If we travel back just a couple of decades ago, we would find that parents used to have a lot fewer modern conveniences to help us in the day to day. Nowadays, however, parents have a lot more tools in their arsenal that were likely not available a few decades ago. We have swings, several variations of bouncing and vibrating chairs, automatic sterilizers, moving rock and plays, and the list goes on. I know some of us would gladly declare we may not have survived those first months without our favorite baby gadgets, but what are the possible drawbacks of relying too much on technology? At a recent trade show, I had the opportunity to view one of the newest tools to help parents, called the SNOO Smart Sleeper Bassinet created by Dr. Harvey Karp, which costs over $1200, though you can now rent one.
The SNOO is a rocking bassinet that adjusts its speed and white noise level, based on your baby’s crying. As a mom who has been through countless sleepless nights, and has helped sleep-deprived parents everywhere, I was able to see the benefit for those desperate moments when you don’t have someone to help and are in desperate need of some rest, or just a shower 🙂 But, it also got me thinking about how much parenting has changed, and whether we are moving in a direction where parenting is getting progressively more automated.
Now, Dr. Karp makes a very valid point, that another noteworthy change that parents of today have compared to parents from just a few decades ago, is less help (that’s why we are here as an extension of your village!). Parents today are able to count on less and less help from family and their community, as more and more of us live far away from family members, and those who live close have their own work and parenting responsibilities. Unfortunately, we no longer have aunts and grandmas who can hold and rock the baby for a couple of hours while you eat some lunch or just sleep, and if we are lucky enough to have some family help, it is typically only a week or two after baby is born. This is where a SNOO would be a big help.
Another instance where a SNOO would be a welcome helping hand is for parents of twins, or multiples, where they have double or triple the work! The SNOO would keep one baby content while you change their twin’s diaper or give them a feeding. High needs babies, who need constant soothing and holding, would ideally have 2 parents at home to care for them, but that is not always possible. The SNOO could be a great help there, too.
With these scenarios in mind, a SNOO becomes a welcome addition to any household with a small baby. But, after seeing it in action in the video and having some time to weigh the pros and cons, I also have some concerns. The first is that the bassinet is flat, and as of right now, there is no option to incline the sleep surface. Given that so many newborn babies experience reflux and benefit tremendously from sleeping on an incline, the SNOO may not be very useful for these babies. In addition, since moms don’t know whether their baby will have reflux or not, this would be enough to discourage me from buying it in advance, especially with the price tag.
Another very important concern is that if a newborn baby is soothed back to sleep too quickly, they may miss important feedings, and this may negatively impact their growth (and mom’s milk supply if breastfeeding). If a baby cries in the SNOO, it will attempt to soothe the baby back to sleep or calm for 3 minutes. After these 3 minutes are up, the SNOO will stop and send a message to the parent’s phone to come check on the baby. This is an important feature, but it may not be enough to resolve the feeding concerns, because a common pattern for babies is to cry, then calm or go back to sleep when soothed, then cry again 10 minutes later, fall back asleep when soothed, cry again 10 minutes later, and repeat. In my opinion, the SNOO would need to alert parents if this situation happened, because in my experience, this typically indicates hunger. Even though the baby may go back to sleep quickly, if she wakes frequently every 10 minutes or so, she more than likely needs a feeding.
A final consideration is whether parents should use the SNOO as soon as a baby is born, or whether they would opt to use only if they experience severe sleep problems that are not resolved by the traditional 5 S’s for which Dr. Karp is known? For more adaptable babies who may need less soothing and could potentially have more sleep independence, is it possible the SNOO might even get in the way of that independence and cause more sleep problems down the road?
All in all, it looks like the SNOO would be another good tool in a parent’s toolbox, which does not mean you have to use it non-stop. Just like many things, moderation is key as we don’t want to replace human touch with a machine. As many of us know, sometimes those early months can be tough and all of us need to take breather, take a shower, or have a snack 🙂 But I do hope the creators of SNOO evaluate the possibility of missed or delayed feedings, and the needs of babies with reflux, as those would be enough to give me pause if I was considering getting my own SNOO.