Lullabies and talk-back: modern baby monitors


Hamburg : Small getaways can mean a lot to new parents, even if it's as simple as going next door for a glass of wine. But who's going to watch baby while you're taking a break?

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If there's no babysitter available, a baby monitor might be just the thing for you. Monitors can vary in cost from 50 euros to 200 euros and upwards depending on the functions they offer and the technology inside.

For example, Philips has a model that works with the same DECT technology it puts in its telephones. That gives them much better sound, says Philips spokeswoman Julia Bouwman: "There's no static or clicking."

Additionally, DECT models cannot be eavesdropped upon. Of course, that pushes the price up a little … starter models go for at least 80 euros.

But there's a large variety in models with offerings from other companies like Chicco, Vivanco, Hartig & Helling, Fisher Price and Hama. One major difference between models is their transmission ranges.

Some can reach up to 300 metres and further. Some devices broadcast lullabies. Some have visual signals like lights to indicate when a baby is making noise – a good idea if background noise, like a party, might make it hard to hear the monitor.

Some monitors broadcast images as well as sounds, like the BC-439 Video from Hama. It also works at night, thanks to built-in infrared lighting. According to the manufacturer, its monitor broadcasts colour pictures during the day and black and white pictures in night- time mode.

Since video functions require more energy than simple audio transmissions, check to make sure the battery life is adequate before investing in a particular model.

Oko-Test (Eco-Test), a Frankfurt-based magazine, studied 23 monitors in its 2007 Annual publication. Testers were most interested in the effects of the monitors' electromagnetic transmissions on children.

They were most suspicious of DECT devices, which, unlike analog models, use pulsed transmission, which could pose a health hazard. However, there is no scientific evidence of this and many experts are sceptical of the alleged dangers.

Those concerned about the effects of signals on their babies should put the monitor as far away from the crib as possible, since transmission intensity drops drastically after two metres, according to Oko-Test.

Another tip: set the monitor's sensitivity level so it only activates when it registers sound. That can help calm parents' nerves and reduce worries about electromagnetism, since the device only broadcasts when it picks up sounds.

Bebetel has a monitor that works without any kind of broadcasts. It gets plugged directly into a telephone jack. If it picks up any noise, parents are alerted, either by landline, mobile phone or pager.

However, there is a downside to baby monitors. "Parents should not rely too much on technology," says Edith Wolber of the Karlsruhe- based Association of German Midwives.

She says people are relying too much on technology when small children are really better off not being left alone, monitor or no. "That's why I find a real babysitter better."

Plus, children under one-year-old can accompany parents to neighbourhood parties, so long as there's a spot for them to nap.