Buying a baby monitor offers peace of mind: You can hear baby (and in some cases even see her) without running to the crib every few minutes.

But choosing the right baby monitor is no easy task. You have so many options: Do you want a video baby monitor or just an audio baby monitor? Do you want a monitor that tracks baby’s heart rate, temperature, or oxygen level? Do you want to monitor the room temperature? Do you need to find a budget-friendly unit, or are you willing to spend a bit more for special features or higher quality?

Read on for advice on choosing the right baby monitor, and check out a few of our top picks.

TYPES OF BABY MONITORS

When you boil it down, there are essentially three baby monitor options.

Audio Baby Monitors:
These are likely what you envision when you think about baby monitors. These basic units transmit sound from the nursery to the receiver you keep near you. They don’t offer much in the way of special features, and their range can be somewhat limited.

Audio-Video Baby Monitors:
These units have enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past few years. They feature a handy camera that lets you see as well as hear your little one. Some cameras have limited video capability (for instance, you’ll see your sleeping infant), while others can record the whole room (your toddler, after he snuck out of bed to play!). Many even have a night-vision capability.

Baby Vitals Monitors:
These high-tech monitors offer the ultimate peace of mind. Relying on either sensors or wearables, these units can track various factors, including baby’s movement, breathing, heart rate, and more. Some don’t offer sound and video capabilities, so be sure to choose your unit carefully if that’s what you need.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER

As you narrow down your options for baby monitors, you’ll need to keep in mind several considerations.

Digital Vs. Analog:
These two types of monitors work the same way. However, an analog baby monitor transmits signals to the receiver without encrypting the data, and a digital monitor encrypts the sound. Analog monitors tend to cost less. However, you could encounter interference from cordless telephones or even run the risk of a neighbor overhearing your baby’s babbling (particularly in a heavily populated neighborhood). To minimize this issue, look for a 1.9 GHz band rather than a 2.4 GHz band or simply choose a digital monitor.

Reception:
If your home is large, pay special attention to the range of reception offered. Also, keep in mind you may run into reception problems if your home has concrete walls.

Battery Life:
You may lean toward a battery-operated unit to avoid dealing with cords. However, make sure you don’t choose a baby monitor that quickly depletes batteries, as that can get expensive fast. If you do go with a battery-powered monitor, make sure you choose one with an obvious low-battery indicator for safety.

WiFi:
Some baby monitors rely on WiFi and 3G/4G networks. Units that pair with a smartphone can be particularly helpful if you leave baby with a sitter to run errands and still want to check on him while you’re out and about. Keep in mind monitors that rely on WiFi only work with an internet connection—not ideal for your remote cabin at the lake!

Receiver:
Consider whether you need one receiver or more. If you plan to keep the receiver with you while you mop floors and do laundry, you should choose one that’s small enough to carry easily. And if you need to do noisy tasks, such as vacuuming, look for a receiver that lights up rather than simply emits sounds that you may not hear.

BABYPALOOZA’S TOP BABY MONITOR PICKS

Best Wifi Baby Monitor: The iBaby Premium Baby Monitor M6S is packed with cool features: crystal-clear video, temperature and humidity sensors, two-way wireless talk, and smartphone alerts. You can also turn on bedtime stories and lullabies, take photos, and record videos.

Best Video Baby Monitor: The award-winning Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor is the whole shebang. You can customize zoom and viewing angle and even pan, tilt, and zoom the camera remotely. You’ll also enjoy instant playback and complete digital privacy because no sound or video goes online.

Best Audio Baby Monitor: With the VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor, you get lots of bang for your buck. Enjoy clear transmission (no white noise) up to 160 feet indoors, two-way talk, rechargeable batteries, and a belt-clip to go hands-free.

Best Baby Vitals Monitor: With the Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor, you can track baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate via a soft washable sock (it comes with three). You’ll be notified via the app as well as with lights and sound if baby’s levels are too low or high.

Best Baby Monitor Under $100: The Babysense Video Baby Monitor is surprisingly affordable for all its features: two-way talk, infrared night vision, room temperature sensor, and more. It offers high-capacity battery and a long range (up to 900 feet unobstructed) with an out-of-range warning for peace of mind.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Deciding on such an important baby product is never easy. But your best bet is to choose the monitor that best suits your needs and test it first (without tossing out the receipt!). Does it suit your home’s layouts and your needs? Is the sound and clear? Is the video crisp enough? If not, you can always return it and try again.

SAFETY COMES FIRST

Regardless of what type of unit you’re looking for, safety is always paramount. If the monitor you choose has a cord, keep it at least three feet away from the crib so it’s not a strangulation hazard. To avoid the risk of electrical shock, never put a baby monitor near water.

Are you concerned about hacking and privacy issues? You can take simple steps to shore up security. First, secure your router by updating the firmware, removing remote access, and choosing a strong password for your WiFi. Once you buy a baby monitor, register it with the manufacturer to make sure you get any software updates or bug fixes. When in doubt, check with your manufacturer about how to increase the security of your baby monitor.