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20 Aug 2021

Five useful baby monitor features that every parent should consider

A temperature sensor, sound sensitive lights and function to play lullabies are all worth considering when buying a baby monitor

Our latest batch of tested baby monitors is a mix of audio, video and smart baby monitors, ranging in price from just £30 to well over £300.

To help you navigate the market, we explain the differences between audio, video and smart baby monitors, plus the five key features to consider when shopping for a baby monitor.

Plus, read on for our thoughts on why parents should be cautious about using some wireless security cameras as a device to monitor your sleeping infant - our testing shows that they're just not up to the job.

Baby monitor reviews- see all the models that we've tested from a range of brands, including BT, Tommee Tippee, Angelcare and more

Should you buy a video, audio or smart baby monitor?

In our latest batch of baby monitors reviewswe have models from all the three main types - audio, video and smart.

Audio monitors comprise of two parts - one that stays in the nursery (baby or nursery unit) and one you keep with you to hear if your baby stirs while they sleep (parent unit). Audio monitors are typically cheap, with Best Buys available for under £30.

A video baby monitor has a camera unit that is placed in the nursery and sends pictures for you to watch on a screen on the parent unit.

You'll pay a bit more for one - the cheapest Best Buy we have is around £80 - but you can see your baby as well as hear them.

Smart baby monitors use wi-fi and enable you to monitor your baby via an app on your phone. See more on that type further down this article.

Need help choosing a baby monitor? Read our guide on how to buy the best baby monitor

Five key features to look for in a baby monitor

1. Parent unit

Whether you go for a video or audio baby monitor, it is worth considering what you want from the parent unit as this will be the primary device for you to monitor your baby's sleep.

If you go for a video monitor, consider the size of screen you need - these can range from around 3 inches to more than 7-inch models, and there can be a substantial difference in price.

With both video and audio monitors, we test to see whether the unit can stand on its own securely, how well it's made and how long the battery will last. We also look for useful features, such as a clip to attach it to your belt.

Bear in mind that some smart baby monitors don't have a parent unit, and instead you solely have to rely on your phone to keep an eye on your sleeping child.

2. Lullabies

Playing a lullaby can sometimes be the perfect tonic to soothe your baby to sleep.

Many baby monitors have lullabies pre-installed that you can play through the nursery unit and help coax your baby back into the land of nod.

Some monitors also have audiobooks that you can play, or you can even make your own recording to play at the touch of the button.

3. Temperature sensor

You don't want your baby to become either too hot or too cold while they sleep, which is why parents often splash out on a dedicated room temperature thermometer.

However, you can also get a baby monitor with a built-in sensor that constantly monitors the temperature of the room where your baby is sleeping.

We test every monitor for how accurate the sensor is at recording the correct temperature.

We also see if the reading gives whole degree numbers, or more granular decimal point measurements so you more easily see if you need to open a window or bring them a blanket.

4. Sound sensitive lights

Sometimes you need to turn the sound down or completely off on your baby monitor, such as if you have guests around for the evening or you are making an important phone call.

In this case sound sensitive lights give you a visual representation of the sound your baby is making from the nursery via increasing levels of lights.

Better baby monitors have five or six levels of lights so that you can easily tell whether you're baby is just snuffling or starting to cry just via the lights alone.

looking at baby on phone using a smart baby monito

5. Wi-fi

With a wi-fi baby monitor, often referred to as a smart monitor, you can check on your baby using an app on your smartphone or tablet. Some also come with a parent unit included so you have more options.

While a parent unit will only work in the house and maybe as far as the garden, a wi-fi monitor will continue to operate anywhere you have a strong wi-fi signal.

So, if one parent was away for the weekend and wanted to check in on their sleeping infant at home, they could do so via the app.

We test all wi-fi baby monitors for how they protect your privacy and security against hacking attacks. Any models we recommend have passed our rigorous tests.

Don't use a security camera as a baby monitor

Go online and you'll find lots of cheap wireless security cameras that claim to be also usable as a baby monitor.

We've tested quite a few of these devices, and while some are well made, they are on the whole just not designed to operate as baby monitors.

Most security cameras lack the useful baby monitor features listed above, and some have functions that are more designed to scare off intruders than monitor a baby.

For example, the Littlelf Wifi Camera Baby Monitor IP Camera 1080p from our latest batch has a siren on the camera. It's unclear what parent would want to trigger that while their infant was asleep.

Should I buy a movement sensor pad?

Some baby monitors come with additional sensor pads that are claimed to help monitor your baby's movement and potentially help protect against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.

These pads vary in design, but generally they go under the cot mattress and alert you if your baby stops moving for more than 20 seconds with an alarm and/or flashing lights.

While some parents might find such monitoring a reassurance, others might actually become more anxious over this, particularly if false alarms happen.

Baby safety charity, The Lullaby Trust, has also said that there's no evidence that this sort of monitoring can prevent SIDS, so carefully consider whether such a feature is worth the money.