The beginner's guide to choosing a baby monitor

There's a moment when your first child is born when you can't imagine ever wanting to be apart from them. Ideally you'd be there 24/7 just to keep checking that they're safe and well. But the reality is no-one can (or indeed would really want to) be by their baby's side permanently and that's where the baby monitor comes in.

It's also one of those bits of baby kit that remain useful even as your child grows older, whether its used as a baby listening device in a hotel, or to keep an ear on older children playing in their bedrooms (though were still waiting for them to invent a serious-mess-being-made alarm feature!). Styles and features vary so before you buy there are a few things worth considering:

What are you going to use it for?
 

Some parents can't sleep without the monitor on – others can't sleep unless it's off. Neither means you are a bad parent, but the amount you think you'll use your monitor may well affect how many of the following features are essential and also how much you want to spend: "Unless your house is absolutely huge, if a baby is really crying you can usually hear it! We use the monitor for naps and early evening but switch off when we go to sleep. Everyones sleeping better."

Battery or mains powered?
 

Most have the ability to be both. Look out for models with rechargeable batteries if you think you're going to be using the monitor a lot.

Digital or analogue?
 

The newer, more expensive models tend to be digital. Although not essential, particularly if you think youll only use the monitor occasionally, this cuts down on interference and improves sound clarity.

Sensor mat or regular listening device?
 

The monitor comes with a sensor pad, which activates an alarm if your child hasn't moved for a period of time (usually 20 seconds). This can be exactly the reassurance some parents need; for others it's purgatory as they lie awake wondering if the device is working.

Inevitably, there are false alarms when the child has rolled off the sensor, which can be heart-stopping: "Ultimately this just fed our paranoia. We loved the idea but ended up just using the listening device after a while as we found the false alarms and anxiety about whether the device was working more stressful!"

Nightlight
 

Can be useful for night feeds and reassurance.

Lullabies
 

Not everyone's cup of tea, but may appeal to some babies.

Portability
 

It's useful to be able to carry the parent unit with you easily: "I use mine when I hang out the washing and my child's asleep."

Sound sensitive light display
 

Particularly useful if you're eating in a hotel restaurant. It allows you to see rather than hear when your babys in distress, as the lights correspond to the noise level.

Intercom facility
 

The ability to "talk" either to your child or to another adult in their room is found on quite a few models. Most reviewers found it most useful for talking to adults and really handy for big houses: "It's great if I'm feeding in our son's bedroom, my husband can tell me dinners ready and ask how long I'm going to be." Beware, this gives even more scope for being overheard so watch what you say or do when the monitors are switched on!

Last updated: almost 2 years ago