Baby Monitor Technology - A Buyers Guide

What is a baby monitor & why do I need one?

It might seem like an obvious question these days, but baby monitors are a relatively new innovation. At the most basic level they give the parent freedom from keeping a constant vigil at their baby's bedside (cot-side or Moses basket-side!).

A baby monitor normally consists of a transmitter and a receiver unit. The transmitter is placed near the baby and the parent keeps the receiver unit. This way the parent can hear instantly if their baby needs reassurance while doing other things around the house - or maybe catching up on some well needed rest!

Baby Monitor Types

Baby monitors now fall into three main categories. There are the traditional audio baby monitors. These alert the parent if the baby starts to cry or seems restless or uncomfortable. Audio/visual baby monitors take this a step further by letting the parent see and hear their baby. These consist of a camera unit with a microphone and a receiver unit with a TV screen and speaker.

Lastly, there are sensor baby monitors (also called respiratory baby monitors). These offer peace of mind by immediately alerting the parent if their baby's breathing becomes significantly uneven or even stops completely.

Audio Baby Monitors

Audio baby monitors fall into two further types: analogue and digital. Analogue baby monitors traditionally were subject to lots of interference from other household items that gave off a wireless signal. While this still can be true of cheaper analogue monitors, today most have more than one channel enabling you to select one that is interference free and incorporate technology that lessens outside interference.

To guarantee an interference transmission and reception you will need a digital baby monitor. Remember that a baby monitor is essentially a radio transmitter and receiver and digital radio (should you have one!) is superior to normal radio reception. The higher-end digital baby monitors use something called DECT technology. This technology came from digital walkabout phones and stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology.

DECT monitors will select a channel automatically from 120 channels and often encrypt the channels to stop any eavesdropping. Because of this technology these monitors are normally more expensive, but (like the Philips Digital Baby Monitor and the BT Digital Monitors) they guarantee interference free transmission and often come with several useful extra features:

Audio baby monitors - things to look for:

? Number of channels

? Rechargeable parent unit

? Belt clip for portable convenience

? Light display on the parent that shows noise level even if the sound is turned down.

? Low battery indicator

? Night light on baby unit

? Two-way transmission - so you can talk to your baby from the parent unit.

? Temperature gauge - remember the ideal nursery temperature is around 18C (65F)

Audio/Visual Baby Monitors

A recent innovation - these monitors let you see and hear your baby. This gives obvious added benefits such as seeing if your baby has come out of their blanket, or if they are sleeping in an awkward position etc. However, these baby monitor may also be useful for older children so you can remotely check on them if they are playing by themselves in another room.

The range of audio/visual baby monitors can be limited by your house layout. If your house has normal partition (or stud) walls then the range will be around the quoted 30m. However, if you live in an old house with solid internal walls the range will be reduced - especially if the signal has to pass through several walls. This will not apply when you are directly below or above a nursery as the signal only has to pass through a wooden floor (or floors) and should therefore be perfect.

AudioVisual Baby Monitors - Things to look for:

? Night vision - sounds obvious but some come without it! This is essential for night time viewing. All our audiovisual baby monitors come with night vision.

? Number of channels - helps in finding the best channel but can also enable you to add extra cameras later.

? Standby mode - if you have a portable parent unit the screen can be draining on the battery. Some units come out of standby mode if you baby makes a noise.

Sensor Baby Monitors

Also called respiratory baby monitors these monitors consist of sensitive pads that go underneath your baby's mattress. During the first year of life, infants can experience irregular breathing patterns or even stop breathing completely.

These monitors can alert when your baby's breathing changes due to a cold, high fever, or other illness. The Babysense II will continually detect your baby's motion and breathing movements, and set off a sound and visual alarm if breathing movements ceases for over 20 seconds or if the breathing rate slows to below 10 breaths per minute.

REMEMBER, a sensor baby monitor is an added precaution and safeguard which can help peace of mind but it must be combined with the important recommendations of "Safe Sleeping" (sleeping on the back, not overheating of baby's room, not smoking around the baby).

Sensor Baby Monitors - things to look for

? Certifications - the Babysense II is currently the only Household Movement Monitor to carry complete CE registration as a Medical Device and to comply with 93/42/EEC Medical device Directive.

? Mattress type - some sensor baby monitors will not work properly with a spring mattress

? Mattress thickness - check your mattress thickness. Some are certified for thicknesses up to 12cm and some for thicknesses up to 14cm.

? Mattress base - sensor monitors work best on a flat base. This should be no problem with a cot, however, if used in a Moses basket you are advised to put the basket on a flat base.

Sarah Cooke. Mother of two and Director of MonitorMyBaby - Baby monitor specialists a site specialising in all types of baby monitor.

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