Note: There is no one universal “best,” especially when it comes to parenting. These are “The Best Baby Monitors” based on Also Mom's strict criteria, detailed here.
The best baby monitor? It depends. Do you want a video monitor, audio monitor, or heart rate/movement monitor? (More on that below.) These are the best baby monitors in each category…
The Best Video Baby Monitors
- Lollipop Smart Baby Monitor ($149) – This video and audio baby monitor camouflages beautifully in most nurseries, pairs with iOS and Android devices, and has all sorts of nifty features like cry detection and movie making tools. At its core, it's a solid WiFi video baby monitor, with night vision and high quality 720p video. It automatically records any crying events so you can look back and assess what happened, and if you buy the Lollipop Sensor (sold separately for $55), the app will also track temperature, humidity, and air quality data from your baby's room. The big bummer about this baby monitor (and all WiFi monitors in general) is that it is trivially easy to hack, so if you prefer privacy over convenience, this monitor is not for you. [full review]
- Nest Cam ($199) – Moderately tech-savvy parents seem to love using the Nest Cam as their baby monitor, even though the camera was designed for home security and not baby watching. The camera looks sleek, records super high-quality video (1080p!), has night vision, and doubles as a security camera when you're finished using it to watch your slumbering babe. Unfortunately, the Nest has pretty poor noise detection (meaning you'll likely hear ambient noise), there is an added monthly subscription cost if you want any of your video recorded, and like all WiFi monitors, it is trivially easy to hack. This monitor is best only if you already use Nest Cams as part of your home security system. [full review]
- Infant Optics DXR-8 (~$150) – This video monitor is a great option for parents with spotty WiFi signals or who prefer not to use WiFi cameras due to security concerns. While the display video quality is lower than that from the Nest and Lollipop cameras, it is more than adequate to get a good look at what's going on with baby. The DXR-8's radio signal does not travel well in homes with solid wood doors, brick walls, or any other impermeable barriers standing between you and baby, so if that is what you're up against, consider a WiFi monitor instead. [full review]
The Best Audio Baby Monitors
- VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor ($40) – This inexpensive audio-only baby monitor gives you a clear audio signal of your baby using DECT 6.0, an encrypted radio frequency, and has a range of roughly 160 feet indoors, depending on the thickness of your doors and walls. The separate parent unit holds a charge for up to 18 hours of monitoring time, or can be plugged in. There's nothing particularly fancy or sleek about this monitor, but it works, and that's what counts! [full review]
- VTech DM112-2 Audio Baby Monitor ($30) – This super inexpensive, full-functioning audio monitor with clear audio is very similar to the VTech DM221, but with a parent unit that either must be plugged in, or otherwise runs on AAA batteries (which the monitor burns through very quickly). This is a great travel baby monitor or a great option for grandma's house. (We recommend you spend the extra $10 for the rechargeable DM221 for your own house.) [full review]
- Philips Avent DECT Baby Monitor (~$100) – This pricier audio-only baby monitor gives you a clear audio signal of your baby using DECT 6.0, an encrypted radio frequency, and also remotely monitors the temperature in your baby's room. This is a useful data point for parents who are particularly concerned about whether or not their baby is appropriately dressed for sleep. With a range of roughly 150 feet indoors, depending on the thickness of your doors and walls, the Philips Avent DECT has a separate parent unit that holds a charge for up to 18 hours of monitoring time, or can be plugged in. It is a nice-looking monitor that blends in well with many nurseries, though you'll have to decide for yourself if the price tag is worth the refined aesthetics. [full review]
The Best Activity, Heart Rate, and Oxygen Tracking Baby Monitors
- Owlet Smart Sock 2 ($299.99) – Monitoring baby's heart rate and real-time oxygen saturation levels using pulse oximetry technology, the Owlet Smart Sock 2 is tremendously worthwhile for anxious parents, especially those of sick or premature infants. The sock fits onto baby's foot, and a separate parent unit and smartphone app alert you if ever there's a problem. Do know: Although Owlet's marketing might lead you to believe otherwise, this monitor is not necessary for infant survival. Many new parents buy the Owlet, only to realize they are perfectly capable of hearing their squeaky infants breathe just fine without a $300 sock to supply them with moment-by-moment data. If the Owlet will help you sleep better at night (preemie/sick baby or not), it could be worth it. Otherwise, skip it and opt for a video or audio monitor instead. [full review]
How to Choose a Baby Monitor
Depending on your living situation and your general parenting anxiety levels, there are a variety of baby monitors that might suit your needs.
Video baby monitors allow you to see why your baby is crying. The best ones also pick up relevant audio and allow you to see your baby in the dark. Some work via WiFi, which is ideal if you have a strong signal in your house. Others work via radio, which is convenient if you have spotty WiFi but terrible if you happen to have thick, brick walls or solid doors between your baby’s room and wherever you hope to be receiving a signal. Video monitors are ideal for higher-anxiety parents who want to keep an eye on their babies at all times.
Audio baby monitors allow you to hear your baby crying when you are across the house or behind closed doors. These types of monitors are the least expensive and are ideal for parents with low anxiety who don’t feel they need a constant eye on their kiddo.
Activity, heart rate, and oxygen tracking baby monitors allow you to keep a pulse on your baby’s vitals at all times. These types of monitors are generally over the top for healthy babies, but they are tremendously worthwhile for anxious parents, especially those of sick or premature infants.
And if your home is small enough and your walls and doors are thin enough, you may be able to forgo the baby monitor altogether. Plenty of urban parents do!
Which is the Best Baby Monitor for Your Family?
If you want a great video monitor and have excellent WiFi in your home… Lollipop Smart Baby Monitor.
If you want a great video monitor and have spotty WiFi in your home (and no brick walls or thick doors between you and baby)… Infant Optics DRX-8.
If you want a trendy, slightly overpriced WiFi-enabled video monitor you can convert to a security camera at a later date… Nest Cam.
If you have a premature or sick infant or you are a high-anxiety parent losing sleep over the prospect of SIDS… Owlet Smart Sock 2. (Since the Owlet Smart Sock is a heart rate and oxygen monitor only, you can also pair it with the Lollipop camera or a VTech monitor for additional monitoring.)
What Didn't Make the Cut
There are, of course, dozens of additional video, audio, and even movement baby monitors out there, and we have intentionally left those off our list for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with functionality and longevity, and sometimes because their super high price points just don't feel are justifiable. The ones we’ve reviewed work and last. The ones we’ve intentionally left off seem to have consistent and recurrent issues.