• Tue, Dec 10 - 12:00 pm ET

Video Baby Monitors Aren’t For The Paranoid, They’re For The Lazy

monitorWhen prepping for a new baby, even the smallest parenting decisions turn into agonizing gridlocks as you try to make the best choice possible for your widdle bundle of joy. What type of crib to get (standalone or 4-in-1?), what nursery theme to register for (owls are so hot right now, owls), right on down to what type of baby monitor to buy.

At first glance, you probably think a baby monitor is a baby monitor is a baby monitor. Right? Oh ho ho ho, that’s where you’re wrong. For starters, baby monitors are categorized by Target as a “health and safety” device. Oh no! Oh yes.

This simply means that choosing a basic monitoring tool becomes an uber-complicated monitoring endeavor as you narrow down your selection between analog audio versus digital audio, video versus movement detection, and even wireless network monitors (called the “ultimate in innovation”) that connect to a smartphone app.

I had a lot of noble thoughts before I was a parent, and one of them was that I wouldn’t get caught up in the “newfangled” baby monitoring trap. Back then I thought, what kind of parent watches their baby like a hawk 24/7? Do these parents ever even sleep? Don’t they have anything better to do with their time?

Well, my first mistake was that no new parents ever sleep. So that levels the playing field right there. With my first son, we went with a good ole audio monitor for about nine months, until we let him scream bloody murder in his crib for 15 minutes so he would “settle down”—only to realize that he had his leg painfully contorted and trapped in one of the crib slats.

I felt like such an asshole! Here I was, trying to teach the art of self-soothing, when I really was allowing my son to writhe in pain for a good quarter of an hour. Within just 48 hours, we had a brand spanking new video monitor sitting on our doorstep (thanks, Amazon Prime!). Now that we have two sons with two separate video cameras connected to the same monitor, the baby video monitor is something I can’t live without.

It’s not entirely because I’m a paranoid parent. While that may be a little true, I’m also a LAZY parent. We live in a two-story house—first world problems, I know. I also work at home and don’t want to trudge up the stairs every time I hear a gasp on the monitor to see if my kids are okay.

If you feel like baby technology has gone too far and babies need their privacy, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. If a video monitor means I don’t have to get my ass out of bed at three in the morning to check on a whiny baby, I’m all for it.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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  • Megan Zander

    I have both an audio monitor and a video. I pretend I ” need” the video to see which twin is crying, but really I’m getting up either way. Secretly I was just that anxious when they were first born, so I was glued to the monitor at night. I probably looked like the girl from Poltergist. Now I shut off the video and leave the sound on unless I hear something. Lazy yes, but lovely.

  • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

    I would so have this if I had a two-story house, too! I don’t blame you!

  • Amanda Lee

    I don’t think it’s lazy… it’s smart. And allows you to be more efficient. Yeah, tell that to everybody ;)

  • Janok Place

    I never really cared one way or another about having a video monitor (although I see your point). What WAS a trip was finding one that had good reception when you live in a massive old farm house and might want to do some work in the yard. First world problems, I realized if I opened her window I could hear her across the field (not that I run across the field and chill during nap time). Duh.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I would run across a field to chill during nap time. :)

  • Brokeass Mirror
    • Bethany Ramos

      I know!! That story was ridiculous. I try not to think about that. ;)

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    My apartment is so small, I hear everything. Thus, no monitor, otherwise I’d hear every sigh and gurgle and I would be driven mad. My husband wanted them on, but I won that battle. For me, a video would be distracting. I don’t know if I’d be able to stop watching.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    I thought the video monitors were ridic…until we went to a friend’s house and got to see it in action. It was pretty rad. We went to the store the next day but were completely shocked by the price and couldn’t justify it, given that we live in an apartment (flat) and really the only time we can’t hear her without the monitor is if we’re in the kitchen with the water running. We ended up sticking with the 10 year old, hand-me-down analog/audio only one we got free from my sister.

    My mom told me my parents only used the monitor when they left the house to go visit (aka drink and play cards, I’m assuming) with their next-door-neighbours.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Man, that’s awesome. Sometimes I wonder how far our monitor signal will stretch… like the grocery store?

    • Janok Place

      I can tell you that my Graco from Walmart gets great reception in my barn. Which I probably couldn’t hit with a baseball if I tried, but my husband can. Oddly enough I’d be mortified at the thought of visiting the neighbors across the street when she’s sleeping. But ironically their house is probably closer.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Ours goes up to our rooftop patio. We live on the top floor of a low-rise, so the patio is basically right above where she sleeps, and likely we can get to her faster than someone who has a 3 story house and is in the basement while the kid sleeps upstairs….but we’re still too nervous to hang out up there together….not because I think we’d be too far away, but because we worry about our nosy neighbours seeing us both up there and calling protective services on us or something. Sigh.

    • Janok Place

      I milk a cow 2X a day. Our daughter sleeps religiously through the night and has since she was 3 weeks old… but I still worry about what the neighbors think when they see me trudging out to the barn at odd hours (5am, 10pm… Whatever works) I can be in my house and beside her crib in under a minute if need be. But really, what’s going to happen? I still worry about neighbors. Not the baby, she just starts talking to stuffed animals when she wakes up. Usually DH is home but sometimes he comes with me to lend a hand now that I’m feeling rounder.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Right? It’s bizarre that we’re both more worried about what the neighbours will think….we know our kids will be fine and we’re no further away from them than we’d be in a large house….

  • ktbay

    My husband and I haven’t decided on a monitor yet, but as fellow lazy people we know we want a video one. I kind of want one that has two cameras so we can use one on our dog. I don’t trust her.

  • Myriam

    The video is also pretty useful later on, to check on a sneaky toddler trying to get out of bed after bedtime!

  • Kay_Sue

    We had an analog audio one for my oldest son. I figured, what the heck, he rarely naps when I am far enough way that I can’t hear him.

    That lasted right up until it started picking up a local quarry. Nothing weirder than hearing random men in your child’s bedroom talking about blowing shit up.

    Went with a digital one then, because I couldn’t afford the video ones. I don’t blame anyone that has them though–all the times I went running into my older son’s room in the first few months just to see if he was still breathing (maybe I had a few issues)…it would have saved me a lot of time since he’s always been a twitchy sleeper.

    • AP

      Side story: My old work had communications radios, and one day a nearby student film shoot was using the same channel as us. We kept hearing “Action! Annnnnddd touch the poop!” over and over again.

    • Bethany Ramos

      AMAZING. Why can’t my monitor pick up that?

  • Ana

    My daughter’s door jams a little and I’m always worried I’ll wake her up opening it to check on her, so the video monitor is great for us. Plus I can see if she’s standing up and I need to go in, before she starts crying and works herself up.

  • SusannahJoy

    I love our video monitor. He sleeps in his nursey upstairs, and I can do chores and stuff (stupid Christmas cards, why can’t everyone just stay at the same address for longer than 10 mins?) and know if he’s awake but happy, awake and cranky, or awake and in pain. And as paranoid new parents I liked being able to look over and see that he was still breathing. I only did that for the first few nights though.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Especially in the middle of the night!! I always hear “ghost” baby noises in the night, like I’m sure all moms do, and then I can check the camera without getting out of bed. I <3 technology.

    • SusannahJoy

      Yes! We call it “phantom crying.” Both my husband and I hear it constantly. We both thought we were going kinda crazy for a few weeks before I finally asked him if he was hearing it too. It’s so nice to be able to just roll over and see if the lights on our monitor are flashing, and if they’r enot, roll over again and fall right back asleep!

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    I know you didn’t mean “lazy” literally, but I just wanted to add that I don’t think it’s lazy at all. You know what they say, work smart not hard. I never owned a baby monitor because we never lived in a big enough house to really use one when any of mine were that small, but you bet your ass I would’ve had one in a two story house, or even the super long apartment we have now.

  • TashaB

    We were gifted with a video monitor, and thought it was silly at the time. We live in a little bungalow, so we didn’t even register for any monitor, since baby would be right there anyway.
    Then, when munchkin hit about a year old, and started sleeping the first part of the night in our bed, we hooked that puppy up. It has been great for keeping on top of nighttime toddler shenanigans.

  • Emily

    I used one b/c I didn’t want to walk into the room, thinking the munchkin was asleep, only to find some big, wide baby eyes starting at me, meaning that additional sleep would not be possible. Go back to sleep, baby!

  • Elizabeth

    I was a nanny for an infant for a while. I loved the video monitor! He was a light sleeper and it took him ages to go down for a nap, and he would also wake up really quietly and not make noise to let me know he was awake. He also had an erratic sleep schedule — sometimes it would be a fifteen minute nap, sometimes he’d be out for an hour or two. Having a video was great, because he could get all the sleep he needed without me risking waking him every ten minutes. :)

  • AlexMMR

    That’s exactly why we have a video monitor. During CIO, we looked at the monitor expecting to just see a pissed off baby and instead saw her leg getting all bruised in the slats. We were able to get in there within a minute of her getting stuck specifically because we had a video monitor.

    Having a baby monitor allowed us to be firm with CIO because we never feared that there was something happening we didn’t know about. That monitor has saved us from hundreds of random checks on the girls that would have woken them up, or kept me awake with worry had I not been able to see them.

    We do turn down the volume to minimum so we can sleep because any significant noise they make can still be heard and wake us up, but it has to be significant.

  • AJ283

    It isn’t just that I don’t necessarily want to trudge up the stairs to check on what is going on, it is that we live in a house that is over a hundred years old and the stairs creak. The fewer trips up the creaky stairs the better! I swear my second child can hear the minutest sound if he is in a light stage of sleep and wake up.

  • DatNanny

    Sometimes, I’ve wished for a video monitor, only because I hated the war of hearing a noise, not wanting to wake the kid with a sight check, but being unwilling to take any chances… some babies would be such light sleepers even creeping down the hallway and peeking through the door crack would wake them, or you’d have the toddler who woke a little, would have fallen back asleep, but happened to see you and now is wide awake with too short a nap.

    But I’m actually too paranoid to GET a video monitor. Wasn’t there a Mommyish article about one getting hacked, someone shouting things at a two year old? I have a very.. grandmaish attitude toward technology. In that I don’t understand these newfangled cyberwebapplephones and they scare me.

  • MoD

    My husband insisted we needed a fancy expensive video monitor…thinking he’d be down in the basement, happily playing video games after the baby was born, and would need a monitor to hear the baby crying. Yeah, we never use the monitor, and my husband has barely touched a video game since the kid was born. Our baby’s room and our bedroom (where the baby sleeps 99% of the time) are right off our living room so we hear him pretty instantly. But if we had upstairs bedrooms it’d probably be pretty handy to have a monitor.