baby footage to store and share online. The apps are designed for easy setup and everyday use, and the only downside is that you’re dependent on the range and reliability of your Wi-Fi network.
 
Is video worth it? The major advantage isn’t that you can sit watching your baby constantly – though it’s tempting – but that when you hear your baby crying in the middle of the night you can see them and then decide whether it’s worth bursting out of bed. What’s more, Wi-Fi video monitors can be used as Internet-connected video cameras later on, which can be useful for security (or checking on babysitters) when your child is no longer a baby. 

Signals and Security

Baby monitors have their limitations. Firstly, signal strength and clarity varies. If you have a large home with thick walls, some will struggle to maintain a good, clear connection between baby and parent units. Even Wi-Fi models aren’t immune, as if you can’t get a decent signal in the nursery, then it doesn’t matter how good the signal is in your living room. Luckily, any tricks or devices you can use to improve your wireless network, such as buying a new router or a range extender kit, will help your baby monitor work better too.
 
Meanwhile, if you live in close proximity to neighbours – particularly other new parents – then there’s more potential for interference, and also a chance that they may be able to hear or see your signal. With DECT and video baby monitors this isn’t usually an issue, but if you have one of the cheaper digital models, it’s worth switching frequencies or channels to make sure you’re not all using the same one. 

Other features

Some baby monitors keep the microphone at a constant level while producing a lot of hiss, which makes it a challenge to set the parent unit’s volume level to a point where you get woken up by baby, but aren’t kept awake by background noise. Better models may have sound activation features or adaptive sensitivity, so that they only ramp up in volume as your baby does. Many video baby monitors use motion sensing for the same effect.
 
Low battery indicators are a must for the parent unit, along with some kind of visual indicator that can alert you when your baby is crying; on video monitors, the screen will normally switch on. Some also come with additional gizmos, including comforting nightlights, a talkback feature so that you can relax your baby, light shows to keep them entertained, and lullabies to soothe them to sleep.
 
Video models bring in even more features, ranging from high-definition video or a bigger screen to infrared cameras for night-time monitoring and remote-controlled pan and zoom. Don’t get too caught up in the specs - you’re not making Baby: The Motion Picture - but anything that can help you keep a better eye on you bundle of joy is worth a little extra cash.

Philips AVENT SCD603 Digital Video Baby Monitor
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Philips AVENT SCD603 Digital Video Baby Monitor

Philips AVENT SCD603 Digital Video Baby Monitor

With a range of up to 150m, infrared night vision, a selection of lullabies and a gentle nightlight, this Philips wireless video baby monitor makes it easy to keep an eye on baby from anywhere around the house. The baby unit is attractive and can be mounted on the nursery wall, while the parent unit is compact and easy to carry, with an excellent 2.4in colour screen and rechargeable batteries.
We love: The way it switches automatically to infra red night vision when the nursery gets dark.
Watch out for: While it’s not a Wi-Fi unit, it has been known to interfere with Wi-Fi signals.
RRP: £160 
Motorola Blink Wi-Fi
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Motorola Blink Wi-Fi

Motorola Blink Wi-Fi

Motorola’s Wi-Fi baby monitor allows you to connect up to four registered devices to the camera, and those four devices can then watch baby from anywhere in the house – or just anywhere with an Internet connection. The tablet/smartphone app enables you to pan, tilt and zoom the camera or talk back to your baby, and you can also play them lullabies or switch to infrared to watch them in the dark. It comes with a built-in room temperature sensor, too.
 
We love: The snapshot and recording functions, which help you capture precious baby moments.
Watch out for: If your Wi-Fi isn’t reliable, then your baby monitor won’t be, either.
RRP: £150
Withings Smart Bay Monitor
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Withings Smart Bay Monitor

Withings Smart Bay Monitor

If you want the ultimate high-tech baby monitor, this Withings  Wi-Fi model is it. The 3-megapixel camera gives you high-definition video and zoom and angle adjustments within the well-designed smartphone app. You can set up your own custom alerts for noise levels, motion, temperature or humidity, then get notifications sent to your iPhone, iPad or Android app. You can also talk back to baby, play lullabies and switch on the soft nightlight, and keep an eye on your infant from anywhere, inside or outside the home – great for when you can’t be at home.
 
We love: The clever features of the easy-to-use smartphone app.
Watch out for: If your Wi-Fi isn't working then it can disconnect without warning.
RRP: £199
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