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Are baby monitors really worth it? The pros and cons of nursery monitors

Are baby monitors really worth it header mum monitoring her baby on her mobile phone

We asked parents and experts whether baby monitors were a nursery necessity. Based on first-hand experience, here’s what they had to say

Faced with a long (and costly) list of essentials to buy in preparation for a new arrival – from a cot and a pram through to clothes, toys and nappies – is it any wonder that many parents question whether a baby monitor is really worth it?

The answer is usually a matter of practicality. The primary reason most parents choose to invest in a baby monitor is so that they can keep tabs on their child while they sleep, especially if their child’s room is out of hearing range. But there are actually a host of other benefits that come from using a monitor, from useful information that can help the parenting process to peace of mind when away from home.

However, that’s not to say that a baby monitor is right for everyone, plus there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of, too – not least anxiety-fuelling factors.

Do I need a baby monitor?

Most parents who use a baby monitor point to the comfort and reassurance they gain from being able to see and hear their baby when sleeping.

“Baby monitors offer peace of mind to parents, providing real-time audio and video surveillance of their little one,” says Rosey Davidson, a sleep consultant and founder of Just Chill Baby Sleep.

“Pros include ensuring safety and convenience, allowing caregivers to monitor from a distance. However, reliance on monitors might lead to increased anxiety and dependency, disrupting natural parental instincts.”

Striking a balance between vigilance and trusting intuition is therefore crucial for effective use, she says.

Certain baby monitors – known as “smart monitors” – can provide parents with useful data about their little one’s sleep, too. “This can be helpful when they [the parents] are working on improving [baby’s] sleep, as they can see progress in real time.”

Can’t I just use a regular Wi-Fi camera?

You can, but doing so means you miss out on some of the useful functionality that many of the best baby monitors deliver, says Charlotte Hill, a nursery product specialist for John Lewis’s All About Baby service.

“For example, some monitors have integrated lullabies, which can soothe baby to sleep,” she shares. “Others offer temperature readings, night vision and night lights, and allow the user to move the camera around using an app on their phone, so they can see more of the room.”

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The pros of investing in a baby monitor

There are a variety of factors that may well convince you that baby monitors are worth it. We’ve detailed some of the most noteworthy ones below, illustrated with examples from recent new parents who used – or are still using – a monitor themselves.

Gives peace of mind – and the freedom to enjoy your evenings

The biggest advantage of using a baby monitor is a pragmatic one. Being able to see and/or hear your child while they sleep (depending on whether you use an audio-only or video-enabled device) is what attracts most parents to using a monitor.

This can be particularly handy if your child’s room is out of hearing range in your home, as Marie Rouillon, mum to two-year-old Artemis, explains: “We use our baby monitor in the evenings. We can’t hear anything at all from Artie’s room when we’re downstairs, so we really need one.”

Parents hold up a baby monitor with an image of their baby on the screen

She adds: “Having a monitor also allows us to watch TV or listen to music as loud as we want in the evenings, knowing that we’d hear if Artie needed us.”

This ability to enjoy your evening without worrying about your little one extends to precious nights out, too. “I feel much more confident leaving our son with a babysitter if I can steal an occasional look at him on the monitor”, says mum-of-one Annalise Beech.

Provides helpful data

Many modern monitors arm parents with helpful data about factors such as room temperature and humidity levels. This information can help with decision-making when it comes to keeping your baby safe and comfortable.

“We specifically looked for a model with a temperature gauge”, says Annalise. “This data has really helped us when deciding how to dress our son for bed and which tog sleeping bag to use.”

She adds: “The device also alerts us when the temperature drops below 16ºC or rises above 20ºC”, the recommended range for safe baby sleep, according to the Lullaby Trust.

Helps avoid unnecessary wakings

Many new parents find themselves hovering at their baby’s bedroom door, agonising over whether or not to go in, potentially waking them up unnecessarily. Video monitors can help in such a situation.

For example, if you can see that baby is sitting or standing up then you’d probably want to enter and help settle them. But, if you can see that their eyes are closed and they’re simply tossing and turning or moaning in their sleep, a couple of minutes’ pause might be justified.

A baby sleeping on a bed with a baby monitor camera next to him

“We had an audio-only monitor for ages, but switched to a video one when sleep deprivation pushed us to sleep training”, shares Sam Cooper, mum to Rita.

“The video monitor allowed us to see if we actually needed to go in and help, or if she was just having a dream, in which case going in would actually disrupt her and potentially ruin our whole night.”

Allows you to capture key moments

Some monitors feature recording functionality, enabling you to capture cute – and crucial – moments, dad Kevin Bogie explains.

“We’ve toyed with whether it’s time to stop using a baby monitor, but our two-year-old has just started singing to himself when he wakes up. It’s absolutely adorable, and the monitor has allowed us to not only watch him as he sings, but also capture the moment on video to share with family.”

A mother is adjusting and setting up a surveillance camera near her sleeping baby

He adds: “We were also able to capture audio of our son coughing at night when he was being investigated for asthma, and play the recording back to the doctor.”

The cons of investing in a baby monitor

Our conversations with parents revealed some factors that may surface when you’re exploring whether or not baby monitors are worth it. We’ve addressed these below, with input from experts regarding their validity.

Potential for increased anxiety

While many parents find the ability to check in on their little one while they sleep reassuring, for others it can actually heighten their anxieties and stop them from switching off in moments of downtime.

“I’ve seen too many mums checking from the pub to see how dad was putting the child to bed”, says Cloe Miquerol, mum to two-year-old Alba – a comment that taps into common fears about others getting it “wrong” when it comes to caring for your little one or not being in full control of their wellbeing.

If this is a problem for you, then Anna Mathur, a psychotherapist who specialises in parental mental health, suggests trying some strategies to manage this anxiety.

“Find a mantra such as ‘she is safe, she is loved’ and repeat it to yourself when you find the anxiety rising”, she shares.

“Perhaps you log out of the app for the evening, and ask the caregiver to call you should there be any problem. Keep your phone on loud, and remind yourself of their promise.”

She adds: “Allowing someone else to care for your child helps form the village, and enables you to get some much needed breathing space.”

Worries about cyber safety

Some parents we spoke to said they had doubts over whether baby monitors are safe from hackers.  These fears have largely been fuelled by news reports of outside parties gaining access to people’s devices.

Such stories informed Marie’s buying decision. “When I was initially researching baby monitors, I read a lot of horrible stories of the Wi-Fi-style models getting hacked”, she says. “So I decided against one of those and chose a simple device with a camera unit and a screen unit instead.”

However, while stories about baby monitors being hacked are undoubtedly scary, thankfully they’re very rare – and, as the National Cyber Security Centre has noted, these tend to be linked specifically to Wi-Fi models.

John Lewis’s Charlotte Hill provides reassurance, noting: “This [cyber security] is something that brands and manufacturers take really seriously, so thankfully there is little reason to be concerned. The Wi-Fi connection used in the cameras has the same level of encryption as banking apps.”

However, she does stress: “The apps you need to download for smart monitors require an account to log in, so creating and maintaining a secure password is important.”

How much should I spend on a baby monitor?

How much you spend on a baby monitor will largely depend on what you want it to do. “There’s a wide range of price points to suit different budgets and requirements”, shares Charlotte Hill, nursery product manager at John Lewis.

“Audio-only monitors are the cheapest, starting at around £25, with video monitors starting at around £50”, she says. Meanwhile, “smart monitors – with extra sensors for keeping an eye on heart rate and movement – start at around £75.”

At the top-end of the range, the best high-end smart monitor that we rated in testing – the Nanit Pro – has an RRP of £300. This high-tech smart monitor features brilliant high-definition picture quality, has a cable-free above-cot design and provides detailed feedback on your little one’s sleep patterns.

While these features are useful, they may be overkill for some. It’s therefore worth considering which baby monitor features are most important to you before purchasing.

Final thoughts

It might not be the cheapest bit of baby kit you’ll buy but, as agreed by the parents we spoke to – especially if their baby’s room was out of earshot – baby monitors really are worth the investment. And for peace of mind, they’re essential.

You’ll also be able to enjoy other benefits of using a monitor, including being able to access data that can help inform parental decision-making, and the ability to record your child when they’re in bed – both in cute and critical moments.

And then there’s the freedom that comes from being able to enjoy your baby-free time, feeling reassured that all is well with your little one simply through a glance at a monitor – something that many parents we spoke to valued highly.

Of course, for some this final point might prove to be a disadvantage if checking-in becomes too frequent, fuelling anxiety in the process. However, there are strategies that parents can adopt to manage such worries, as we’ve outlined above. Parents should also rest assured that any anxieties around their monitor’s security are unfounded, provided they use secure passwords when using a Wi-Fi-connected device.

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