Baby monitors buying guide

A baby monitor reassures you that your baby is sleeping soundly and alerts you if your baby wakes or needs your attention.

There are lots available. Depending on the model, baby monitors can allow you to both see and hear what your baby's doing whilst you're in another room. Some offer movement detection and there's a wide selection of models with other features that you may find useful.

Read our guide to find the right baby monitor for you.

Choose an analogue or digital baby monitor

Baby monitors work via radio waves. They typically consist of a base unit with a microphone, which you position near your baby, and a portable receiver, usually known as the parent unit.

The differences between analogue and digital baby monitors are clarity, range of sound and vision, plus price.

Analogue: Analogue baby monitors are not widely available now that digital models offer the very latest technology. They are fairly inexpensive but may be prone to interference and static from other electrical equipment nearby.

You may even find that your neighbours' activities can be picked up on your baby monitor, or that they can also listen in on what's going on in your house.

Some models have several channels you can try in order to improve the clarity of the signal. Analogue baby monitors don't have a very long range, although they're usually fine to use in an average sized home.

If you're planning on buying an analogue monitor, check first to see which frequency your Wi-Fi or cordless phones works on, to reduce the risk of interference. Lots of analogue baby monitors operate on 49MHz, 900MHz, or 2.4GHz frequencies.

Digital: Digital baby monitors perform the same function as their analogue equivalents.

However, because they use a digital signal, the sound quality is clearer, with less potential for interference. However, some people do find that wireless routers and cordless phones can cause some static.

Digital baby monitors are more expensive than analogues, although they have come down in price since they first became available.

DECT: If you buy a DECT (Digital-Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication) baby monitor, you should find that the signal has no interference because they work via a newer, less widely used frequency. They are usually a bit more expensive than standard digital monitors.

Whichever baby monitor you choose, remember it is no substitute for adult supervision and should only be used as an extra reassurance for you or for whoever is watching your baby.

Choose from a battery or mains operated baby monitor

One of the most popular options is to have a mains-connected baby (base) unit and a battery-run parent unit. This lets you can carry your parent unit around the house or even outdoors (within range) yet the baby unit won't lose any charge. If you find the batteries in the parent unit are short-lived, go for rechargeable batteries to get better value.

If your baby monitor is for use in a small house or flat and you don't need to carry the parent unit around with you, a baby monitor where both units plug into the mains might be a better choice. The only downside is if you want to use it in someone else's home or on holiday, where the layout might be different.

Find a baby monitor that meets your needs

First, consider how you'll need your baby monitor to work for you. Some parents are happy with a basic listening or listening-and-watching monitor.

Others prefer the extra reassurance of the optional extras offered by some devices.

You'll know which monitor is right for you and whether you are the kind of parent who might find these features increasing rather than easing anxiety.

Outdoor use: Are you likely to use it in the garden or in the furthest part of your house from the baby's room? If so, a digital baby monitor with a portable parent unit is probably best as it has a longer range and doesn't need outside power.

Watch and listen: Do you want to be able to see your baby too? If so, a video monitor is what you're looking for – although some parents find this so distracting they spend all their time watching their sleeping baby on screen.

Video monitors come either with a small hand-held, portable screen (with sound) or with a larger screen that you leave in one place in another room.

A useful added extra is night vision. This lets you see your baby when the lights are off.

Remote access: Are you unable to get home in time for your baby's bedtime? Do you travel away from home a lot? If so, a digital video baby monitor with Wi-Fi will let you see your baby from anywhere in the world via your laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

Motion sensor: Do you want your baby's every breath and movement monitored for extra peace of mind? Some baby monitors offer a motion sensor in addition to the listening function, so if no movement (including breathing) is detected from your baby for 20 seconds, an alarm sounds.

Useful additional features: Extras like a variable light display, which shows when and how much noise your baby is making (even with the sound turned off) can be useful for times when you're awake and monitoring your baby.

An 'out of range' indicator when you move too far from the base unit is also a good feature.

Optional extras: Is a room temperature sensor essential, or likely to cause you more worry than reassurance?

Would an integral nightlight be a useful addition?

Would a monitor that also plays a lullaby be a good idea?

How about one with a two-way speaker so that you can soothe your baby from afar?

All of these features can be found on various different baby monitors, but prepare to pay a little bit extra for them.

This is just one of our comprehensive buying guides to help you choose from the huge range of baby products available. Check out our other guides to help make the best informed decisions for your family: