Baby monitors are the kind of tools that make us wonder how parenting worked before modern technology. What would we do without the peace of mind that a baby monitor can bring?
Today's monitors allow you to hear, see, and monitor your child with exceptional clarity. You can even keep tabs on their breathing rate and heartbeat!
Because of their significant benefits, most parents know they want a baby monitor when their children are very young, but many don't know when it's appropriate to turn it off. It's not that parents plan to keep the monitors on through their child's teenage years (hopefully), but is it okay to keep it on when your child is three, five, or even eight?
In other words, when should you stop using a baby monitor?
As with most parenting questions, there's not a one-size-fits-all answer. As usual, it depends on several factors, like your parenting style, your home layout, and your child's sleep habits.
How Old Should Your Child Be Before You Stop Using A Monitor?
Unfortunately, there are no official guidelines about age and baby monitor use. However, a few common sense milestones can signal parents that it's time to transition to life without one.
The Six Month Milestone
The earliest milestone that could signal you to stop using a baby monitor is when your child can sleep through the night with ease. Usually, that will begin to happen at about six months old.
If you live in a small home or apartment and can hear your child from any room, this milestone makes sense to use. You probably don't need a monitor to let you know that something's up.
However, many parents find that six months is too young to turn off the baby monitor. Especially since six months is the age that the AAP suggests babies can transition out of their parent's room.
If you have any anxiety about your baby sleeping on their own, a baby monitor can bring much-needed peace of mind and can keep you from getting up unnecessarily in the middle of the night.
A Note On Baby Monitors And SIDS Risks
Breathing monitors do more than provide audio and video monitoring. They also keep track of your baby's heart rate and breathing, leading many parents to believe they can reduce the risk of SIDS.
Unfortunately, as good as that hypothesis is, there's no evidence to back it up. The AAP suggests several other precautions parents can take to reduce the risk of SIDS, but using a baby monitor isn't one of them.
So, if you want to turn off the baby monitor when your child is six months old, from a SIDS perspective, you're justified in doing so. However, many parents find that a breathing monitor for their infant provides peace of mind and keeps them from constantly checking on their child throughout the night.
The Two Year Milestone
Many parents choose to wait until their child can leave their bedroom without help and without getting into any trouble. That means the child needs to have transitioned out of a crib and into a toddler bed. Usually, this happens around two years old.
Of course, many two-year-olds are just learning to push boundaries. At this age, many parents have trouble getting their kids to stay in bed. A baby monitor can help parents ensure their toddler doesn't get into a dangerous situation.
So, if your child is prone to climbing on furniture, pulling on curtains, or staging room breakouts in the middle of the night, you might want to keep the baby monitor in use past the two-year milestone.
The Four Year Old Milestone
As a child develops their sense of self, they will likely seek out privacy. So, most parents seem to ditch the baby monitor when their child reaches four years old. At that age, a child can fully understand they're being watched in their room.
That can bring up privacy issues. Children may alter their behavior because they don't feel comfortable playing freely under constant supervision. Most parents hope to avoid that and choose to switch the monitor off, at least during the day.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and what works for most families may not work for you. So don't be afraid to make the right decision for your family, even if it doesn't align with popular opinion.
Reasons To Stop Using A Baby Monitor
If you're having a tough time deciding when to turn the baby monitor off, we can't blame you. It's a tough choice!
Below we list a few key signs that it's time to stop using your baby monitor, regardless of your child's age. Paying attention to these signals may help you decide whether the monitor goes or stays.
You're Losing Sleep
Baby monitors are fantastic for providing peace of mind until they start disrupting your sleep. The technology for baby monitors is so good these days that they'll likely pick up every grunt and wiggle.
If you're a light sleeper, it could wake you up quite often for reasons that are less than dire. Some parents even find the monitor's white noise is a problem.
If you realize that's happening, it might be time to turn the monitor off or at least turn the audio way down. Parenting is hard enough without extra sleep deprivation.
It Increases your Anxiety
Baby monitors can provide peace of mind, but they can also promote anxiety. Some parents find they end up watching the monitor more often than not. If their child isn't moving, they watch intently for signs of life, and if their child is moving, they start looking for signs of distress.
That can become an incredibly stressful habit! If your child regularly sleeps through the night and is generally healthy, you might want to ditch the monitor should you notice it increases your anxiety.
Your Room Is Close Enough To Hear Disturbances
If you're close enough to hear your child cry out in the night, a monitor might be doing you more harm than good. As babies sleep, it's common to hear grunts, sniffles, and even the beginning of a cry. It doesn't always signal that they're waking up and in need of comfort, though.
It's possible that with a monitor, you'll react too quickly to every sound. You might even end up waking your baby up, and no parent wants to do that.
Your Monitor Has Become A Distraction
Just like social media, baby monitors have the potential to become addictive. You might find that you can't stop watching your child as they sleep or play by themselves.
If you're looking at the screen when you should be doing other things, like taking some much-needed time for self-care, it may be time to ditch the monitor or at least turn the video off.
Reasons To Keep Using A Baby Monitor
Just like there are reasons to turn your monitor off regardless of milestones, there are also reasons to keep it on. Here are a few to consider.
Your Room Is Far Away From Your Child's
If you have a big house and your room is far from your child's, you might decide to keep your baby monitor on a little longer than most. It's important to be able to hear your child should they need help, and a baby monitor can ensure that happens.
Your Child Is Experiencing Sleep Regression
Sleep regression in toddlers is incredibly common, but it can be tough to deal with as a parent. Children who sleep through the night without difficulty then suddenly start waking up at inconvenient times may be experiencing sleep regression. They may have separation anxiety, or it could be some other problem.
If separation anxiety is causing your toddler to wake up and call for you, experts recommend that you wait a few minutes before rushing to their aid. They might put themselves back to sleep if you give it a little time.
However, deciding whether it's an emergency or not can be tricky. A monitor can help you choose correctly.
A Younger Sibling Sleeps In The Same Room
If you have siblings sharing a room, you may use a baby monitor for a more extended period. You shouldn't rely on your four or five-year-old to wake up and alert you if their younger sibling needs help.
Your Child Has Nightmares Or Sleepwalks
If your child has frequent nightmares or sometimes sleepwalks even at five, six, or seven years old, it's completely warranted to keep a baby monitor in their room. Nightmares are terrifying, and your child may need your assurance that it wasn't real, while sleepwalking is obviously dangerous.
That said, if your child is on the older side, you should probably turn the monitor off during the day. That way, they can maintain their sense of privacy.
How To Break Up With Your Baby Monitor
Once you realize it's time to turn the baby monitor off, you may find it's harder to part with it than you thought. Just like the end of breastfeeding and diapers, there can be a little sadness around turning the baby monitor off.
There can also be a little anxiety. What if something happens now that you can't see inside your child's room at all times?
If you feel a twinge of sadness or anxiety, know that it's completely normal. However, to make it easier, you might want to take a gradual approach to remove the baby monitor.
Try turning off the video or audio-only for a few weeks so that you can get used to less access. Or, try using the monitor when you need it most, but not when you don't.
Maybe you'll decide that you want the monitor on during naps because you're working around the house. But, at night, if your room is close to your child's, you might feel safer turning the monitor off.
But Don't Throw The Monitor Away!
Regardless of when you decide to stop using your baby monitor regularly, it's a good idea to keep it around for specific situations.
When Your Child Is Sick
If your child is sick, even if they're nine or ten, a baby monitor can be useful.
Stomach problems are pretty common in younger children, and a baby monitor can help you intervene before you need to do a full-blown midnight cleanup. If you can catch your child while they're still coughing, you might be able to get them to the bathroom before they throw up!
When You're Hosting Friends Or Family
A baby monitor may also be helpful if you have friends or family over for the evening. There's no reason adults shouldn't keep talking past their child's bedtime, but lots of loud voices or music can make it difficult to hear a child that needs help. Using a baby monitor can fix that problem.
Traveling is another time that many parents find their old baby monitor becomes useful. If you're visiting a friend or family member's home and in an unfamiliar environment, the monitor can help provide reassurance for both you and your children.
Baby Monitors: The Decision Is Yours
Most parents use a baby monitor for their infant, and many choose to keep it on through toddlerhood. However, depending on the situation, some parents decide it's best to use their baby monitor until their child is in preschool or even elementary grades.
In other words, every family is different, and there's no correct answer for baby monitor use. The best you can do is weigh out the pros and cons for you and your child. Try not to let other people's opinions weigh too heavily on your choice. What works for one family may not be suitable for yours.
So whether you want to dump your baby monitor when your child hits six months or prefer to use it until your child is six or older, the decision is yours to make as a parent.