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When is the best time to stop using a baby monitor?

Are you wondering when you can stop using a baby monitor to keep an eye on your little one when they are asleep?

With first babies particularly it can be easy to worry about not having eyes on your baby when they are sleeping at all times. 

Baby sleeping with baby monitor

Whether you are using a video and audio or audio only monitor they can be a really useful tool for keeping tabs on your baby when you are in another room. 

So can you stop using a baby monitor in the first year? Is your toddler too old to still need a baby monitor?

It’s one of those first-time parent questions that you may spend hours pondering and debating between you, but ultimately the decision comes down to you. 

Here’s all of the information you need to come to a decision about when to stop using your baby monitor. 

At what age do you stop using a baby monitor?

There is no set age to stop using a baby monitor. But there are a few benefits and disadvantages to continuing to use them as baby grows to a toddler. 

How long you use the baby monitor is really down to you as a parent – there are no rules or official guidance from the NHS or other clinical bodies about their usage. 

You can use it up until your child turns two or older if it makes you feel more secure as a parent. 

Many parents find they sleep better by switching the audio off the monitor and either using the video to monitor that their child is OK or simply switching on the audio to double check the baby isn’t calling for them. 

This is because when they sleep babies tend to be a little noisy. They may grunt and wriggle about. If your baby monitor is turned up high these noises can be quite distracting for you as you try to sleep. 

The monitor itself can also give off a bit of white noise that can be disruptive to your own sleep. 

So what you will need to do is weigh up how much benefit the baby monitor gives you when using it through the night versus how much it may disrupt your own sleep. A rested parent is a far happier parent! 

What is a baby monitor for?

A baby monitor enables you to watch and/or listen to your baby while they sleep (or while they are supposed to be sleeping!) when you are in another room. 

It’s one of the newborn essentials many parents find they can’t live without in the early months!

Babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months. This official guidance from the NHS is given to reduce the risk of cot death, where an otherwise healthy baby dies. 

However where a baby is napping during the day or sleeping at night in a different room, the monitor can allow you to listen out for them waking. 

This can be particularly useful if you have a big house or struggle to hear your baby when their bedroom door is shut. 

Do baby monitors prevent SIDS?

There is no evidence that use of a baby monitor prevents SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In addition to this use of a baby monitor is not on the list of advice from the NHS for prevention of SIDS.

The key advice is to put baby to sleep on their back in a suitable bed that is free of any potential obstacles and have them sleeping in the same room as you until they are six months. 

There are baby monitors on the market that are slightly more advanced than just video and audio, allowing you to actually monitor baby’s breathing. 

These may include pads you place your baby on to sleep that monitor their movements and alert you of any changes or a band that goes around their ankle to monitor certain vital signs. 

However the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated “the use of cardiorespiratory monitors has not been documented to decrease the incidence of SIDS”.  

Again their advice is to follow the safe sleep tips, such as placing baby on their back to sleep on a firm mattress. 

Some parents have actually found the high tech monitoring devices caused more anxiety, as they were frequently alerted to a supposed problem with the baby that turned out to be nothing.

So putting this information together, the official advice for safe sleeping does not involve use of a baby monitor. 

Having said that, using a baby monitor to watch your baby sleep while you are in another room watching TV or doing something else may make you feel better. It’s this reassurance and easy way to watch what baby is up to that makes baby monitors useful for parents. 

How long should you use a baby monitor 

You should use a baby monitor for as long as you find it useful. However you are likely to find you need it much less after baby turns one.

I personally stopped using the baby monitor with my first child after she turned 18 months. However I was much quicker to stop using it with my second. I stopped using the monitor with her shortly before she turned one. 

If the monitor reassures you or enables you to keep an eye on when exactly your baby nods off and wakes up, then keep using it for as long as you wish. 

Once your baby hits 18 months and becomes a toddler, you can continue to use the monitor and may well find it useful to watch them during nap time to see if they are actually asleep (it saves you going into their room and disturbing them). 

But there comes a point where you may not worry so much about what your toddler is getting up to in their own room during nap time. It may be that you keep their door open a crack so you can hear them if they are disturbed in their sleep or that you simply pop your head in every now and then to check they are OK. 

When you think about when to stop using the baby monitor it’s worth considering your own child’s independence as well. 

Once your child grows beyond toddler-hood and starts school they may start going for sleepovers at friends’ houses. 

What I’m saying is there comes a time where your child is sleeping well and growing up to a point where monitoring them all of the time is either impossible or something you simply do not need to do anymore. 

Letting go of this can be hard at first if you’ve found it really reassuring to watch your baby sleeping. 

However as with so many other changes in parenting – such as stopping breastfeeding and ditching nappies for potty training – eventually you get used to the new routine. 

Mum using baby monitor

Benefits of using a baby monitor for babies and toddlers 

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a baby monitor with your baby or toddler by age. 

 At 6 months 

Using a baby monitor for your little one at six months has a number of advantages. 

If you leave your baby to nod off on their own at nap and bedtime you can see when they have finally fallen asleep. 

If you are sleep training then you can use the baby monitor to reassure yourself that baby is OK, or to check if they are crying and you need to go in and comfort them. 

The baby monitor saves you from having to physically open the baby’s bedroom door and potentially disturb them (we all know that awful feeling of having just got a baby to sleep and then treading on a creaky floorboard as you creep out of the room). 

If baby starts crying in the night you can watch them on the monitor for a few minutes to see if they settle. Sometimes babies do cry in their sleep, or have a little fuss, then nod right back off after a few minutes. The baby monitor can help stop you rushing in to help them. 

If you have a big house or struggle to hear baby from downstairs the monitor makes it easier to listen out for baby. 

At one year 

By the time your baby is one year they will still be having two daytime naps and may well be sleeping through the night. 

A baby monitor can continue to help you with keeping tabs on baby when they are napping and you are elsewhere in the house doing other stuff. 

Some baby monitors have extra features such as playing white noise or lullabies which your baby may have become used to in order to help them get to sleep. 

If this is the case you may consider keeping the baby monitor has a huge benefit until your child is ready to lose this sleep aid. 

At two years 

You may want to watch your two year old settle down for a nap via the baby monitor so you have peace of mind that they have gone to sleep. 

Some kids do ditch their daytime nap at this stage and may find it increasingly difficult to settle. 

However at age two your toddler won’t be in a crib anymore and so is likely to be hopping in and out of bed all by themselves, so they will be alerting you to being awake much more readily than when they were a baby! 

Reasons to ditch the baby monitor 

There are a few really good reasons to ditch the baby monitor and several of these apply at any age for baby. 

It’s become a big distraction 

You find yourself checking it every 10 seconds in much the same way you refresh your Facebook and Instagram feed to check on what your mates are up to. 

If it’s distracting you from your time to yourself where you should be relaxing that it may be time to consider stepping back. 

You could wean yourself off of the monitor gradually. One option could be to switch the receiver’s audio off and just use video. Or you could switch the receiver off altogether and only turn it on once an hour. 

It increases your anxiety 

Ever stared at the baby monitor willing your baby to move or show some sign they are still breathing?

Constantly looking at the monitor and wondering if baby is actually OK can be really stressful for parents when actually there’s no need to be worried. 

The high tech baby monitors that set off alerts if baby has not moved for a particular length of time can especially be sources of worry for some parents. 

If the baby monitor is increasing your anxiety then consider switching it for instead checking in on baby once an hour (during nap time and in the evenings) to reassure yourself that they are OK. 

Your bedroom is close to baby’s room 

If baby is just across the hallway then chances are you will hear them if they wake up crying for you. 

If sound doesn’t travel so well through your house then you could consider leaving their bedroom door open a crack so that you feel reassured that you will hear them. 

Baby is older than one year 

Once your baby reaches one year then (hopefully) they will be sleeping through the night, or at least waking up just once compared to the many times they woke as a newborn. 

For this reason you won’t feel the need to be keeping such a close eye on them throughout the night. 

To improve your own sleep 

Having the baby monitor on at all times next to your own bed can disturb your own sleep, and a tired parent makes for a more cranky parent. 

By getting rid of the monitor you’re actually doing your child a services as you’ll be a much happier parent when it comes to spending time with them during the day. 

A toddler can alert their parents easier 

Once your toddler has ditched their cot and is able to get themselves in and out of their bedroom they will easily alert you if they have any problems. 

This is the stage where you will find your toddler starts climbing into bed with you at all hours of night and first thing in the morning. 

While it may be tiring for you, it’s reassuring that they’re now at the stage where they can seek you out for help at night if they need it. 

How to ditch the baby monitor 

Letting go of the baby monitor may be tricky at first. 

You don’t have switch it off and pack it away immediately. You could start by simply switching off the receiver but keeping it close by. 

This way you know it’s there for you to use if you do want to switch it on, but it’s not on all of the time. 

Over a few days you may find you think about it less and less to a point where you don’t even need to keep the receiver close to hand any more. 

A gradual approach may be the best one if you have felt particularly anxious about your baby when they are in another room. 

Alternatively you may not have any strong feelings about the baby monitor, and actually be really keen to stop carrying it around with you everywhere. 

Really it’s up to you how you adjust to the new routine without it, but it’s one of those things that once it’s gone you won’t miss it. 

When can you stop using a baby monitor

Vicky Smith is a mother of two daughters and a journalist. She has been writing and vlogging about parenting for over five years.