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Snoo review: Is this smart bassinet worth it?

This smart crib promises to give parents more sleep by soothing their crying babies and keeping them safely on their back. Find out if it delivers on its promises.

CNET

If, like me, you're a sleep-deprived parent of a newborn, 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 exactly what the Snoo Smart Sleeper promises. Prebaby, I might have been deterred by the price: $1,160 for a bassinet you're only going to use for the first six months of your baby's life, but now you have the option of renting it for a lot less. And now that I've witnessed the effects of sleep deprivation firsthand, I know just how valuable sleep is to your physical and mental health. And while the Snoo is by no means a fail-safe solution that'll have you're baby sleeping through the night from day 1, it can definitely help get you there. 

What's so special about the Snoo smart sleeper?

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 "Five 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 they are in the womb. 

Karp's approach was the basis for the bassinet. He worked with MIT Media Lab trained engineers and designer Yves Béharto turned his Five S method into a device that mimics the womb by using technology to swaddle, swing and shush babies back to sleep.

Here's how the Snoo bassinet 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.

If it starts to fuss, the built-in microphones will pick up the baby's first cries and 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 it reaches level 4. If the Snoo succeeds at comforting your baby, the bassinet will slowly decrease to the default base level. But if your baby continues to cry past level 4 (because they're hungry or need a fresh diaper), 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 via the same Wi-Fi network, which is helpful once baby is sleeping in his or her own room.  

You can rely solely on the physical button on the base of the crib to stop or change the motion, but you'll get a lot more customization options from the app. It lets you lock the Snoo at a certain level, set a limit on the maximum level reached, adjust how quickly it responds to your baby, and control the volume of the white noise. It also provides a detailed sleep log for each night as well as a broader look at your baby's sleep patterns over recent weeks or months. 

Now playing: Watch this: A sleeping baby with the push of a button
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I started testing out the Snoo with my son Samuel from the moment we brought him home from the hospital, using it mostly at night  up until he was about five-and-a-half months old. In hindsight I should've probably been a bit more diligent about putting him in it for naps too, because consistency can increase your odds of creating better sleep habits in the long run.  

0 to 6 weeks in the Snoo

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 than just those short bursts of sleep. My son was also very slow at breastfeeding, which meant I'd be up feeding him for an hour at a time. What it did give us, however, was peace of mind. After hearing so much about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), I remember having nightmares about my baby dying in his sleep, so I would often just stay up watching him breathe. Knowing he was safely swaddled on his back in the Snoo gave me some comfort during those stressful early days. 

Tip: Buy extra Snoo sleep sacks

Get at least one backup Snoo sack and fitted mattress cover for leaks and blowouts. The Snoo comes with three different-size sacks and a fitted sheet, but that wasn't enough for Samuel. We didn't always get his diaper sized right, so diaper messes were a common occurrence in our household. I can't tell you how many times my husband and I were up blow-drying Snoo sacks and fitted sheets in the middle of the night while our little guy waited patiently to be put back down. Once we ordered more, the late-night blow-drying got better.

Also, if the rocking motion is too intense for your newborn, you can limit the level at which it maxes out on the app. I opted to have it top out at level 2 for the first six weeks until I felt comfortable enough with the faster motion.

First spotted at CES 2017, the Snoo comes with everything you need including 3 of the sleep-sacks for your baby.

Sarah Tew/CNET

2 to 3 months in the Snoo

After the initial chaos, I started to appreciate having the Snoo a lot more. Putting Sam to sleep at night and after those late-night feedings was a lot faster. When I put him down in his "dumb" bassinet (for naps or trips), I had to rock him with my hand on his chest for at least 15 minutes just to coax him back to sleep, which can seem 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.

Tip: Customize in the Snoo app

Sam was a loud sleeper, he groaned and let out little wails throughout the night. 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. 

4 month sleep regression in the Snoo

We were inching closer and closer to that eight-hour sleep stretch when we hit month 4, which coincided with my return to work. And let me tell you, the four-month sleep regression is no joke. Sam started waking up at least four times a night again, and not even the Snoo could keep him down. But I'm pretty sure it would have been 10 times a night without the Snoo.

Tip: Lock the Snoo motion level

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 prolong the first stretch of sleep.

6 months: Weaning from the Snoo and transitioning to a crib

The Snoo sticks with you and your baby until they are about six months old. Then, your baby will have to 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 them out of Snoo dependence. The larger sleep sacks also have an arms-out option to help transition him or her out of the swaddle once baby is starting to turn.

Tip: Avoid transitioning too early 

Stick to the program and make one change at a time, especially when you're going through a major transition. We had a really rough time getting over the four-month sleep regression with Sam. That, coupled with my return to work, really threw us for a loop. We tried taking his arms out of the swaddle cold turkey, putting him in his big boy crib, and testing out every swaddle and sleep sack on the market. In hindsight we should've just stuck with the program and weathered out the regression instead of making matters worse. 

After over month of chaos, we finally made progress by putting him back in the Snoo with both arms in, but evicting him into his own room (we'd been co-sleeping up until that point). We didn't get a full eight hours, but he went from waking up four times a night to one. Once the brain fog had lifted we slowly started trying it with one arm out, then worked our way up to two and then finally activated the weaning mode. The transition to the crib wasn't seamless, but it wasn't as bad as the perfect storm we had made for ourselves during that four month mark.

Is the Snoo worth it?

If your budget allows, and you're planning on using it again down the line, I'd say it's a sound investment, especially with the 30-day trial. For us, it was. The Snoo helped Samuel fall asleep faster, giving me more time to sleep between feedings, it got him sleeping for longer stretches and most importantly, I could rest easy knowing he was safely sleeping on his back. 

But each baby and each family is different, and there's no guarantee it will work for you. You might get one of those unicorn babies that sleeps through the night from day 1 and not need to spend upwards of $1,000 on a bassinet.  

If you're on the fence, or you don't think you'll need it again I would highly recommend renting one instead. It costs $118 per month plus a $49.50 reconditioning fee, and you only have to commit to one month. Plus you don't have to store it once your baby has outgrown it.