For new parents, a baby monitor is a must-have. It can be an extra set of ears and even eyes to help keep tabs on a sleeping baby. Choosing the right monitor could mean the difference between true comfort and a false sense of security.
Consumer Reports tested 10 baby monitors. The models ranged from a basic unit that costs $25 to a more elaborate video setup costing $200. Interference is one of the biggest complaints from parents, so Consumer Reports recommends getting a digital unit.
Battery life is important if you want to unplug your monitor and take it with you. The tests found big differences. The battery charge on the Safety 1st True View video monitor didn't last even 3 hours. But the Sony BabyCall kept going for 28.
Consumer Reports also found that signal strength really varied. To evaluate, testers set up a transmitter near a soundtrack of a crying baby. Then they measured how far away they could move the monitor while still maintaining contact.
All the monitors worked inside the test house, but if you have a larger home or if you want to do yard work during nap time, it may be a different story. Some monitors lost contact before the tester even stepped out of the house! That was just 37 feet.
A few monitors worked as far away as 400 feet. Among those was the top-rated Phillips Avent SCD510, $120. It's digital, so interference is not a problem, and it had excellent battery life.
A safety caution from Consumer Reports: There have been several cases of accidental strangulation when babies pulled the transmitter cord into the crib. So even if your child is not yet standing or crawling, it's essential to keep the transmitter well out of reach.