Do you really need a baby monitor?

Grace Nixon, aka The Baby Lady, takes a look at monitors and how the latest technology can give parents some peace of mind.

Gone are the days of parents having to peek through a gap in the door to see what their baby is up to once she has been put to bed. Thanks to the invention of baby monitors - two-piece devices with a transmitter in the baby’s room and the receiver alongside the parent - you can watch every move courtesy of a high-definition camera, log in from anywhere (thanks to WiFi capability and mobile phone apps), and check there is movement through sensor pads. But what features are really necessary? And do you even need a baby monitor?

My answer is a resounding YES! A baby monitor is a wonderful tool, so long as you choose one with a camera.  Put simply, there are two types of baby monitors on the market, the first is audio only and the second lets you see and hear baby through the addition of a camera alongside the microphone. However, the reality is that most people can easily hear their baby cry throughout their home without the use of a monitor, so purchasing a monitor that is audio only could be an unnecessary expense.

On the other hand, a baby monitor with a camera is a great tool as it allows you to see why baby is crying. Is it because she’s lost her dummy? Is she crying because she’s got a limb stuck through the sides of her cot and can’t get it out? Or is she standing up in her cot and needs to be laid back down? Is she actually silently playing in her bed for 20 minutes after she wakes up and you never knew?

Being able to see what is happening will determine the urgency of your next action. Do you need to attend to baby quickly because she’s got herself wedged into an uncomfortable position that she can’t get out of? Or can you leave her for a few minutes to allow her the chance to fall back to sleep herself?

My general advice to expectant parents is that a monitor with video as well as audio is a worthwhile purchase for the peace of mind that it provides. The designs and functions available across the baby monitor brands vary, as do the price tags, but I’d recommend looking for the following key features: 

🍂 A temperature gauge. It’s important to keep baby’s room at a comfortable temperature, ideally around 18C. A monitor with a thermometer feature will take the guesswork out of knowing if baby is too hot or cold.

🍂 An infra-red or night-mode camera. This means you can see baby when her room is dark - no point in just looking at a black screen!

🍂 The range of the baby monitor. If you have a large house or plan to spend lots of time outside with other children, make sure that the transmission of the baby monitor is sufficient for your needs. 

🍂    Cordless receiver. This means the receiver can be moved anywhere without having to stay plugged in.

🍂    Other features such as a zoom camera, WiFi capabilities and being able to talk back to baby through a microphone are all nice extras, but not necessities. There are some monitors that come with sensor pads that detect baby’s movements, even minute movements such as breathing, and will set off an alarm if no movement has been detected for more than 20 seconds. For some parents, if they are natural worriers or know that they sleep very deeply and are afraid they won’t hear baby in trouble, having a monitor with this feature is reassuring. However, for most parents, this is a luxury feature and not essential.

The most important thing to remember about baby monitors is they are there to help by keeping an eye on baby for you. They will alert you if your attention is required - so don’t sit there glued to the screen. Take the opportunity to have a shower, grab some lunch or even have a nap yourself.

Grace Nixon is an Auckland-based nursery specialist. Find her at and go to to learn about her antenatal classes.


The Philips  Avent SCD 620 Video Monitor provides a secure and private connection with your baby at all times. Features include a high-resolution 2.7” screen with crystal-clear infra-red night vision that automatically switches on in the dark, LED lights that show you when your unit is linked and in range, a rechargeable parent unit providing cordless monitoring  for up to 10 hours, 300 metre outdoor range and talk back which allows baby to hear your soothing voice so you can connect from anywhere in the house. RRP$349 from leading baby retailers.


Oricom’s Secure870 is the ultimate in video baby monitoring. With a 3.5” touchscreen and motorised pan-tilt camera, you can check on your little one from anywhere in the home. The Oricom Secure870 also offers lightshows, lullabies, white noise, and nature and womb sounds. Other features include parent talk back, vibration alerts, room temperature monitoring and baby-friendly night vision. RRP$500 from Babycity and Baby on the Move.


A favourite among OHbaby! readers, the Angelcare Sound and Movement monitor won gold in the latest OHbaby! Awards. With an under-the-mattress movement sensor pad, this monitor sounds an alarm if no movement is detected after 20 seconds. Features also include full colour digital display and nursery nightlight. $389,


The vtech BM2600 Safe & Sound Full Colour Video Monitor features VGA camera with vertical angle adjustment, infra-red for night use, digital zoom, 2” colour display on the parent unit, temperature sensor and monitoring, five lullabies with five volume levels, and speaker/microphone for two-way communication. RRP$199,


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