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Preparing for baby’s arrival involves lots of planning and list-making. You’ve got a crib, plenty of diapers and bottles, and adorable little outfits.

So what’s this about a humidifier? You’ll likely see a humidifier on all those must-have baby registry lists — and for good reason. If your baby gets sick with a cold or other respiratory illness — and this isn’t really an if as much as it is a when — you can’t always give medicine. Humidifying the air may help ease your little one’s symptoms.

Although they all serve the same purpose, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all humidifier. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right type for your unique baby, what features you may want to look for, and how to keep your chosen humidifier running safely.

Related: Our favorite healthy finds: New mom must-haves

A humidifier may be particularly useful if your baby is born in cold weather months. For example, if you have forced hot air heat, your home may feel dry and give your little one congestion or dry skin. Colds and flu may cause cough, sore throats, and stuffy nasal passages.

A humidifier can help with these complaints because it adds water back to the air, easing symptoms without medication and restoring moisture to dry skin and nasal passages.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to humidifiers. They can be difficult to clean, especially if you use tap water and minerals build up in the tank. They can also be noisy, disrupting precious sleep. And some types may even be unsafe for your infant or young child.

Related: What you should know about colds in newborn babies

To make matters more complicated, there are actually two main types when it comes humidifiers, and they work differently.

  • Cool mist humidifiers release moisture into the air in a few different ways. Ultrasonic humidifiers use sound waves (vibrations) to create mist. Impeller humidifiers, alternatively, use a rotating disk. There are also evaporative humidifiers on the market that make mist by blowing air through a wet filter or wick.
  • Warm mist humidifiers — also called steam vaporizers — boil water, turning it into steam that’s released into the air.

Both types of humidifiers work equally well at adding moisture to a room. And despite how the mist is created, the temperature is the same by the time it reaches your child’s airways.

Regardless, the American Academyof Pediatrics (AAP) recommends cool mist humidifiers for babies and children. Why exactly? Because the boiling water and hot steam from warm mist humidifiers is a burn risk, particularly in the event that a child gets up close to the unit.

Keep in mind

Warm mist and cool mist humidifiers work equally well at getting the job done, but experts generally recommend cool mist as safer for nurseries and children’s rooms.

The humidifiers here earn high marks from customers for their quality, performance, and overall value. Other considerations include ease of cleaning and safety features that make them fit for a nursery.

And since you’re looking for your baby, we’ve also considered extra bells and whistles, like built-in night-lights or sound machines.

Price: $$$

Key features: This Levoit humidifier holds a whopping 1.6 gallons of water for up to 36 hours of moisture. It can be used in large rooms up to 753 square feet and also features a remote control, 1- to 12-hour timer schedules, and auto-shutoff.

And — get this — you can use this humidifier in a cool mist or warm mist setting, depending on your needs. This unit also features a night-light you can turn on or off.

Considerations: Some people feel that this machine functioned great at first but then stopped working after a few months of continuous use. Others say the large tank leaks and develops chips and cracks with time.

A few people say it can be difficult to clean — a bit of a common theme with humidifiers.

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Price: $$$

Key features: This Honeywell humidifier offers ultraviolet technology to kill up to 99.9 percent of bacteria in the water. Beyond that, its 1-gallon capacity allows it to run for 24 hours on low, making it a good choice for medium-sized bedrooms.

The cool mist is made using evaporation — blowing moisture off a wicking filter. The manufacturer claims that using this method means you can’t “over-humidify” a room. Reviewers say this unit is easy to clean — a feature well worth paying attention to for something that needs cleaning as often as a humidifier.

Considerations: The price for the units and the filters has been going up over the past few years. It’s a bit bulky, and some people feel that does make a good amount of noise even on the lowest setting.

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Price: $$

Key features: The Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier is recommended for medium to large bedrooms, nurseries, and offices. Its 1-gallon tank allows the unit to run for 24 hours. This humidifier doesn’t require a filter. As a bonus, you may use this humidifier with Vicks VapoPads for scent.

Considerations: Again, experts recommend cool mist humidifiers for children. If you’re set on using a warm mist, be sure to put it in an out-of-reach spot. This unit may be louder than other models. Some people feel mineral buildup on the heating element is a big issue if you’re using tap water.

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Price: $

Key features: While small, the half-gallon tank on the Vicks mini provides up to 20 hours of moisture and is perfect for small rooms, like nurseries. The moisture from this unit is cool mist and doesn’t require you to purchase pricey filters. As with other Vicks humidifiers, you can use it with Vicks VapoPads for scent.

Considerations: People say this mini humidifier is difficult to clean and that mold forms in areas that are nearly impossible to get to. Others share that the motor is loud and isn’t built to last — some had it fail within a few months of occasional use.

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Price: $$

Key features: With almost 13,000 reviews on Amazon, the Pure Enrichment MistAire Humidifier is a popular choice for ultrasonic cool mist. It features 16 hours of quiet operation, an automatic shut-off option, and even a night-light. The 1.5-liter tank is appropriate for medium-sized rooms, like bedrooms and nurseries. This unit doesn’t require filters.

Considerations: Some people have had issues with this humidifier leaking more and more with continuous use. Without daily cleaning, it might become moldy — though this is a common concern with humidifiers in general.

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Price: $$

Key features: If you’re looking to match a nursery theme, consider grabbing the Crane Cool Mist Adorable humidifiers. Options include a frog, elephant, cow, dragon, pig, and many more fun animal designs.

As far as function, parents love that the 1-gallon tank provides moisture for 24 hours. It’s made from antimicrobial material to resist bacteria growth up to 99.96 percent. No filter is required to run this unit.

Considerations: The mist emitted from the unit may not seem to reach very far when compared with other humidifiers. Filling the tank (upside down) can be a pain. And as with humidifiers in general, there’s a certain percentage of people that report that their units completely stopped working after only a few months.

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Price: $$$

Key features: According to its fans, the MyBaby SoundSpa cool mist humidifier does it all. It provides moisture, air purification, a sound machine, and a night-light in one handy unit.

The 1-gallon tank can run up to 45 hours in medium-sized rooms and doesn’t require a filter. It also incorporates “clean-tank technology” to prevent mildew and bacteria from forming in the tank.

Considerations: Too good to be true? Maybe — or maybe not. Opinions are pretty split on this product, so it depends who you ask. This unit doesn’t have an auto-off function, so it continues running after the tank has emptied. Some people say it’s very difficult to clean and that mold collects easily.

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Price: $$

Key features: As your little one grows, the Vicks Sweet Dreams Humidifier may soothe them when they’re ill with its ceiling projection night-light (9 different designs). The 1-gallon tank can run up to 24 hours and offers ultrasonic cool mist moisture appropriate for medium-sized rooms.

This humidifier doesn’t require a filter and, as with other Vicks humidifiers, you may use Vicks VapoPads for scent.

Considerations: Unless you place the unit on the floor, the projection images can be quite small and hard to see. The humidifier motor is loud, especially right after turning it on.

Buy it here.

Price: $

Key features: Have two littles sharing a space? The Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360° is a budget-friendly option allows you to direct the mist in two different directions. It features an easy-to-clean and filter-free tank that can hold 2.5 liters of water and run for 24 hours in a small room on low. This humidifier also has an auto-shutoff function.

Considerations: The most common complaint users have is that the mist — when set on high — only lasts for a few hours, requiring frequent refilling even during the night. Also, the tank may not be as easy to clean as the manufacturer claims.

Buy it here.

Price: $

Key features: Need humidity while traveling or otherwise on the go? You can use a 16.9-ounce water bottle with this travel humidifier for up to 6 hours of moisture. This unit runs on either direct current (batteries) or alternating current (plug-in). And it’s small enough to fit easily into carry-ons or diaper bags.

Considerations: While this portable humidifier can be handy, it may become a pain to refill so frequently. It has a night-light, which may sound nice. But FYI: It’s very bright and can’t be turned off.

Buy it here.

ModelPriceTypeMax run timeKid features or cautionsAnti-
microbial materials
Levoit Hybrid Ultrasonic $$$Warm and cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
36 hoursNight-light

Use caution when using warm mist setting to avoid burns.
yes
Honeywell UV Germ Free Cool Mist $$$Cool mist, evaporative

Requires filter
24 hours
yes
Vicks Warm Mist $$Warm mist

No filter
24 hoursUse caution: Place where baby can’t reach.no
Vicks Mini Cool Mist $Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
20 hours
no
Pure Enrichment MistAire $$Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
16 hoursNight-lightno
Crane Cool Mist Adorable$$Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
24 hoursFun animal shapeyes
MyBaby SoundSpa $$$Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
45 hoursSound machine, night-light, air purifier yes
Vicks Sweet Dreams $$Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
24 hours9 designs for ceiling projectionno
Safety 1st 360° $Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
24 hoursShoots moisture in two directions for twins/room-sharingno
Pure Enrichment MistAire Travel $Cool mist, ultrasonic

No filter
6 hoursNight-lightno

Price key (as of 2019)

  • $ = $20 to $35
  • $$ = $36 to $50
  • $$ = more than $50

There are many solid choices when it comes to a humidifier for your baby’s nursery. Choosing the right one for your family comes down to the features you need, the extras you want, and — of course — your budget.

Some tips:

  • In general, the price range for bedroom humidifiers falls between $30 and $90. Most fall within the $30 to $60 range. When choosing based on price, also consider any additional supplies you may need, like filters or wicks, to keep your unit running safely. These can add up!
  • Price may be impacted by built-in features, like night-lights or sound machines. So, if you’re in need of a few different devices, you may be able to get them in one convenient unit.
  • The size of your baby’s room matters when choosing your humidifier. Some are more appropriate for large spaces and others work best in small rooms. You should be able to find some guidelines for square footage on the packaging or in the instruction manual.
  • You’ll likely come across a variety of humidifiers that also feature essential oil diffusers. While this may sound like a nice bonus, not all oils are safe for babies and children. Speak with your doctor before diffusing oils or other scents in your little one’s room.
  • If you decide to use humidifier you already have, check to make sure it hasn’t been recalled. You can look up humidifier recalls on the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for your humidifier before use. There may be specific instructions for how to clean your unit or otherwise keep it running safely.

General tips for operation and maintenance:

  • Check the electric cord before plugging in your humidifier. Any frayed or damaged wires are a fire risk.
  • Also look over other components, like the tank, before switching it on. If the tank looks dirty, follow the instructions for cleaning and sanitizing. Replace filters regularly.
  • Empty your humidifier’s tank each day and allow it to air dry.
  • Do a more thorough cleaning every 3 days. This involves removing scale or depositions that have accumulated in the tank, as well as disinfecting with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Rinse well.
  • Skip tap water. Bottled water with lower mineral content is preferred for use in humidifiers. Look for water labeled “distilled” or “purified” at the store.
  • Consider using a hygrometer to monitor the level of humidity in your baby’s nursery. The level should not exceed 50 percent humidity.
  • Call your pediatrician if you notice your baby’s respiratory symptoms are getting worse while you’re using a humidifier, even if you’re cleaning it properly.

Related: How to deal when you’re sick as a dog while caring for your newborn

There’s certainly a lot to think about as you prepare for your baby’s entrance into the world. If a humidifier sounds like something you might want to add to your must-haves list, try doing your research now.

Remember that babies soon grow into curious, on-the-move toddlers, so following AAP recommendations for cool mist models is probably your best bet when it comes to safety. And be sure to follow all the operation and cleaning instructions in your owner’s manual.