When your baby’s (finally!) sleeping, you’ll want to make the most of the moment. Whether you’re catching an early night yourself or tackling the tasks you can’t get done when she’s awake, a baby monitor is a brilliant way to put your mind at rest so you can focus on something other than your baby while she snoozes.
In our quest to find the best monitor to suit every budget, we’ve tested a range of different types. From ones that transmit only sound, to video monitors with movement sensor pads, we’ve tried them all – including the very latest gadgetry! You can’t be with your baby every minute, but the right baby monitor is the next best thing.
Most monitors consist of two parts: the ‘baby unit’ with in-built microphone (and camera, if it’s a video monitor) and a second hand-held ‘parent unit’ which displays sound and/or footage from the baby unit. You pop the baby unit near your baby’s cot and you can carry the parent unit around with you from room to room, a bit like a walkie talkie.
Current NHS advice is to keep your baby in the same room as you until she is six months old, particularly when sleeping, but a monitor can be helpful for when you need to pop to the loo or head into the kitchen to make dinner and still make sure your baby is sleeping easy.
Do you need one?
If you live in a flat or small house and are confident that you’ll hear your baby when she wakes or stirs at nap time, you might feel that you don’t need a baby monitor at all. But lots of parents like the peace of mind that comes with using one – it’s very reassuring to watch or listen to your baby sleeping soundly while you put your feet up and enjoy a well-earned cup of tea! A monitor also eliminates the need to creep into your baby’s room to check on her – you’ll see her stirring on the screen or hear her via the parent unit the moment she wakes.
Additional features to look out for:
- Screen: With a video monitor, the parent unit has a screen which displays the camera footage. Make sure the screen size is adequate, and that the controls are easy to use, especially in the dark.
- WIFI: If you choose a monitor which relies on wifi connectivity, make sure it’s compatible with your router and that your signal is up to the task. Check if the baby unit needs to be near your router for optimum efficiency.
- Pan, zoom and tilt: If your baby moves around a lot or if you have two children sharing a room, a video monitor with a camera that you can control remotely from the parent unit is very useful, as you can scan the room or reposition the camera without disturbing your baby.
- Temperature gauge: A thermometer is a useful feature on a monitor as it enables you to check the temperature in the room without disturbing your baby, alerting you if it’s too hot or cold.
- Night mode: If you want to be able to check on your baby via the monitor in the dark, choose one with night mode or infrared functionality.
- Battery life: Most parent units are battery operated – if you’re likely to forget to plug it in overnight, choose one that charges quickly or has a portable docking station so you can charge it while in use.
- Portability: If you’ll take your monitor on holiday, choose one that’s lightweight and portable. If it relies on wifi connectivity, make sure you’ve got that wherever you’re going!
- Sound quality: Don’t overlook audio when you’re buying a video monitor – good sound quality is essential because you won’t always be glued to the screen.
- Style and design: A monitor that resembles a heavy-duty surveillance camera might have excellent functionality, but choose one you’ll be happy to look at every day.
This month's testers:
- Rachel Bell, 36, from Torquay, is mum to Roman, five weeks
- Henrietta Knell, 31, from Epsom, is mum to Jonty, seven months, and Sammy, two years
- Aileen Farrell, 43, from Ballycastle, is mum to Isla, 11 months, and Abigail, three years
Best baby monitors for every budget:
Best for affordability
WE SAY: If you don’t need video functionality, this is unbeatable value for money and it’s packed with lots of extras. The sound quality is excellent, and if you don’t want to hear every little snuffle, you can turn off the volume off and keep an eye on the LED lights for signs of stirring. There are 18 lullabies to help your little one drift off, and it has two-way talkback for reassuring your baby when you’re not in the room.
Rachel (5W): If you don’t need video and movement monitoring, this is perfect. It’s great value for money and has far more features than you’d expect from a budget monitor. It’s also really compact and lightweight – perfect for taking on holiday. The sound quality is excellent and the two-way talkback feature means I can try settling Roman remotely when I’m busy downstairs – although this hasn’t been terribly successful yet!
Henrietta (7M/2Y): This is really good value for money, with lots of extra features. It’s so easy to set up that I barely needed to look at the instructions – perfect for the sleep-deprived parent! The audio is incredibly clear. I was confident that I would hear the very first squeak my son made when waking. The music function is brilliant and has so many options, from nature sounds to classical music.
Aileen (11M/3Y): A great little audio monitor that does exactly what it says on the box – it’s ideal for very young babies who aren’t moving around much. It’s excellent value for money, with lots of handy features – lullabies, a nightlight, a temperature gauge and a crying alert. I like that you can easily control everything from the parent unit. The extra-long cable means I can position it wherever I need it.
Best for range
WE SAY: With a range of up to 300m, this is ideal if you’re often at the other end of the house or on a different floor when your baby naps or goes to bed. It’s not a video monitor, so you won’t be able to see what’s happening in her room, but the sound quality is good. It has volume control and a nightlight plus two-way talkback. The parent unit has a rechargeable docking station, and displays the room temperature.
Rachel (5W): If you’re looking for practicality over complex gadgetry, this is a basic but very reliable monitor. It’s very reasonably priced, so if you’re looking for a simple-to-use audio monitor, I think this is a good option and great value for money. It’s not as stylish as some of the other monitors we tested but it’s good quality, easy to set up, and does everything you need it to.
Henrietta (7M/2Y): The physical design of this cordless monitor is really well thought through. The rechargeable docking station makes it really flexible and portable compared to other monitors – I’d like to take it camping and use it to monitor my baby while I watch the sun setting. I love the paging feature – brilliant for helping you locate the parent unit when you pop it down and promptly forget where you left it!
Aileen (11M/3Y): This is very easy to set up and intuitive to use – you don’t have to faff around reading instructions or trying to figure out how it works. The whole device is sturdy and well made, and everything about it is self-explanatory. I need a video monitor with the option to pan the camera remotely so I can track my very wriggly baby, so this isn’t quite right for me.
Best for ease of use
WE SAY: If you’re looking for a simple, streamlined video monitor that’s intuitive to use, this is it. This was the easiest to get to grips with of all the video monitors tested. It offers good video coverage and excellent night vision, and the range (250m) means you can move freely between rooms whilst still keeping tabs on your baby. You can connect additional cameras to the baby unit – handy if you need to monitor more than one child in separate rooms.
Rachel (5W): Video functionality is a must for me and this a good quality, reliable option. It doesn’t have fancy extras but it does everything we need it to, for a lot less than the other video monitors. It looks stylish and is very easy to set up. The image quality is excellent, even in night vision mode, but the screen is small and you can’t tilt or pan the camera.
Henrietta (7M/2Y): Great range – we can sit in the garden knowing we’ll hear and see any disruption in our son’s room. I really like how intuitive it is to use. There’s one button for each function – really helpful when you’re trying to use it in the early hours of the morning. It’s very easy to set up and the camera is really easy to position due to its ball and socket design.
Aileen (11M/3Y): I like how portable this is – I can pop it in my pocket while walking around the house. The voice activation function is activated by a button on the parent unit, and the picture quality is excellent. It’s expensive for such a basic monitor but ideal if you’re looking for a very light, portable monitor. I really like the idea of being able to add additional cameras at a later stage.
Best for camera panning
We say: The camera on this monitor has an extra wide-angle lens to give a fuller picture of your baby’s room – useful if you have more than one child sharing a bedroom at night. It has pan, tilt and zoom functionality, so you can track your baby’s movements closely no matter how much she wriggles around in her sleep. Extra features include a temperature gauge, night vision mode, talkback functionality and the option to play soothing sounds and lullabies.
Rachel (5W): Incredibly impressive. It’s customisable, so you can create a monitor which suits you. I like the vibration and alert tone mode, which tells you when the battery is low or if the room gets too hot / cold. The camera is the best I’ve tested. You can pan, tilt and zoom remotely and the wide angled lens means more options for positioning it – handy if you don’t have lots of shelves!
Henrietta (7M/2Y): I really liked using this monitor. It’s very reliable, with clear audio and video, but what sets it apart is the camera’s wide angle lens and the ability to remotely pan and tilt – so helpful now that my son moves around his cot at night. It’s brilliant value for money and super easy set up. The range is excellent and I like that it alerts me if I lose signal.
Aileen (11M/3Y): Easy to set up and simple to use – big thumbs up for this one. It’s excellent value for money and as my baby has just started crawling, the ability to view the entire room is so reassuring. Not only was I able to monitor her during naps and at night but I could also set it up in the lounge and watch her crawl around safely while I prepared dinner.
Best for monitoring movement
We say: This video monitor has an adjustable camera with pan and zoom functionality so you can see your baby close up. Its major selling point is that it comes with a wireless movement sensor pad, which sounds an alarm if no movement is detected from your baby after 20 seconds. Our testers loved this feature for extra peace of mind. You can also add a second sensor pad and see two children on one screen – great for siblings sharing a room.
Rachel (5W): One of the most expensive monitors on the market but worth every penny. I love it! Despite the sophisticated design, it’s surprisingly easy to set up. The sound quality is excellent and the image is great, even at night. The wireless motion sensor mat is what makes this monitor stand out. It gave me real peace of mind.
Henrietta (7M/2Y): Brilliant! This is very simple and intuitive to set up and the video image is super clear in both day-time and night-time mode. You can zoom in to check if baby is actually awake – very handy if you have a noisy sleeper. I felt confident that the sensor pad was monitoring my son – especially reassuring now he rolls onto his tummy at night. Worth the money? 100% yes!
Aileen (11M/3Y): This is reliable, sturdy, great value for money and easy to use. You can add an additional monitor if you wish. The battery life is good on the parent unit but the camera angle can’t be adjusted from the parent unit, so if you have a wriggly baby you’ll need to make sure you position the camera to give you full view of the cot before leaving the room.
Best for high-tech features
We say: Much more than ‘just’ a baby monitor, this clever gadget helps keep you connected to your baby in and out of the home. It keeps track of all sorts of data, including her breathing and skin temperature and whether she’s asleep or awake, and it can even detect when she’s crying or rolling over. The parent unit – a wristband you wear like a watch – can track your sleep and activity level, and offers visual and vibration alerts about your baby.
Rachel (5W): Set up was a little complex for this tired mum but once up and running I could tell this was a well-designed, clever piece of kit. One great feature is being able to track not only the room temperature but also Roman’s body temperature. Another plus point is being able to play a lullaby via the smart hub when Roman stirs – you just press a button on the app.
Henrietta (7M/2Y): I love that I can wear this as a watch, leaving my hands free to prepare lunch etc. The parent device tracks your sleep and activity level too – not sure I’d want to know how little sleep I was getting in the early days but it’s great for proving how much you deserve that nap / extra biscuit / cup of tea! Should you have any technical difficulties, the support is outstanding.
Aileen (11M/3Y): This was complex to set up and we had some connectivity issues but the online support team were excellent and responded quickly. It has lots of innovative features – it can monitor your activity, mood and sleep, plus it tracks baby’s feeds, changes and naps. It’s ideal for a tech-savvy parent with the time to get to grips with it, but I found I preferred using a traditional video monitor.