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- The Nanit Plus smart baby monitor offers timely alerts and sleep tracking plus tips for improving baby’s sleep.
- Instead of placing electronics on the baby, the Nanit uses patterned clothing and a smart camera to track breathing.
- I tested the Nanit, and even as a third-time mom, I found its sleep tracking helpful for establishing a routine.
- After testing nine video baby monitors, I named the Nanit Plus the best overall.
Parenting a baby often feels like putting a complicated Ikea bookshelf together — but blindfolded, without instructions, and on zero sleep. And while no technology could create a true instruction manual for each baby’s quirks, the Nanit Plus smart baby monitor will track your baby’s sleep patterns and send you personalized advice on how to get more of it.
Baby products are always quick to advertise more sleep to sleep-deprived parents, however. So when I received an editorial review sample of the Nanit Plus, I tested it for more than two weeks with my now 10-month-old son to see if it really does offer better sleep.
Design and specs
Unlike many popular smart monitors, the Nanit Plus works without any electronic wearables. Instead, the app’s breathing monitoring system uses patterned clothing, and the camera looks for that pattern to measure small, pixel-level movements as the baby’s chest rises and falls.
Besides avoiding the inconvenience of having to recharge a wearable monitor, there’s limited research as to the safety of placing a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth emitting device directly on a baby, and some are even labeled as choking hazards. The Nanit offers an alternative that still includes some of the same features.
The Nanit Plus’s HD camera needs to be mounted over the crib for the sleep tracking to work, with either a wall attachment or floor stand. The floor stand is sturdy and includes a tube to keep the cord away from the crib, but older babies may be able to shake the camera a bit. The wall mount is a more secure and affordable option if you don’t mind attaching something to the wall.
The camera has good picture quality, including clear night vision, with a 130-degree lens that captures the entire crib plus a bit more. Audio is also solid, offering enough range that you can turn it down far enough to not hear white noise but still hear cries. Both audio and picture quality may vary slightly based on the device you’re using and your internet speed — I tested it using an iPhone 7 and 7 Mbps download speed.
As a smart monitor, the Nanit requires high-speed internet. If Netflix often pauses to load, your internet likely isn’t fast enough to support a good experience with this monitor. The system also requires a smartphone or tablet (Android or iOS) with Bluetooth 4.0 and a free app.
The Nanit Plus is a bit more complex than a simple plug-and-play monitor but is fairly easy to use. Setup was simple using the app. I essentially needed to create an account, enter a Wi-Fi password, and push a button on the camera itself. Once set up, you can enable two-factor authentication for additional security. Nanit says its system is “constantly audited” for security compliance
To monitor breathing, the baby needs to wear either a special swaddle (worn only until baby starts rolling) or a band that can be placed over clothing. Although the monitor works as long as it’s powered on, breathing tracking sessions need to be started in the app by dragging a circle over the baby’s breathing wear so that the app can find the pattern and start tracking. S
However, the Nanit Plus doesn’t need the breathing band to monitor sleep. Larger movements can be tracked, so even with an older baby or for parents who choose not to use the band, it will track when the baby falls asleep, how long the baby sleeps, and even how restless the baby is. The app even knows if you put the baby down already asleep. It also has an excellent user interface that’s easy to use. In the morning, I could watch a video summary of the baby’s night.
But smart monitors don’t do much good if they can’t actually do what any baby monitor is designed to do: actually monitor the baby. The Nanit offered the best monitoring experience out of the five smart monitors that I tried. The audio could be adjusted enough that I wasn’t listening to white noise, the fan, or music that played in the nursery, but I could still hear cries. When I tried to zoom in, the video quality was pixelated, but it was more than enough to see what the baby was doing. The app also sent me timely push notifications when a sound or motion was detected.
Nanit Insights uses the data collected by the app to send weekly sleep tips to your smartphone. The tips are similar to what you’d find in a baby sleep book but are customized according to the sleep patterns detected by the camera and the baby’s age.
So can the Nanit actually help parents get more sleep? That depends. A baby who already has good sleep patterns likely won’t benefit much, and underlying issues, such as gas or colic, cannot be detected by a smart camera. For first-time parents who don’t realize how essential a routine is, the Nanit can help some. Of course, new babies still need to eat often and parents will have to do the legwork creating that routine. There is no overnight fix to sleep problems.
But for some babies, Nanit Insights could be a big help. As a third-time mom, I know that routine is a must, but I didn’t even realize how much my son’s bedtime had started to vary (getting three kids ready for bed is a zoo) until Nanit pointed it out.
Unlike popular options like the Owlet, the Nanit doesn’t require placing any electronics on the baby, just patterned clothing. Research on the safety of placing a wireless device — which emits non-ionizing radiation — on the baby is limited, but there are other concerns.
“Anything with a wearable sensor could be a choking hazard if it becomes loose or comes off,” said Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician and the medical advisor for digital health at Cook Children’s in Trophy Club, Texas. “In addition, any sensor with a cord could cause strangulation. Battery-powered devices could cause skin sensitivity or a burn injury if it malfunctions.” Monitors placed over the crib could be safer, he said, if the device isn’t able to be pulled into the crib or can’t fall off.
While I didn’t experience false alarms from the breathing system, some breathing monitors could have the potential for more worry, instead of less. “There is no evidence that wearing a monitor will prevent or allow a parent to act in order to prevent SIDS,” Smith said, which aligns with the position set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Parents should assess whether using a monitor would give them peace of mind or cause them stress and anxiety. False alarms are common and can lead parents to seek medical care for normal babies. Finally, parents should take care to follow safe sleep practices for babies whether they choose to use a monitor or not.”
The biggest downsides to the Nanit system are true of most smart monitors. There are logistics to giving the babysitter guest access. The livestream will drain your phone battery and will run a few seconds or even minutes behind if the internet connection is slow. And if the internet is out, so is the baby monitor.
While there are no gadgets on the baby when you use the Nanit Plus, the band is still one more thing to keep washed. And you need to open the app to start a breathing session every time. The Miku smart monitor tracks breathing without any wearables and automatically, though I did prefer the Nanit’s overall monitoring experience. I also didn’t like that the Nanit notifications sounded the same as the notifications from any other app. (Red alerts, which I did not experience, sound more like an alarm and sound on both the camera and the smart device).
One year of Nanit Insights is included with the purchase of the monitor, but that sleep tracking requires a monthly subscription after that ($5 per month, or $50 per year).
After testing nine video baby monitors, the Nanit Plus’s features and performance made it my top pick. It offers insight into baby’s sleep — and how to get more of it — and also does a great job monitoring by sending timely alerts and offering a livestream with clear audio. The price, $287 with a wall mount or $380 with a floor stand, is higher than a stand-alone monitor but competitive for a smart monitor.
Pros: Sleep tracking, breathing monitoring without electronics on the baby, sleep tips, good video and audio quality when streaming
Cons: Requires fast internet, drains smartphone battery faster, subscription required after first year