When you first get pregnant, there are so many things on your list of “must-haves” (and probably an equal number on your list of “nice-to-haves.”) For most parents, a baby monitor is on one of those lists.
But, would it surprise you to hear that Nicole sometimes urges families to ditch their baby monitors (at least for a time)?
No, we’re not advising parents to be negligent! We recommend that some families put away their baby monitors for a different reason.
Read on, as we explore how baby monitors can impact your baby’s sleep!
Some Families May Need Monitors… Other Families May Not
Let me start by saying all families have different styles of parenting, and everyone’s house is a different size and shape.
If you have a 500 square foot apartment, then you will likely have no problem hearing your baby from anywhere in your home – and you probably will not need a baby monitor. However, a family that has a 3,000 square foot home with 3 floors may very well need monitors placed strategically throughout the house.
What About Movement Monitors?
Of course, not every family buys a baby monitor strictly to hear the baby when she cries. Today, there are monitors that detect movement designed to help reduce the risk of SIDS. Movement monitors can alert parents when a baby hasn’t moved in a certain amount of time. An alarm sounds letting parents know that the baby has been completely still for too long.
And, there are monitors that detect heart rate and oxygen levels.
The reviews on these kinds of monitors are positive, and some families have truly incredible stories of actually catching their not-breathing baby in the nick of time and intervening before something truly awful happened. However, other parents report lots of false alarms, resulting in unnecessary middle-of-the-night wakings and more anxiety for everyone.
In this post, though, we’re going to focus strictly on sound and video monitors, and how they impact sleep.
Baby Monitors and Baby Sleep:
There is a distinct up-side to sound monitors (both the video and the non-video versions). A monitor is great to help you…well…monitor your baby’s crying.
Is it a hungry cry? Uh oh. Is he distressed? Perhaps that’s his falling asleep moan? Or is his leg stuck between the crib slats? (You’d need a video monitor to see that one, of course).
This is all easier to do with a monitor than putting your ear to the door or poking your head in the room while trying not to let your baby see you (or maybe even doing an army-crawl across the nursery floor, to do some reconnaissance!)
Baby monitors are also great if you have a large home. If your baby sleeps on the second floor, for example, and you and your partner want to watch a movie in the basement, a monitor can give you peace of mind. The same is true if you want to take your older children outside to play in the yard, while the baby naps.
A monitor allows you to do these things without needing to worry that you’re leaving the baby unattended.
And, of course, baby monitors can be really helpful during sleep training, too, for the same reasons. Parents who use no-cry sleep coaching methods and stay in the room may not need to use a monitor. But, if you use any kind of cry method of sleep training and leave the room, you’ll want to keep tabs on your baby’s cries. A monitor makes it easy to do that.
However, while baby monitors can definitely be helpful, they can also become a problem.
Baby Monitors and Baby Sleep:
The Bad and The Ugly
The good thing about baby monitors is that they let you hear your baby’s every cry. But the bad thing about baby monitors is…that they let you hear your baby’s EVERY CRY! (And sniffle, and squeak, and moan, and hiccup, and…you get the idea!)
In the newborn stage, you’ll no doubt find that your baby makes lots of little sounds throughout the night. A baby monitor amplifies all of those, and so every sound your baby makes will probably wake you from your own precious, much-needed sleep.
And, if it sends you running to check on your baby (a perfectly normal new parent instinct, by the way!), you may end up inadvertently waking up your baby – something which no parent wants to do!
This was the case for Nicole when her oldest son (who inspired the Baby Sleep Site®) was a newborn:
When my eldest was a baby, he was a loud sleeper. Every time he rolled over or made a little noise or coughed, I could hear him through the monitor. This was unnecessary and woke me up literally for no reason. Because of the way the bedrooms in our house are situated, I could hear him very well without the monitor. I birth screamers, by the way! So eventually, I turned off the monitor at night when I slept.
Baby Monitors During Sleep Training
As your baby gets older, you may come to the point when you decide to sleep train, to help your baby sleep through the night. While a baby monitor may help you with sleep coaching, it can also hinder your progress. Having a fuss or cry magnified in a monitor may make your heartbeat twice as fast and make you think that someone is either kidnapping your child or that he is facing extreme harm.
Of course, some babies may have medical conditions that require parents to check-in frequently. In those cases, yes, parents will probably want to listen for every little sound. But, for the average healthy baby, we don’t need to hear every little noise the baby makes. Remember, fussing and crying a little between sleep cycles is very normal and expected. But if you respond to every little fuss or cry, you may inadvertently get in your own way. In that case, your baby will not have the opportunity to learn to fall asleep on his own.
Here’s Nicole’s story, about the moment when she learned that allowing a few minutes of fussing can actually produce good results:
One day, as I was making my eldest son’s lunch, I heard my younger son crying in his room. I couldn’t get to him right away — I had to finish up making lunch first, so that my oldest son could eat (can you say cranky when hungry?) It took just a few minutes (less than 5) to finish up, and then began walking up the stairs to check on my younger son (who was still crying).
I kid you not, I got so far as his door (and actually put my hand was on the doorknob!) and suddenly, his crying stopped. My son had fallen back to sleep! I am not suggesting all babies will be that “easy” (he was by far not a perfect sleeper, by the way)! But having a monitor where you hear everything is not always the best tool in your toolbox!
Remember, a baby monitor is a tool. And as with so many tools in your parenting toolbox, it’s not the tools themselves, but how you use them that ends up making the difference. If your baby monitor is proving to be a tool that’s helpful, then by all means – use it! But if your baby monitor is waking you unnecessarily at night, or making you tear your hair out during sleep training, then it might be time to put it away (at least, for a while!)
Baby Monitors Won’t Solve Baby Sleep Problems – But We Can!
Baby monitors can be GREAT tools – but they won’t solve sleep issues (in fact, in some cases, they may make them worse!). Fortunately for you, we CAN help solve baby sleep problems! Our team of expertly-trained consultants is standing by, ready to craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your baby.
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to log in and get started right away – it’s that easy!
Do you use a baby monitor? Is it helpful, or is it making sleep worse?
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If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules! This is our comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is ideal for every parenting style.
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26 thoughts on “Are Baby Monitors Bad For Your Baby’s Sleep?”
What an interesting read.
My work bought us a baby monitor and we have used it once, it was only when she was a newborn and sleeping in her room with us watching tv in the other room. But my baby sleeps so well there is really no point in using the monitor. So now it lies in a packet in the spare room with no batteries.
A mother’s hearing is so good though, I really don’t see why people would need a monitor unless they are in a huge house or having a party.
@ Blakely — totally understood – I’m a thrifty gal, too! If you’re going to have more babies at some point, then it might not be a bad idea to invest in one, but if you’re done, then that’s a different story.
Good luck! And thanks again for commenting 🙂
@ Kay wallis — oh my goodness, I did the exact same thing! I’d turn mine way down, so that I could only hear true crying, and then if I heard any ‘phantom’ cries, I’d look at the lights to be sure. Our great minds think alike, huh? 😉
Good call too, on the traveling – we did use ours when we’d travel, for the same reasons you mention. Thanks for commenting, Kay!
@ Elena – another vote for the video monitor! Like I said, I never had one, but my friends who did just loved them. Those really do seem to have way more advantages than the sound-only monitors.
Thanks for sharing this, Elena! 🙂
@ Julie Deschamps – good points! Sounds like the monitor is a good tool for you, and not one that’s waking you up / driving you crazy. Means it’s a keeper, then! 😉
Thanks for commenting, Julie!
@ Kristycat — wow — well-said! You’re absolutely right; it may just be a matter of training yourself to learn your babies cries, and knowing which ones you need to respond to immediately, and which you can ignore for 10 or 15 minutes (because they’ll probably peter out on their own). I love your observations about how you’ve grown in this way, since your early days of motherhood – I can definitely relate to that! And I’m sure a lot of our other readers can, too. 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing this comment, Kristycat!
@ Kaela – this made me laugh, because I can relate! My daughter is in the room next door, and there’s a vent between our wall and hers, so we can hear EVERY noise that comes from her room. She’s 2 1/2 now, so it’s fine, but when she was a baby, I would’ve given anything for more soundproofing, too!
Thanks for commenting, Kaela! 🙂
@ Kleo – excellent point, about sleep training being made easier by a video monitor, because you can monitor what’s happening when you’re not in the room! I love that observation. And I love your point about how your video monitor helped you learn her physical and verbal cues, and how they work together. Sounds like your video monitor has been a real godsend for you and your family, Kleo!
Thanks so much for commenting 🙂
We ditched the motion sensor after a day it went off too often even when our daughter was moving.
We never have the sound in as we have lived in houses where we can hear her but video was a godsend! Actually for the same reasons you say to ditch it for sound. I can hear her cry but I always check the monitor to see what she’s doing. If she is laying down and crying I know she will go back to sleep, if she’s standing up and crying I know to leave her for 5 minutes as she often goes back to sleep so I can see her, so if it’s been 5-10 minutes and she’s still standing I go in to get her up from her nap.
I’m lucky she has slept through the night for 6 months now so I’m actually unsure what I would do if she was standing up and crying but if she cries and is laying down I at least know to definitely leave her .
In fact I think sleep training would be far easier and effective if all parents have a video monitor to learn their physical signs and keep that all important schedule on track if you know when they are asleep or just quietly going to sleep. It’s also great if you are doing controlled crying so you can see if its working by bubs responses each time you leave the room.
My son is 8 months old and I have a sound and video monitor that I love. It’s good to check while he’s napping if he’s actually asleep or just rolling around and wrestling his stuffed elephant. At night though I put the monitor by my bed and turn the sound off. He is on the other side of the wall so even a medium cry is easy to hear (almost wish the walks were a tad MORE soundproof!). It’s great to be able to quickly look at the screen and see if his leg or something is stuck, versus just a night waking so I don’t need to immediately intervene. In summary, I think a monitor is only worth the purchase if you get the video option
Our monitor helped, but we did have to train ourselves to recognize the difference between the fussy “but I don’t WANT to go to sleep yet” cry (which usually lasts less than 5 minutes, if that long, before sleep kicks in), the “hey, something’s actually wrong, come fix it” cry (to indicate hunger, thirst, or a wet diaper), and the sharp, urgent “something is SERIOUSLY wrong, get in here NOW!” cry that accompanies getting her foot painfully stuck in the slats or waking from a bad nightmare and needing comfort.
It also provides us with some amazingly cute moments, when we can hear her just before falling asleep or just after waking up, playing with her stuffed animal and singing or talking to herself!
So I don’t think monitors are bad – but, like with any tool, learning to use them properly and not overreact at every tiny noise is all just part of the new-parent process. (The first few weeks, we freaked out if she made noise, and then we freaked out if she was too quiet! After a while, we learned to settle down!)
I use a video monitor and i love it! it did make the transition to the crib A LOT EASIER on me of course… always harder on parents hehehe I have a motorola and i love it.
I do have to turn the sound to low because otherwise i hear A LOT of noises she makes. When i hear her i usually wait a good 10-15 min to make sure she is actually waking up and hungry and not just fussing around for a bit and falling back asleep. Also waiting this long i can tell if her crying gets louder and she does need something or if she is just making noise and then falling back asleep which she did at 3am a couple nights ago and this morning at 7 am. I am very happy with our monitor!
For me baby monitor is a must! I had a video monitor for my first son – and now we’ve got second one for my smallest baby. I have 2 store townhouse and even though with time I’ve learned that I can hear loud baby cry when I’m on the 1st floor for me the monitor brings peace of mind – just to see what happens in the bed. Also, my first son loved sleeping on his belly – any other position made him wake up like every 20-30 minutes so with video monitor I could make sure he didnt put his face downwards.
I had a tough time sleeping when bub was little. Every noise woke me and I’d often imagine I heard crying. The baby monitor was great, but we ran it on mute. That way, I only woke up if he was crying rather than making a small noise and if it was all in my head a quick glance at the monitor’s lights told me so.
We are lucky though as his bedroom right next door so I can genuinely hear what I need to but the monitor was better for “false positives” (ie it all being in my head).
We also used it heaps while travelling or so we could be outside on our deck during nap times etc.
it is definitely a quality issue. We were given the monitor for free from a coworker as a hand me down. It was fine at first, but it’s progressively gotten worse. It’s an awful buzzing noise. I just don’t know if I want to spend the money on another one. =-/
@ Mara – that’s frustrating. Have you tried putting it on a really low setting? We were in a similar situation in our first house – it was a really long ranch, and our bedroom was at one end and the baby’s room was at the other. I found I really did need the monitor then, but as long as I kept it turned way down, I could mostly sleep okay (although I will say, once I finally was able to get rid of it, I slept better!)
Good luck to you, Mara! And thanks for commenting 🙂
@ Laura — wow — that sounds amazing! My daughter can entertain herself in her bed pretty well, too, but 3 hours is impressive! I can see your point, though, about that backfiring if you were set out not poking your head in the door, and waiting for her to cry/call out. Sounds like the video monitor was a great solution!
Thanks for commenting, Laura! 🙂
@ Krysbe – good point about more agile babies being able to take the Snuza right off – that would make it a less ideal solution for older babies, then. I’m guessing the Angelcare may be a better bet for parents who want to use movement monitors for awhile.
Thanks for sharing this story, Krysbe! 🙂
@ Meagan Shivel – yes, that’s a good point! Moms and dads who already have ‘helicopter parent’ tendencies may obsess over a video monitor. But I see your point, that being able to both see and hear would be really useful. And I do think that this may make video monitors useful for much longer than sound-only monitors – which helps to justify the higher price tag, I suppose.
Thanks for sharing this, Meagan! 🙂
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