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Although a baby monitor wasnít exactly an essential purchase, it was one that was quite high on my list. When looking at all the different models I knew I wanted one with a movement monitor (I had a very personal reason for this) but didnít want to spend a small fortune. After spending some time searching the web, looking at specifications and reading reviews I chose the Angelcare AC401, which cost me £59.99, and Iíve now been using this monitor for eight months.
Out Of The Box
Setting up the AC401 was a fairly simple affair, I did read through the clear instruction booklet, but when I moved Freddy from Moses basket to cot I didnít bother to re-consult it. The first thing that needs to be done, is to place the sensor pad under the mattress. Now the instructions state that this needs to be placed on a solid surface and suggests using a piece of plywood. But I just used a sheet of cardboard that came in the box and havenít had a single problem. The sensor pad then needs to be connected to the main monitor unit using the incredibly long wire. Although I donít know exactly how long that wire is, it is a good length which means the monitor doesnít need to be placed right next to the cot. Although the monitor is mains powered there is also a battery compartment as a back-up, but these AAA batteries are not supplied. The parent unit is even easier to set-up, you simply need to insert the supplied rechargeable batteries, plug it in and then let the batteries charge overnight. Once the batteries are charged both units can be switched on (the monitor unit can be used independently) and they automatically find each other.
The Monitor In Use
For the first few months our baby slept in a moses basket in our room, and we lived in a very small one bed roomed flat, so we only used the actual monitor unit and not the parent unit. The sensor mat fitted easily into the moses basket, under the mattress and then I threaded the wire under the lining material. The movement monitor has five levels of sensitivity, and although itís really a bit of trial and error to get the right level. I have found that the movement monitor is very sensitive, to be begin with I found it hard to believe that what looks like a solid piece of plastic would really be able to pick up the tiny movements a newborn makes while breathing. But once set to the correct sensitivity it really does work. As each movement is picked up a little green light flashes on the unit, which is a very reassuring sight. Thereís no more disturbing baby by resting my hand on his chest to feel it fall and rise, just seeing the light flash put my mind at ease.
Although I must say the alarm has never actually gone off while my baby was in the moses basket, it is loud enough to invade your sleep and wake you. The alarm will give a single warning beep after twenty seconds without movement and then go into full out beeping mode after forty seconds. As I said, the alarm has never gone off while my baby is asleep, but there have been occasions when either my partner or myself have picked the baby up and forgotten to turn the monitor off and then scared the life out of the other one of us. It is possible, however, to stop this alarm using the parent unit (if itís switched on). The monitor also features a night light, although this isnít very bright it does emit just enough light to be able to see what baby is up to, even if the light is a somewhat ghostly blue. Although you can insert batteries in case of a power cut, this monitor does really eat them. I put a set of Duracell in, and when we did have a power cut the batteries died in a single night, although I must admit I did have the night light on.
Once we moved to our new flat, with a garden, we started using the parent unit occasionally, even though the baby was still sleeping in the same room as us. I found that the units pair up in under a minute and then there are a plethora of different menu options. As an actual monitor it works perfectly well, it picks up every sound that baby makes and there is very little interference. It also has quite a large range, I can go downstairs and into my garden and it will still work.
Although I havenít tested the battery to itís limits, itís lasted for over two hours losing only one bar of power. Without playing with any of the settings, the sound from the parent unit is loud enough to be heard over the TV, but even at itís loudest it wonít be heard over music at a party. So itís a good thing that thereís also a visual display with a scale of lights, the more lights that are lit, then the noisier baby is being. The volume control is easily accessible and the volume ranges from muted to very loud, but at higher levels the parent unit does emit a strange whooshing noise that quickly becomes annoying. The parent unit can also be set to continuous monitoring or sound activated, personally Iíve always stuck to the sound activated. Although the parent unit features a belt clip, I canít say that Iíve really used it, not wearing belts and all that.
While the monitor unit simply flashes when it detects movement, the parent unit emitís a beep. While this was reassuring to begin with, it quickly became annoying and it took me ages to work out how to turn it off. Even with the continuous beep turned off, the alarm will still sound from the parent unit if movement isnít detected, and itís easy to switch the alarm on the monitor unit by holding down a button on the parent unit. The parent unit will also beep if it loses connection with the monitor unit which is all well and good, but if one parent gets up to the baby and forgets to turn the parent unit off, then the other parent is woken by the insistent beeping.
The parent unit also features a temperature display, so that the temperature of babyís room can be kept an eye on, and can also be set to alarm if the temperature doesnít fall between set parameters. Now, personally I really canít see the point in this, but there again I donít see any point in any nursery thermometers. Iím a great believer in using common sense when it comes to keeping baby warm (or cool) enough, and always stuck to the principle that baby generally needs one more layer than me. Iím also not convinced as to how accurate the thermometer function actually is, there has been the odd occasion when Iíve glanced at it and thought ďthereís no way itís that hot.
My baby is now eight months old and gets himself into all sorts of different positions in his cot, so it surprises me that the movement monitor still manages to pick up his breathing. Iíd actually prefer to use the monitor as just a normal monitor now, without the movement part. But if thereís a way of doing this, I havenít found it. I thought simply disconnecting the sensor would work, but it didnít.
Some medically, serious bits
Iím sure I really donít need to say this, but as with all monitors the AC401 does not replace adequate parental supervision. I have read that the medical proffesion does not really recommend this type of monitor except in very particular circumstances and I can see where theyíre coming from. Yes, they do give peace of mind, but they can also become a crutch, especially for the over-anxious parent. I quite readily admit that I fall into that category, but for good reason. When one of my older children was very small he suffered from a cardio-respiratory arrest and if I hadnít been there at the time, well there by the grace of God. I was told that if it had happened during the night then he wouldnít have survived. So, if it wasnít for this monitor I would probably have been continually checking that my baby was still breathing. But, this monitor does not prevent cot death, what it does do is alert you to the fact that baby hasnít breathed for 20 seconds, so that you have time to administer first aid (I would advise all parents to take a first aid course). It did take me a long time to stop relying on the monitor, and I would find it hard to sleep without checking it was on, which in turn made me even more paranoid.
Price & Availability
I bought my AC401 about nine months ago from Amazon for £59.99 and it is still available there for £56.99 including free delivery. This seems to be the cheapest price that it is available for.
The Angelcare AC401 is a fairly good sound and movement monitor that is available at a reasonable price. Itís not the fullest featured monitor available, (itís not two-way and thereís no video), but it does pack in a fair number of features for the price. Being digital, the actual monitor function is good, with little interference whether the parent if indoors or out, the night light gives a gentle glow and the temperature display may be useful to some. The movement sensor seems to work extremely well both in a moses basket and cot, but I would still prefer being able to turn this off and still use the monitor. All-in-all I think I would recommend this monitor and am giving it four stars out of five.
Great review of a great product. We still use this now that Baby B is 20 months old! It has definitely given us peace of mind- she likes to sleep in in the mornings and we can rest assured that she is just sleeping and nothing's happened to her so we don't have to go in the room to check. Great review E
plipplopfromdooyoo 17.12.2010 15:09
Advice definitely well delivered here - I'm sure a lot of new parents are thirsty for recommendations so that they don't waste their money!!