If you're a sleep-deprived parent of a newborn like me, you'd probably give just about anything for a few more hours of sleep. This is especially true if you're back at work where naps are hard to come by.
More sleep is what the Snoo Smart Sleeper promises to give you for $1,160. Pre-baby, I might have been deterred by the price tag. But now I know how sleep deprivation has taken a serious toll on my life, and I think differently.
What's so special about the Snoo?
The Snoo was created by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp. In the parenting world, he's renowned for his baby-whisperer superpowers. His book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block," and the companion DVD gives parents the "5 S" approach to soothing a newborn: swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing and suck. His methods are based on the notion that the first three months of life are more like a fourth trimester of pregnancy in which the baby still needs to feel like he or she in the womb.
Karp's approach was the basis for the bassinet. He worked with MIT Media Lab trained engineers and designer Yves Béharto turn his 5 S method into a device that mimics the womb by using technology to swaddle, swing and shush babies back to sleep.
How it works
It may look like a fancy bassinet, but the Snoo is full of tech, from top to bottom. It has three microphones, a speaker and two motors that create different rocking motions.
To turn on the Snoo, you have to swaddle the baby in one of the Snoo's sleep sacks and clip the sack into the sides of the bassinet. This is to ensure that your baby won't roll over in the middle of the night. Once the baby is in place, you start the Snoo with a button on the base or with the Snoo iOS or Android app on your phone. This will initiate a gentle rocking motion and a soft white noise that sounds like rainfall.
When the baby starts to cry, the microphones signal the motors to intensify the movement and the speaker to change the white noise to a higher frequency that's supposed to help calm the baby. It will continue to bump up to the next level until level four. Once the Snoo has comforted your baby, the bassinet will slowly decrease to the default level. If your baby is hungry or has a dirty diaper and continues to cry past level four, the Snoo will shut down and send you a notification alerting you that your baby needs attention.
The Snoo companion app allows you to control the bassinet remotely even when you're not connected to the same Wi-Fi, which is helpful once the baby is sleeping in his own room.
You can get away with not using the Snoo app and rely on the button, but it's nice to have control over the levels and settings. The app also allows you to lock the Snoo at a certain level, set a limit on the maximum level reached and adjust the sound sensitivity.
I've been testing the Snoo with our baby, Samuel, from the moment we came back from the hospital in mid-May. We've used it mostly at night and just recently for naps.
The first six weeks were a blur as my husband and I tried to figure out how to care for a newborn. Since most newborns need to feed every two to three hours (even at night), there wasn't much the Snoo could do to get us more sleep than those short bursts. What it did give us, however, was peace of mind. I'd have nightmares in those early days about all the possible ways he could die in his sleep. The fact that he was on his back clipped in with no other objects in his crib gave me more confidence as a new parent.
What we learned
Get a back-up Snoo sack and mattress cover for leaks and blow-outs. The Snoo comes with three different-sized sacks and a fitted sheet, but that wasn't enough for Samuel. Diaper leaks meant we were up in the middle of the night blow-drying the Snoo sack and the sheet so we could put him back down. Once we ordered more, the late-night blow-drying got better.
Also, if you're worried about the intensity of the rocking motion, you can limit the levels on the app. I opted to have it max out at level two for the first two months.
After the initial chaos, I started to notice the perks of having the Snoo. Putting Samuel down at night and after late-night feedings was way easier. When I put him down in his "dumb" bassinet, I had to rock him with my hand on his chest for at least 15 minutes just to coax him into sleep, which seems like an eternity at 3 a.m. The Snoo did the work for me. Most nights, it would rock him back to sleep in the time it would take me to get back from the bathroom. And I'm pretty sure he'd sleep for a longer stretches in the Snoo. But since his sleep was so varied, there's no way for me to know for certain.
What we learned
Samuel is a loud sleeper, he groans and lets out little wails throughout the night. Most nights they were loud enough to wake me up, but not loud enough to activate the next level on the Snoo. Once we increased the sound sensitivity on the Snoo, it would pick up sooner, which meant he would calm down faster and make less noise. I still couldn't sleep through that first wail, but at least I didn't feel like I had to run to his side right away.
The four-month sleep regression
We were inching closer and closer to that eight-hour sleep stretch when we hit month four, which coincided with my return to work. And let me tell you, the four-month sleep regression is no joke. Samuel started waking up every at least four times a night again. Not even the Snoo could keep him down. But I'm pretty sure it would be 10 times a night without the Snoo.
What we learned
You can lock the Snoo on a higher level to help soothe him faster during the four month sleep regression when they start waking up more often. That and loading him up on milk before bedtime helped us prolonge the first stretch of sleep.
The last months and transition to the crib
The Snoo sticks with you and your baby until he or she is 6 months old. Then, your baby will have transition into a traditional crib. The app has a "transition" mode that turns off the motion on the Snoo once the baby is calm to help ease him or her out. And the large sleep sack has an arms-out option to help transition him or her out of the swaddle.
We're still trying to survive month four, so stay tuned for the transition update in a few months.
Is it worth it?
If the Snoo gets you more sleep and peace of mind during those brutal early months, and you can afford it, absolutely! It hasn't given us a full night's sleep yet, but it's definitely given us more sleep, which is more than most parents can ask for. But there's no guarantee that it will have the same effect on your baby. So if you think it may help your little one, give it the 30-day trial. The most you can lose is more sleep.