Advice Sought: Baby Monitors

Stricken by the Rule of Threes, I need to purchase our third baby monitor in 15 months. Have a recommendation? Here is a laundry list of issues with our first two purchases.

The First Years 900 MHz attachable monitorStrike One: The First Years 900 MHz attachable monitor (model 3809)

Problem #1: We need the roving parent (receiver) unit to be rechargeable, but it isn’t.

We keep the microphone base unit in our baby room, permanently plugged into a wall socket. This base unit is rechargeable and removeable from a docking cradle – a feature completely wasted on us.

The receiver is kept with a parent at all times, usually in the family room or our bedroom. But… the damn thing isn’t rechargeable. We were constantly plugging and unplugging the receiver in various rooms. It can be powered by 4 AAA batteries, but after one or two evenings the batteries are exhausted. Even with our NiMH recharegable batteries it was a real annoyance. Remember, battery compartments on children’s products require a screwdriver and charging batteries takes time.

Problem #2: The receiver is subject to a lot of static. Persistent static triggers the out-of-range alarm (e.g., signal loss alarm) and it is exceedingly loud. Jump from your chair loud. The receiver only has two channels, but on both we experienced static and occasional cordless phone conversations.

Sony Baby Call Nursery MonitorStrike Two: Sony Baby Call Nursery Monitor, 27 Channel (model NTM-900)

Sony had honey that attracted us:

  1. 27 channels to switch between to reduce interferrence.
  2. Noise reduction to weed out repetitive sounds so they don’t come across on the receiver.
  3. Super long rechargeable battery life for the receiver.

Problem #1: The receiver is very touchy in its ability to pick up the monitor signal. Walk through our house and I’ll interrupt the signal. Even the briefest signal loss sounds the alarm. (The First Years model has a wise few second delay). We sometimes battle the receiver, rotating and raising it to a position that allows good signal reception.

Problem #2: During a power outage we learned the receiver may stop functioning. If ours is plugged into a wall socket during a power loss, the unit powers off – even if its batteries are charged. After that discovery, we began unplugging the unit prior to bringing it into the bedroom at bedtime (thankfully, the receiver’s batteries last a LONG time on a single charge).

Problem #3: Little Miss’ cries stopped registering a few weeks ago. We would wake up to her wailing and look over at the receiver to see it doing nothing, or registering her cries with barely a blip. This was such a disappointment. When we first used Sony’s monitor it was perfect. Hear your baby breathing perfect. Its performance has simply worsened over time.

As a stopgap, we are temporarily using The First Years monitor again. But… we need a better solution.

Our dream baby monitor has these features:

  • Rechargeable parent unit with long battery life
  • Low battery alarm
  • Multiple channels
  • Noise reduction (sometimes called voice activation)
  • Durability (Has your monitor worked consistently with no performance loss for six or more months?)

Do you have a recommendation? At this point “lasts longer than six months” is the only real criteria I’m insisting upon.

Comments

15 Responses to “Advice Sought: Baby Monitors”

  1. Ed Saipetch says:

    Call me obsessive but I didn’t want the hassle of those issues so I had a friend order a Philips unit from Amazon in the U.K and ship it to me. He shipped one to another friend in NY who just had his baby and he loves it. The unit is made by Philips but is branded as British Telecom. I checked to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with any weird telecommunications systems here and it won’t. It happens to use the international DECT wireless communications standard which isn’t prone to easy eavesdropping or interference. It has 2-way communication, a temperature monitor (in celsius), nightlight, lullabys, etc.

    The detractors are its $120 price tag not including $10 shipping, the need to buy a $10 step-up voltage converter and the difficulty obtaining it. Amazon.co.uk will not ship electronics overseas.

    I really wish companies would start selling the nicer baby gear here but it seems that the Wal-Mart low-cost approach pervades the consumer landscape.

    Link to monitor here:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0002C6GL8/qid=1126099897/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/026-0745139-9858800

    September 7th, 2005 at 6:38 am

  2. heather says:

    We have experianced the same issues with our monitor. I found it wasn’t the monitor or receiver part that broke. It was the power plug that stopped working ( one peice was rechargable the other pluged into the wall or used batteries) We have the Safety first monitors. and we were wondering for a week what had happened. I even bought a replacement battery ( $35 for that)but it still didn’t work. So I tried the power plugs on a whim and found that was the issue. It was displaying the same symptoms as yours. The only reason we found it out was it had 2 seperate power cords. If it was the type hardwired into the monitor we would have never figured it out.
    Now try to find a power plug that is the same voltage that is the hard part. I am surprised it has been so hard.

    September 7th, 2005 at 12:12 pm

  3. tod says:

    We’ve had pretty good luck with ours. I think it’s made by First Years, but not the one you reference here. I couldn’t find it on Amazon.com, so I’ll try to remember to look when I get home tonight and leave it in a comment.

    The only complaint we’ve had about ours is that it will intermittently lose a signal when we’re outside of the house in the garage or yard and start beeping (very loudly I might add). This happens probably about 5% or less of the time.

    September 7th, 2005 at 12:28 pm

  4. Jennifer says:

    We’ve used the Evenflo Baby Monitor & Intercom. Beats me what model number it is; I didn’t see it on Amazon, but that’s not surprising since I bought it more than 5 years ago!

    I honestly don’t know how long the rechargeable battery lasts, since the parent unit is 99% of the time on my bedstand plugged into the wall. It’s consistently done an excellent job, and you can even turn down the volume and use the visual red lights for a lightshow during wailing fits. I can’t turn it above half volume or I hear every little breathing sound (and the ceiling fan from the next room, which it also picks up), and the base unit is probably 12 feet from the baby’s crib, buried behind a bunch of stuff on her dresser.

    September 7th, 2005 at 2:58 pm

  5. sam says:

    well, we tried a safety 1st..not! and had an evenflo which works great to pick up my cell phone’s transmissions. the item that worked the best was our uniden cordless phones. we bought the uniden 5.8ghz cordless phone from costco. it’s a base unit with satellite units. the nice thing is that any phone handset can be used to monitor any other handset.

    we have a phone in hte baby room w/ ringer off and sitting in it chargin cradle. the other handset we have downstairs with us monitoring the one in the baby room. it works great. and being digital no eavsdropping from other folks. the only downer is that though the phone that acts like the microphone can sit in it’s cradle and not get it’s batteries drained, the other phone can not be used as the speaker while in cradle. we’ve also used the base (it’s a speakerphone) as a the speaker and since it’s plugged in it worked great….

    September 7th, 2005 at 11:00 pm

  6. Just a Dad says:

    Thingamadad, I posted a bit on the Sony at Blogging Baby as well. We have 2 of the Sony’s in use, 1 at Grandmas and one at our house. The one at Grandmas is 2 years old. Ours is about 1 year old. Perhaps you got a slightly shoddy one? We get some of the annoying out of range beeping, but not too much, and certainly not to the point where I’d describe it as very touchy. There has been a slight drop in it’s ability to pick up our kid’s noises, but not to the point where it’s become a problem. Like you, I was startled to learn that the receiver wouldn’t function if plugged in during a power outage. Now I just unplug when I think there might be one (thunderstorms, etc.). If you liked it so much, perhaps see if you can exchange it for a new one and you’ll get a better one.

    September 8th, 2005 at 2:26 pm

  7. tod says:

    I just looked at ours, it’s a “the first years” model 3806, but it must be old enough (2 years) that they don’t sell it anymore.

    September 9th, 2005 at 10:33 am

  8. Simple Dad says:

    You could try a less conventional route.

    Around our house, we have a Uniden Cordless phone system that allows for expansion to up to 10 phones or so. Included in our system is a phone-to-phone room monitor link. The phones are excellent and allow for a double use when you don’t need the monitor. Additionally, you can place them anywhere in the house with ease. If Little Miss is napping on the floor in the living room, just leave a phone in the living room while you go in the bedroom. Each phone comes with it’s own charging base which you can put anywhere in the house.

    The good: Great phones, multiple uses, highly portable, Can turn off the ringer for the “baby phone”, should last far more than six months.

    The bad: Expensive for cordless phones, phones may not be loud enough on the parent end so you’d have to keep them close by. I’ll do some tests and see what I think.

    September 10th, 2005 at 5:15 pm

  9. Aaron says:

    Philips makes the best baby monitors, but they are hard to find. You do not always have to go to the UK and pay over$80. You can get one for around 20 or under. The one I bought was at drugstore.com and rechargable base and room temp indicator. But I cannot find that one anymore anywhere. Drugstore.com does have some philips babycare electronics but not baby monitors at this time. Here are some places here and in the UK with a couple monitors.

    http://joystores.com/product_info.php/products_id/1946
    $12

    UK:
    http://www.dealclick.co.uk/product/164/PHILIPS-SBCSC365.php
    $69

    Ebay has a good selection:
    http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?cgiurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcgi.ebay.com%2Fws%2F&fkr=1&from=R8&satitle=philips+baby+monitor&category0=

    September 12th, 2005 at 8:42 am

  10. Jessica says:

    We have The First Years 2.4 GHz Ultra-Range Monitor #3969. The ‘parent unit’ is supposed to charge 24 hours then be able to be unplugged from the wall and the batteries should be charged enough to take it around. Since we’ve had this monitor the only way it works is if the parent unit stays plugged in. We haven’t tried new batteries yet. This product is great for hearing baby’s quietest sounds, but it also picks up house machines noises in other rooms. It also occasionally picks up a hard to describe tap/tick like sound that creeps me out. Personally, getting warmed up to the idea of a strange monitors sound after seeing ‘Signs’ was hard.

    I agree there are not enough good USA made baby products (cars or cell phones) compared to England.

    September 22nd, 2005 at 1:02 am

  11. Rhonda says:

    We have had to buy a new monitor each year for our daughter and she is about to turn 4. I can’t seem to find one that is with a reasonable price but yet will work for more than 12 months. Each one will work great for 8-9 months…I so great that we would know it was on by hearing the gentle tick of our daughter clock in her room. However…with each one…which we have done “First Years” then 2 “Safety First” by the 10th or 11th month the interference gets so bad that we are unable to hear her screaming from nightmares with the volume all the way up. I know that my duaghter should be able to sleep without a monitor on…however our bedroom is on one side of the house and her’s is on the other…which means it is very hard to hear when she has woke up and came out of her room without a monitor. She has alot of nightmares it seems because she still wakes up frequently crying and scared. It takes me laying in bed with her to comfort her before she will drift back to sleep.
    If anyone has some tips for us or if they might know why our monitors are dying so fast…I would love to hear it! We always leave the parent unit plugged in to the wall. It seems when we bought the second “Safety First” unit (it was a different model then the first) we could actually still use the old parent monitors…which makes me think it is the child unit that keeps going out.

    January 26th, 2006 at 1:22 pm

  12. John says:

    We use “The First Years” monitor, and we HATE IT. We live on a busy street, and every time a tractor-trailer goes by, or worse, some punk with his window-rattling bass booming on his stereo, the alarm goes off. Any quick fix, or do we have to get another? Anybody else experience this?

    July 1st, 2006 at 5:05 am

  13. Amy says:

    We have a Fisher Price Sounds n Lights monitor, 18 mos old and going strong. It does NOT have a rechargeable parent receiver, but I’ve changed the batteries once in 18 mos, using battery power when my daughter naps and before I go to bed (maybe using batteries 3-4 hours per day) and keeping it plugged in on the AC adapter during the night. No problem at all with interference, multiple channels in case you have a problem (and we have wireless speakers, wireless modem, cell and cordless phones; all kinds of potential interference). It does not have a low battery alarm, but I notice if the light is off when I’m using batteries (during the day) and it’s plugged in when I’m sleeping. Never a hassle, it has great reviews from other parents, too. I highly recommend it. Plus you can get one with dual receivers, keeping one plugged in at your bedside and one plugged in downstairs/main family living area. I have kept the volume on exactly the same setting since my daughter was born without sound loss. I can hear her breathing with the sound set at only 1/2.

    December 26th, 2006 at 5:30 pm

  14. Christy says:

    Hey AJ! I just came across this post when I was searching for a new power cord for my 3 year old Sony BabyCall Monitor. It actually came up pretty close to the top of my Google Search!

    I find it interesting that I could write almost the same exact review of this monitor. It was fantastic when we first purchased it, but over time, I noticed that it wasn’t as sensitive to our daughter’s “noises” as it once was.

    Though I’ve already replaced the monitor (a new Summer Infant Video Monitor), I was hoping to find a cheap replacement power cord for this one. No luck though. Incidentally, I wonder how I ever lived without a video monitor before!

    November 24th, 2008 at 8:27 pm

  15. Dadified says:

    We’ve had a First Years 900 mhz unit that we bought four years ago when our son was born. (Like Rhonda, our room configuration makes it possible for him to do some serious crying without us hearing it across the house in our room.) The base unit never gets turned off, so it’s probably been on solid the entire four years. We use the parent unit all night everynight and a couple hours a day during nap time. (I freely confess to being the paranoid half of the parent team. I’m the one who absolutely MUST be able to hear what’s going on in his room. I assume this obsession will continue for another few years until all I can hear at night is the 2020 equivalent of Pink Floyd blasting from his room’s stereo system.) The parent unit still works great and you can still hear his breathing at night as well as you ever could. We gave up keeping fresh AAA batteries in it years ago. My problem now is that the power cord for the parent unit has been going. Over the last year I’ve been able to scotch tape the end that plugs into the unit in a variety of positions that will keep it on, but every couple of weeks, the cord stops working and I have to get the tape and scissors and try cementing a slightly varied bend in the cord until I get an angle that will keep the power flowing. I finally got exasperated enough with that to get online and search for a replacement cord. The blog entry and subsequent posts here made me realize what a lucky man I am to have a unit worth jerry-rigging. My new plan is just to whisper a prayer of thanks every two weeks while I’m taping the h*** out of the cord in some new twisted angle, trying to get the green light to stay lit while it’s plugged in…

    January 24th, 2009 at 8:39 pm