Curse of the baby monitor

20 Jul

When Jade was born, we didn’t bother getting a baby monitor.  At first, she slept either with us in bed, or right beside me in a cradle.  Later, we still didn’t need one because her room was on the main floor of the house, where we spent most of our time, anyway.  And I was so tuned into her cry, I could even hear her from the yard outside.  (Or perhaps that’s just a sign of poor windows…)

At some point, though, it did become necessary to have a monitor, so we conceded grudgingly by buying the cheapest one we could find.  I did pretty close to zero research.  I spent $20.  I brought the thing home, plugged it in, and it worked.  I could hear Jade’s very breathing, even if she was in her basement room at the back of the house and I was in the front yard.

About two months ago, the darn thing started acting up.  Sometimes I’d turn the “Parent Unit” on and a loud buzzing sound would ensue.  We’d plug it in somewhere else, we’d change channels, we’d go set up the transmitter unit, all to no avail.  Sometimes a sharp whack on the counter would get the Parent Unit working.  Sometimes not.  I finally decided never to turn it off, just to turn the volume all the way down when the thing wasn’t in use, but that didn’t seem like a good solution, and I didn’t really trust the set-up.

I made a visit to Canadian Tire one day to find a new monitor.  There was the $20 model again.  Then there was a $45 dollar model by the same brand.  Being disgruntled (because I figure a baby monitor should last more than 18 months or so) I didn’t want to use the same brand again.  Instead, I picked up the only other available non-video monitor.  It was made by a famous baby products brand and cost a whopping $99 — plus tax!

I was excited, though.  The transmitting distance was supposed to be something like 1000 feet, and it promised the clarity of all! new! digital! sound! The thing came with a rechargeable base so that we wouldn’t have to hunt around for 9V batteries when we wanted to take the Parent Unit with us. 

Unfortunately, it required 16 hours of charging before the first use.  I put the unit on the charger, and three days later finally remembered to set up the transmitter.

It was a disaster.  Instead of Jade’s breathing, all we could hear was static.  When she would talk we’d hear “*crackle* …?”  and then “*crackle* …!”  We could tell Jade was saying something, but not what.  In vain, we set everything up again, tried different outlets, changed the channel… nothin’ doin’.  By this point, I’d thrown out all the packaging, but fortunately, I still had the receipt.  Canadian Tire took it back without batting an eyelash.  (The clerk didn’t bat an eyelash, that is…)

I was starting to think 18 months of clarity sure beat out the expensive monitor I’d been fortunate enough to get rid of, so I decided to try out the $45 model.  What I really liked about this one was that it had TWO Parent Units.  Once Jade moves to her new room, this will be very handy.  We can keep one upstairs in the kitchen, and one in our bedroom, which will now be at the other end of the basement from her.  (I know she’s a toddler, but she’s a toddler with epilepsy, and I don’t like the idea of not keeping tabs on her at night.)

I brought the thing home yesterday, plugged it in, and it worked.  I could hear Jade’s breathing again.  Haha!  Cheap triumphs over expensive!  Analog triumphs over digital!  Mama triumphs over the evil baby monitor!

Until tonight, that is.

The gremlins are back.  Something is causing static on the Parent Unit.  I’ve tried changing the channels, resetting the transmitter, turning both ends on and then off again.  There seems to be interference coming from somewhere, but I can’t figure out what it could be.

It’s almost enough to make me think we need to exorcise the house.  Argh!

8 Responses to “Curse of the baby monitor”

  1. Robin July 21, 2008 at 12:04 am #

    Something very similar happened to us, and once the monitor stopped working NONE of the other ones we tried worked either. The only thing we could think of is that some electric appliance / cable tv / wireless internet / something else entirely is causing interference and preventing the monitors from working. Our kids were old enough that we finally gave up, but it will definitely be a problem if we ever have another baby. I hope you find a solution that works.

  2. fawnahareo July 21, 2008 at 6:40 am #

    Hrm, I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse…! But thanks for the encouragement, Robin. 🙂

  3. Marianne July 21, 2008 at 9:50 am #

    I agree that if it’s happening with more than one type of monitor, it is likely interference from something — and might not even be within your own home. We get occasional interference on ours but we think it must be from the neighbours microwave because it never lasts long. You might need to try a monitor with a different frequency range — some are less likely to have interference than others, but I don’t understand the science behind it so I can’t suggest what might work best.

    Oh, and I think the monitors are useful for toddlers with or without epilepsy. But then, I have what my husband and I refer to as the “paranoid parents monitor” — you know, the one that monitors breathing as well as movement. We had bought a very simple sound one, but when our daughter had her apnic episodes in hopsital and stopped breathing, my husband when home and returned it and bought the fancy schmancy thing.

  4. thisiskat July 21, 2008 at 11:10 am #

    Hey, nice blog. Just stumbled on it today. I would agree that interference is the problem…there’s just so much of it these days! We had an old garage sale version that worked like a charm – but that’s over 7 years ago now, in the pre-Made-in-China days.

    Best of luck to you! I know we got a lot of use out of our monitor (more for doing stuff around the house at naptime than during the night).

  5. shannon maccuaig July 21, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    hmmm… bummer… can’t recommend mine which was $35 at walmart. though ours works perfectly, everyone i know says they got tons of interference with it…
    maybe you could try it at another house and see what happens there…? GOOD LUCK!

  6. emuleman July 21, 2008 at 12:16 pm #

    Our cheap $40 monitor is still working ok, but it has only been in use for 6 months.

    Thanks for the entertaining blog, will check back often.

  7. maleesha July 21, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    We also had better luck with the cheapos instead of the expensive-o’s. I know that ours are mostly okay, but we do get a little static, and every now and then we can hear some talking on them from some radio wave somewhere.

  8. Jason Dragon July 22, 2008 at 3:48 am #

    Most baby monitors work on the exact same frequency as an wireless internet router. This also happens to be the same as most older cordless phones and also microwaves. If you use any of these devices try turning off these devices and see if it fixes your problem. If it does you know what the problem is. These signals can travel for up to 1000 feet so if you have a house near you the problem could be in that house.

    Because you are a blogger I would bet you are techie and probably have a router. If that is the problem try to change the router channel to either the highest or lowest and change the baby monitor to the opposite.

    I own a computer store so we never did buy a baby monitor for our son, I simply found some old security cameras with sound and night vision that was extra from a job we did a while back and I set them up, they work great. Perfect sound and even in a pitch black room I can see great. The only problem is now we have little wires taped to our baseboards.

    Hope this helps.

    Jason Dragon

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