The Pros and Cons of Baby Monitors

baby monitor

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Baby monitors are considered an essential tool for most parents of little ones. After all, it’s simply not possible to keep an eye on your baby 24/7, and having a device that allows you to see and hear your baby when you are not in the room with them is worth its weight in gold.

That said, not all baby monitors are the same, parents have different needs and lifestyles, and as baby monitors have become more high tech, parents have questions about their security features and susceptibility to cyberattacks.

We reached out to experts—as well as experienced parents—to help us understand what to look for in a baby monitor, what the pros and cons of baby monitors are, and the safest and most effective way to use a baby monitor.

What to Look For in a Baby Monitor

There are several different types of baby monitors on the market. Rick Leviton, childproofing advisor at Precious Baby Protectors, explains there are some key features parents should consider when selecting a baby monitor.

Video vs. Audio

Most parents favor video monitors, which let you hear and see your baby on a video screen.

Samantha Brandon, mom to a 1-year-old and 2-year-old, says that finding a baby monitor with a good quality picture that could easily be seen at night was an important feature for her. In the same vein, Leviton reports that night lights on baby monitors are a plus for many parents. “Parents like this feature a lot,” he commented.

If you want to keep things simple and reliable, you may opt for an old-school audio baby monitor, which simply allows you to listen to the sounds your baby is making. Audio monitors are the most budget-friendly baby monitors, and according to Leviton, tend to be more reliable. “High-tech isn’t always best,” he says. “Video monitors report less range, more technical problems, and are less sturdy. They use Wi-Fi, which can shut down during the night undetected and is susceptible to hacking.”

Range Capabilities

Parents should look for a monitor that has suitable range capabilities for your particular space. “You may need more range depending on the size and configuration of your home,” Leviton says. If you live in a small home, this may be less of an issue, but if you live in a large home, you want to make sure you will still be able to pick up a signal even if you are two floors up from your baby’s room. 

Multiple Channels and Convenient Power Source

Selecting a monitor that employs multiple channels helps you avoid interference from neighbors’ electronics. Parents usually want this, says Leviton. Parents also seem to favor monitors that plug into an outlet rather than ones that are battery operated. “Plug-in monitors are more reliable but you need batteries for backup power [in case of an outage],” Leviton explains.

Smartphone Compatibility

These days, many video baby monitors allow you to connect to your Wi-Fi so that you are able to view your baby from your smartphone. This can be convenient if you are busy in various areas of your house or want to take a peek when you are away from home (and someone else is watching over your baby).

Brandon shared that when shopping for a baby monitor, smart technology was a big draw for her. She liked the idea of being able to stream the images of her baby if she was working evenings, was out and about, or a sitter was caring for her baby.

Although many parents prefer baby monitors with extra bells and whistles, Leviton says that there are some drawbacks to these. His advice to parents is that they should do their research before buying a baby monitor that can connect to a mobile app, in particular. “Mobile monitor apps are convenient, but research them carefully,” he recommends. “Some don’t have a good track record for performance.”

The one feature that you don’t really need, and that most experts recommend against, are smart devices that monitor your baby’s breathing, heart rate, or other health indicators. The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) has warned against the use of “home apnea” monitors, and has said that they do not protect against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as many advertise. “Monitors that report a baby’s vital signs are new and sometimes inconsistent,” says Leviton. “The AAP says that for a typical, healthy child these monitors aren’t necessary. They warn that false readings can cause unnecessary anxiety for parents.”

The Pros of Baby Monitors

Most parents will tell you that their baby monitor is invaluable, and there are many reasons why they appreciate having a baby monitor while caring for their babies. We reached out to parents to share some perspectives.

Comfort and Reassurance

Anna Garcia, a first-time mom who has used a baby monitor since her toddler son was born, said that above all, her baby monitor has provided comfort and eased her anxiety. She likes that her monitor allows her to check her son's room temperature and that she can always see what is going on in his room. “It comforts me to know that if someone tried to break in, I would know,” she says. “That’s a horrible thought, but that’s the world we’re living in.”

Monitoring Middle of the Night Wake-Ups

The AAP recommends that babies sleep in their parents’ room—in a separate crib—for at least the first six months of life, and up to a year if possible. The idea is that room-sharing can decrease your child’s risk of SIDS.

But room-sharing doesn’t work for all parents, as Brandon explained. “I found that after six months as a working parent, I needed to get my sleep,” she said. “Also, I found that sleeping in the same room when your baby gets closer to a year old makes it harder to teach them to independently fall asleep.”

Brandon said that using a baby monitor made her feel like she was able to keep that watchful eye on her baby during the middle of the night. “It allows you to listen for your baby if their bedroom isn't close to yours if there is a middle of the night wake-up,” she says. “It also gives you that peace of mind that all moms desperately need.”

Date Night and Traveling

Lacy Reason, a lactation consultant and mom to three small children, says that her baby monitor has been helpful during date nights. “I have used one that did connect to my phone and it is great for checking on your baby while you are on a date and they are left with a sitter,” she said.

Reason also found a baby monitor to be a real asset during family travel, when being in an unfamiliar place may call for extra vigilance. For traveling, she preferred a less high-tech audio monitor. "It is easier to use a monitor that doesn’t use Wi-Fi while traveling since you won’t have to worry about the strength and security of the connection where you are staying,” she explained.

24/7 Connection For Working Parents

Garcia doesn’t just find baby monitors valuable while her baby is sleeping, but also during the day. As a working mom, this has been invaluable, she says.

“Our company is currently work-from-home, which makes it easy for me to watch him while he’s in his play area or sleeping while also getting my work done,” Garcia says. She also loves that her parents who live a few miles away are also able to connect with him and see her son at any time.

The Cons of Baby Monitors

Most parents don’t find many drawbacks to using baby monitors. That said, there are a few concerns that parents do have. We asked them to share their honest critiques of using these devices, and we reached out for expert advice on how to address some of these concerns.

Sometimes Parents Need a Break!

It may sound like a perk to have the ability to be connected to your baby all the time, but some parents find that aspect to be a bit much and overwhelming on occasion.

Brandon shared that while she found it helpful to be able to check in with her baby while grandparents watched him for the evening, it was sometimes distracting. “The con? Our first night out we spent the entire date watching our perfect angel on the monitor,” she said.

Reason echoed these sentiments. “You feel the need to check on your kids often, so there isn’t a whole lot of downtime for a parent," she says.

Concerns About Cyberattacks

A big concern that parents have about using baby monitors is the fear of the monitor or network being exploited by predators. Garcia says that she worries about someone being able to hack into her baby monitor’s system and watch her son or listen in on a conversation.

Reason feels similarly. “I think a major part of choosing the right monitor is security,” Reason said. “Preventing hackers from connecting to my baby monitor is a big priority.”

Therese Schachner, a cybersecurity consultant at VPNBrains, says parents' concerns are valid. Besides hacking in and being able to view your video stream, Schachner says that cyberattackers may try to deploy malware and execute code remotely in an attempt to control the operation of your baby monitor. “Parents who use baby monitors face potential threats to their data privacy, as well as the risk of these devices being impaired due to cyberattacks,” she says.

But you are not powerless in these situations, Schachner says. She shared some tips for parents about how to prevent this type of thing from happening and how to keep their baby monitor usage safe and secure.

First, don’t forget to update your baby monitor’s software when it’s time. “Parents can update baby monitor software regularly to install the latest security updates, which help protect baby monitors against cyberattacks,” Schachner advises.

Additionally, Schachner urges parents to be scrupulous with their passwords, and take advantage of whatever password security features are available. “Parents can make passwords for their baby monitors secure by incorporating a variety of letters, numbers, and special characters," she says. "Use encrypted connections and enable two-factor authentication when possible."

A Word From Verywell

As you consider what features to look for in a baby monitor and how to weigh the pros and cons of the devices in general, keep in mind that there is no one "right" solution to keeping tabs on your child. We all have different home set-ups, sleep arrangements, concerns about technology and cybersecurity, and childcare situations. What works for one family might not work for you, so you may need to test a few different baby monitors until you find a system that suits your needs. Your peace of mind and your baby's peaceful sleep will be well worth the effort.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. The truth about home apnea monitors for SIDs.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to keep your sleeping baby safe: AAP policy explained.

  3. BBC. Web baby-monitoring open to hacking, study warns.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.