What is the potential for interference in your home? Before you choose a monitor, consider what wireless devices you are currently using as well as potential interference coming from your immediate surroundings. Common culprits for interference include wireless phones, cell phones, Wi-Fi routers and even microwave ovens. If you live in a densely populated area or an apartment building, the potential for signal interference increases. In that case, go with a digital monitor with DECT technology. If you live in the middle of nowhere, an analog monitor will work just fine.
What level of monitoring you want/need? If you want to be able to see your baby's every move, it may be worth purchasing a high-quality video monitor. If you are losing sleep from anxiety about SIDS, a movement monitor may ease your mind. For some parents, having a monitor that only alerts them for sound is sufficient. If you work away from home and/or have an iPhone, you may appreciate the level of connectedness a smartphone compatible monitor provides.
When you will rely on the monitor the most? Monitors function differently during the day than they do at night. To sleep soundly, some parents may not want to hear every subtle move their baby makes in the crib, or they may be bothered if the monitor transmits white noise from a fan or air-conditioner. If you fall in this category, a voice activation feature will be a must. Parents who are busy vacuuming may want a monitor that has a vibrate mode and/or sound signal lights. Parents with large backyards should look for a good long range monitor. Parents who work outside the home may want to be able to check in with their child at any time of day with a monitor that connects to the Internet.
After you've decided on an overall type of monitor -- consider extra features that may or may not be important for you:
With the cost of a baby monitor ranging from $15 for the most basic analog monitor to $300-plus for the most advanced, a few considerations may save you money. If you're going to carry the parent unit around, be sure to find a monitor with rechargeable batteries that are well-rated for battery life. Poorly performing batteries tick up the cost quickly. Also, pay attention to the warranty. Most monitors are warranted for a year. Anything less is not a good bargain. Finally, when it comes to connection and interference, technology counts. Analog and lesser digital monitors do not perform as well as DECT.
Baby monitors are linked to the technologies that drive our culture of instant and remote access to information. Wireless technology has allowed parents to step farther and farther away from the nursery while still keeping a sense of connection. But this is a double-edged sword. The increasing digital noise in our environments is likely to render analog monitors obsolete. While the technology still has kinks to work out, smartphone integrated monitors that work with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G/4G networks are likely to be the wave of the future.