When my sister-in-law got a video baby monitor for her firstborn, my first reaction was that she was taking paranoid parenting to a completely new level. Was it really necessary to be able to spy on him sleeping all the time?
Well, then the geekdaughter arrived, and brought with her a new understanding for me of the stresses that arise around getting little ones to sleep. Well, perhaps “understanding” is an overstatement – even second time around with the geekson I wouldn’t say I understood baby sleep at all!! After a lot of trial and error the geekdaddy, the geekdaughter and I found a way of handling sleep which suited all three of us. It involved us not racing in to her room at the first noise, but rather giving her a chance to soothe herself back to sleep before we got involved. The geekdaughter was a very sensitive baby, and if we went into her room too early she would get very cross with us, making all three of us miserable. So we learnt to stay away and let her work it out on her own (which she did in most cases).
At about 4 months of age, the geekdaughter started rolling over, and we went through that brief but painful period when she could roll from back to front but not the other way. So she would typically roll over onto her front, decide she wasn’t happy, and then start yelling. And sometimes she’d do this during a nap. In those circumstances she would never soothe herself back to sleep, and the sooner we went into her room to roll her back onto her back the better. At this point I suddenly saw the benefit of the video baby monitor, and my sister-in-law kindly lent me hers. Now I could at a glance see if the geekdaughter was crying because she was awake and didn’t want to be, or because she had flipped over and couldn’t get back.
The video baby monitor comes in two parts, much like an audio baby monitor. The camera unit needs to be placed in a suitable position to observe your baby. We have some shelves on the wall at the foot of our cot, and the camera sat there very nicely. I do recommend an overhead view; I found the one time I tried to set the camera to the side it focussed on the cot bars and I couldn’t make the baby out very well. The receiving unit is a very small TV screen, and can be set up in a suitable location. Mine is mains powered only, so I can’t move it around from room to room. That’s not a big limitation, as I don’t want to be looking at it all the time. I have mine set up on the desk next to my computer, where I can see it easily when I’m working, or glance into the office for a quick peek at other times.
Having initially obtained the video monitor in order to observe when the geekdaughter had got herself into a position in which she was unable to sleep, what surprised me was the reassurance that the it brought in other circumstances. I loved being able to look at it and see my peacefully sleeping daughter. And on those occasions when she wasn’t being so peaceful I could look at the monitor and see if it looked like she was going to be able to get herself back off to sleep on her own or not. Audio baby monitors really do just give half of the story, and certainly there were times when the geekdaughter sounded wide awake over the audio monitor, but a quick glance at the video monitor would show her lying quite still, really wanting to get back to sleep. I also quickly got used to glancing at the monitor when a feed was due to see if she was showing any signs of stirring or not.
I was impressed at the quality of the picture. During the day it was clear enough that I could see the geekdaughter’s chest rising and falling as she breathed. At night the camera switched into “night vision” mode, and whilst the picture was not quite so clear, I was still able to see the geekdaughter and make out movements.
I’ve just dug the monitor out again, and set it up for the geekson. He’s not quite rolling over, but can get onto his side quite easily, so I know it’s coming. He’s already quite mobile in his cot, and I enjoy watching him shuffle around before he starts a nap.
A video baby monitor is not something I’d call an essential piece of baby equipment, but it’s definitely a “nice to have”, and it provides me with a lot of reassurance. I can’t provide a specific product recommendation as mine was a gift, and is not branded, but it’s a technology that’s getting better all the time. If you are buying one I would recommend making sure the one you buy has a “night vision” mode, and also consider whether you are happy for the receiver unit to be mains-operated only, or whether you’d like batteries so that you can move it from room to room with you.