When Should I Stop Using a Baby Monitor in My Child’s Room?
Many parents, myself included, use baby monitors to keep an eye on their infants during the night. When I started using video baby monitors for my kids, I never stopped to think about when I would stop using them, though. As my kids got older, I wanted to continue using a monitor to hear them if they needed me, but I knew I couldn’t keep using them forever.
Of course, the decision to stop using a monitor will be different for every family and situation. Maybe you have a new baby on the way and it makes sense to move the monitor from your toddler’s room to your baby’s room. Or maybe you have an older child and you’re struggling with letting go of the monitor.
To get some advice, I spoke to three experts: Dr. Rebecca Carter, a pediatrician at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine; Dr. Rebekah Diamond, a pediatric hospitalist in New York City, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University, and author of Parent Like a Pediatrician; and Dr. Charissa Chamorro, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and sleep-related issues.
When to stop using a baby monitor, according to experts
“There is no defined time for weaning off the baby monitor, and often this becomes a personal choice for families based on comfort, and layout of the home,” Dr. Carter said. If you can’t hear your child at night because their room is far away from yours, for example, it might make sense to use a monitor for longer. On the other hand, some families choose to never use a monitor and according to Dr. Diamond, that’s OK. If you can hear and respond to your baby without a monitor, you may not need one at all.
Rather than setting an age that parents should stop using a monitor, Dr. Carter explained that the decision should be based more on ability. Once kids can navigate their home safely, it might be time to stop using the monitor.
Dr. Chamorro offered a more concrete age to discontinue monitor use. “I often encourage parents to continue using a monitor in their child’s room through age four if they find it is helpful in supporting their toddler’s independent sleep,” she said. She also explained that it can help parents feel more confident knowing they can check on their child.
In an effort to not abruptly stop using the monitor, which might cause anxiety for both kids and parents, you can slowly discontinue use. Dr. Chamorro recommends only using the monitor when needed or for occasional check-ins after babies turn one. This can even help parents get better sleep, as they won’t be awoken by every grunt and mumble.
Dr. Chamorro explained that while the decision on when to stop is unique for each family, in general, she recommends parents stop using a monitor once a child turns five. “After age five, children start to become much more aware of their surroundings and they may notice if they are constantly being monitored. Around age five, children also start to develop more independence and can manage more responsibility. Removing the monitor can support a child’s growing autonomy and highlight that you trust your child,” she said.
What are the effects of taking away the baby monitor too early or too late?
While there is no specific right time to take the baby monitor away, taking it away at the wrong time can affect both kids and parents. “In all cases, the child’s comfort, safety, and privacy needs should be taken into account,” said Dr. Carter.
Of course, if your child isn’t able to get out of their room independently, you need to be able to hear them. Taking the monitor away too soon might mean you aren’t able to respond to their needs. Leaving the monitor in their room for too long can have effects, too.
Dr. Chamorro explained that children become increasingly aware of their surroundings as they get older and they’ll know they are being monitored. “If a monitor is still being used after age five, this can lead a child to question whether they are safe or whether their parents trust them. We want children to internalize a sense of safety and trust. For this reason, it is important to eventually remove the baby monitor and trust that your child will be safe,” she said. This can help them internalize a sense of safety and trust.
Dr. Carter also explained that kids often prefer their own safe space as they get older. You may be able to build trust and independence by removing the monitor. “Prolonged use of monitors may be detrimental towards a child’s feeling of independence and autonomy as they may feel they are being watched all the time,” she said. Constant monitoring can also prevent them from navigating their surroundings independently.
Using a monitor for too long can affect parents as well. Dr. Chamorro explained that prolonged monitor use can contribute to parental anxiety, and it can even make parents feel dependent on the monitor. This can in turn impact your sleep and psychological well-being. “If a parent feels that they need to check the monitor constantly, or notices feelings of anxiety when they are unable to check it, these are signs that monitor use has become a habit and that it may be contributing to increased anxiety,” she said. If this is the case, she recommends only checking the monitor when your child is falling asleep and when you wake up in the morning.
When should parents consider prolonged monitor use?
Kids need to be able to navigate their surroundings safely if you’re going to trust them to be unmonitored. In some circumstances, this may not be the case, and prolonged monitoring might be warranted.
Dr. Carter, Dr. Diamond, and Dr. Chamorro shared circumstances that might warrant using a monitor for longer. While not an exhaustive list, some reasons include:
- If the child is a threat to themself or others
- If the child has special needs
- If the child has complex medical issues
- If the child has developmental delays
As with much of parenting, it’s important to make an informed decision while also trusting your gut when it comes to removing a baby monitor from your child’s room. If he or she is nearing age five and isn’t facing any special circumstances, it may be time to phase out the monitor. As Dr. Diamond said, “baby monitors are a wonderful tool to help you supervise your child appropriately, but they don’t replace common sense responses to your child’s cries, gurgles, or noises – and aren’t something every parent actually needs to use in many situations.”
Based on advice from our experts, if your child is no longer officially a baby and can safely navigate his or her surroundings, you can probably start phasing out the baby monitor.
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