Baby monitor buying guide

If there’s one thing most new parents have in common, it’s spending excessive amounts of time standing over their sleeping baby and watching them breathe. (Don’t worry, it’s pretty much a rite of passage.) But since you can’t supervise every single snooze, a baby monitor is the next best thing to give you peace of mind.

So, what should you look for when it comes to finding the best baby monitor in Canada? What bells and whistles are must-haves and what can be skipped? How much should you budget? We have answers to all your questions so you can make a choice that will work for you and your family.

And if you’re already well-versed in the differences between baby monitors, skip right to our top baby monitors of the year.

Questions to ask when buying a baby monitor

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1Do I need a baby monitor?

There’s no medical or clinical reason not to have one but, depending on your living situation, you might decide it’s an unnecessary expense.

You could choose to skip buying a baby monitor if:

  • You room-share with your baby: Health Canada recommends sleeping in the same room as your child until at least six months of age,[1] which means you’ll be able to hear your child’s sounds and cries first-hand throughout the night.
  • You live in a small house or apartment: Since the space is small, you might be able to hear every sound in each corner of the home.

But even if you’re confident that you’d always hear your baby’s cries, there are times you might like to have backup.

The perks of having a baby monitor include:

  • Freedom: With a baby monitor, you could have a cup of coffee on the front porch or take the garbage out and still have an eye or ear on baby. Just remember: No machine can replace the in-person supervision of a parent or caregiver.
  • Extra support for babysitters: A family member or babysitter might not know your baby’s cries as well as you do, or be able to sense them from another room, so it’s nice to provide that extra support when they’re caring for your child.
  • Quiet sleep tracking: If you opt for a video monitor, you can easily check to see if your little one is awake, even if they aren’t making noise.
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A man watches his baby on a baby monitor while he drinks coffee in his living room.

2How do baby monitors work?

Baby monitors have come a long way since they were introduced by the Zenith Radio Corporation in 1937.[2] The original analogue version used radio-wave technology to transfer sound from a transmitter to a receiver. This technology is still used in some basic models.

The most common types of baby monitors are:

Monitor Type The Lowdown
Analogue audio baby monitor Uses radio-wave technology to transfer your baby’s voice from a transmitter through to your receiver.
Digital audio baby monitor Similar to an analogue audio monitor but the sound is encrypted using Digital Enhanced Communications Technology (DECT) and won’t be picked up on other devices.
Video baby monitor Works like a live video stream. A video camera films your baby’s crib, either from a mount above the crib or from a flat surface in the room. The caregiver holds the screen.
Wi-Fi baby monitor Usually a video monitor that has the option of connecting to Wi-Fi so you can watch and hear the livestream from your computer, tablet or phone. Some Wi-Fi baby monitors allow you to set up notifications so you can be alerted if there is a change in movement or sound in your baby’s room.
Movement baby monitor Newer models that involve placing sensor pads under the crib mattress in order to detect changes in breathing and movement.

3Are baby monitors safe?

Here’s exactly where the experts currently stand on radiation exposure and hacking:

  • Radio-wave exposure: The World Health Organization initiated a wide-ranging public health study of extremely low frequency (ELF) electro and magnetic fields (EMF),[3] like you’d find in baby monitors. Currently, there is no definitive link between exposure to ELF fields and any adverse effects. If you’re still concerned, limit the amount of time you use the monitor with your child or look for low-emission brands that make lower levels of EMF radiation a priority for their models.[4]
  • Internet safety and baby-monitor hacking: In recent years, there have been cases of baby-monitor hacking in the news—and it’s something to be aware of. While unlikely to be an issue, any device on an insecure Wi-Fi network is susceptible to a security breach. If this is of major concern to you, avoid a Wi-Fi model.

But if you have your heart set on the features of a Wi-Fi-enabled option (especially if you want to be able to view the monitor when you’re away from the house), there are several ways[5] you can safeguard against a security threat:

  • Use a strong password: Change the default password and avoid using your home address or the name of your pet. Also be sure to set up two-factor authentication for access. These tips go for your home network, too.
  • Update frequently: Enable automatic updates or check for updates at least once a month.[6]
  • Register your device: If your manufacturer offers registration, sign up. You’ll be notified if they ever identify security issues.
  • Choose a baby monitor with an encrypted connection: If your product has an encrypted connection and the manufacturer gets hacked, the hacker won’t be able to view any information they get from your baby monitor.
  • Create a unique email address: Create an email address just for the baby monitor. That way, if your personal email is compromised, the hacker won’t have access to the baby monitor’s settings and livestream.
A baby monitor sits on a table next to a baby sleeping in a crib.

4What baby monitor features should I look for?

Truth be told, a simple analogue or digital audio monitor will suffice for many families—especially since extra features like video and Wi-Fi enabling may tempt you to watch your baby for hours on end.

If you’re looking for a higher-tech model, you might want to consider these features:

Monitor Feature The Lowdown
Wi-Fi connection Allows you to check in on your baby through your smartphone even if you leave them with a sitter.
Cordless monitor with recharging capabilities Can be moved or carried around without tangling cords or replacing batteries.
Light-up sound indicator Gives a visual cue when there’s a change in noise in your baby’s room—even if you turn down the volume.
Sound activation Only turns on the speaker when it detects a loud noise or cry, so you won’t hear white noise like a fan or air conditioner in your baby’s room.
Two-way communication Allows you speak with or sing to your child.
Pre-installed white noise or lullabies Can play sounds for your child, which could be a perk if you live in a noisy neighbourhood, your walls are thin or your baby has trouble falling asleep.
Night vision If you choose a video baby monitor, you may want to check that it offers night vision or the ability to brighten your screen so you can see your child in the dark.
Temperature sensor Notifies you if your baby’s room becomes too hot or too cold.
Movement tracking Monitors your baby’s movements and notifies you if there’s an issue. Note: A baby monitor is not a medical device and there’s no evidence that it will prevent SIDS.[7][8]
Heart rate and oxygen monitoring Wearable devices that monitor your baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate while they sleep. The Canadian Pediatric Society doesn’t have a stance on these types of monitors,[7] but the American Academy of Pediatrics says not to rely on them to prevent SIDS.[8]

5How much does a baby monitor cost?

The price tag for a baby monitor varies widely depending on the features. A simple analogue or digital audio-only monitor may ring up at around $30, while a Wi-Fi-enabled, smartphone-compatible, movement-detecting video baby monitor can cost over $500. That said, you’re most likely to spend somewhere between $50 and $200.

6Where should I install my baby monitor?

Baby monitors should be installed at least three feet[9] from your child’s sleep environment. Never put the transmitter on or in the crib. Each monitor will also come with its own installation instructions, so be sure to read them carefully before using the monitor.

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Safety Tip
Always make sure cords are wrapped up and tucked out of your baby’s reach. And if you have a little one who’s started to climb and is attracted to blinking lights, turn the transmitter around or place a piece of tape over the lights so they aren’t visible.

Shop the Best Baby Monitors

Prices shown are subject to change. Please check for the latest pricing.

This article is intended as general information. To be sure a product is right for you, always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.