As much as you want to, it’s almost impossible to be with your baby every second of every day.
Baby monitors have long been the go-to for parents that need to keep an eye (or an ear) on their baby when they aren’t in the same room.
However, nowadays, webcams or regular smart cameras (like home security cameras) have recently become an enticing option for keeping tabs on your baby.
In this article, I want to break down the differences between a baby monitor vs a webcam or other camera and help you decide which one is right for you.
Baby monitors are packed with features designed specifically for parents like temperature readings, humidity readings, moving cameras, two-way talk, and audio lights. A lot of the best baby monitors, in addition, don’t even use WiFi — so they’re quite secure from hackers and will work without any Internet connection.
Webcams and other home cameras can work fine as baby monitors in a pinch, but usually don’t include the full range of features you probably want for protecting your baby all night long. The reliance on a strong WiFi signal and a smart device is a major inconvenience for real-time monitoring, as well.
Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.
Baby Monitors Explained
A baby monitor basically consists of 2 components, a transmitter (or camera) and a receiver.
The idea is to place the transmitter in your baby’s room, or wherever your baby is, and then keep the receiver with you.
The transmitter picks up sounds and video and transmits them to the receiver, so if your baby starts to cry or make noises, you can hear her even if you are in another room of the house.
You can use a baby monitor during the day to keep tabs on your baby while she rests or naps and you work in another room (or if you’re lucky, take a nap yourself!). Baby monitors are also perfect for during the night if your baby is not sleeping in the same room as you.
Although once upon a time, baby monitors only allowed you to listen to your baby, newer models almost always include video. The transmitter literally keeps an eye on your baby, and the receiver includes a screen that shows you what your baby is up to.
Baby monitors come with a variety of features, ranging from very basic to super fancy; which means the price can be anywhere from $20 bucks to hundreds of dollars.
Many monitors also include a “talk” feature that allows you to communicate through a two-way-talk system with your baby. You can use this to add some extra reassurance… or to remind your toddler to go to bed.
(Learn more about video baby monitors vs audio only.)
There are a few considerations when you are picking out a baby monitor:
WiFi or not? WiFi video and audio can be super high quality, but is reliant on an Internet connection and is more likely to be hacked.
(Check out my guide to hackers and baby monitors.)
How much signal strength? Some monitors transmit more strongly than others, so think about how far away the receiver will be from the transmitter. If you have a very large home, you will want a monitor that has a wide range.
Other features? Do you want a stripped down monitor with audio, video, and maybe a temperature reading to tell if the room is too hot? Or do you want more advanced options like breath-monitoring and SIDS protection? Higher-end models have some pretty amazing features.
Some baby monitors can be charged and operate on batteries for a certain amount of time, while others need to always be plugged into an outlet.
Other, later models of monitors, can be synced with your smartphone so you can use an app to see your sleeping baby from virtually anywhere.
It’s all about how much you want to spend, and what you really need.
Pros and cons of a baby monitor
- Easy to use: You basically just position the transmitter where you want it and turn it on; then you place the receiver in whatever room you are in, and you’ll hear your baby.
- Provides peace of mind: Baby monitors are a great way for you to be able to get things done while your baby rests, instead of constantly checking on her. You can clip the receiver on to your belt and (virtually) take your baby with you.
- You can check on your baby without waking her: It’s natural to want to check on your baby, but you really don’t want to wake her up by going in and out of her room. A baby monitor lets you check-in, without going in.
- Video baby monitors can be addictive: While designed to give you more peace of mind, sometimes having a video feature makes you constantly want to check on your baby, even if things are nice and quiet.
- Can potentially be hacked: As mentioned earlier, there are stories of other monitors in nearby homes picking up the radio signal from someone else’s baby monitor, so you might hear what’s happening in someone else’s house — which means someone else could hear you. Video monitors can be hacked and people can see into your home, although many of the newer models do come with a password and security features.
- Can lose the signal: Just like anything else electronic, baby monitors can lose their signal, grow weak, or break. Just be prepared to check on your baby the old-school way if this happens.
We swear by the Infant Optics DXR-8 baby monitor. It’s relatively low-tech compared to more modern options, but it works super well and gave us plenty of peace of mind when my daughter was little.
Webcams and Other Home Camera Options Explained
A webcam is used on computers and laptops to create videos, take pictures, and have video conferences with those that are elsewhere.
You might also have access to separate cameras that are meant to be part of a home security or monitoring system.
A webcam’s initial use was not meant as a baby monitor, but there have been many people who have decided to use them in this way over the past few years.
To use a webcam as a baby monitor, you’ll have to transmit the video and audio over WiFi. Instead of a handheld receiver, you’ll probably use an app on your phone, computer, or other smart device.
A lot of parents decide to use a webcam or other smart camera as a baby monitor because they feel like they can get a better price on a high-quality system, or because they already have a camera system ready to go before baby arrives.
Personally, I recommend going with a dedicated baby monitor that has features like:
- Two-way talk
- Monitoring the temperature in the nursery
- Night vision mode
- Audio lights (receiver lights up upon picking up loud audio, even if volume is turned down)
If your webcam can do all of that, then I say go for it!
Pros and cons of a webcam
- You might already have it: Instead of going out and purchasing a separate baby monitor system, you probably already have what you need to set up a webcam monitor system since you most likely have a phone and a computer.
- Always see your baby: While some baby monitors only offer audio, a webcam will always allow you to see your baby, no matter how far apart you are. Baby monitors (especially those using radio signals) may only work within your home or in close proximity, while something on a WiFi network can be accessed from anywhere, even by another parent at work.
- Can make your more anxious: Similar to a video baby monitor, the ability to see your baby might make you check the monitor all of the time, making you more anxious.
- No WiFi, no monitor: The problem with using a webcam for a baby monitor, is you need a WiFi signal to make it work. So, if you lose your WiFi signal or it completely goes out, then you just lost your baby monitor.
- You can be hacked: Similar to video baby monitors, hackers can get into your webcam and see your baby and anything else that your camera is pointing at in your home. Beware, especially, of cheaply produces webcams and home camera systems.
- Limits your devices: If you need to leave your phone, tablet, or laptop in the room with your baby, you won’t have access to that device for however long it’s acting as a monitor. Therefore, make sure you have a backup ready if needed.
If you prefer the versatility of a separate camera system, a lot of parents use a Google Nest Cam as a baby monitor to great effect.
It has most of the features you’d want in a baby monitor, and you can check the latest price on Amazon.
In the end, the difference between a baby monitor and a regular camera is that baby monitors were designed to be used a certain way, and they’ll have a lot of built-in features that you really need to have.
Webcams and other systems may or may not have what you need. You could save money by using something you already have or a camera system you found on sale, but ultimately it may not suit your needs in the end.
What do you think? Are baby monitors better than regular cameras, or is it all marketing?
Hope this helps!
Before you go, check out more baby stuff explained like: