I started reviewing baby-related technology a few weeks after my wife delivered our first child. But dealing with the forced frugality of early parenthood (our "Friday-night-movie" money has been reallocated into "diapers-and-wipes" money) at the same time as testing the trendiest and priciest infant tech has made me reluctant to label any products "must-buy."
Then I put my infant son in the Fisher-Price Deluxe Newborn Auto Rock 'n Play Sleeper with SmartConnect (or if you hate long product names like I do, the SmartConnect Sleeper). It's a simple sleeper that works during the first year or so of your baby's life. It keeps them comfortably on their back to avoid SIDS, and features a curved base so parents can rock their children to sleep. More notably, the SmartConnect Sleeper offers automated movement that helps soothe your child as well as a Bluetooth-connected app so you can do so hands-free. And did I mention the cost? The sleeper is $100, a surprisingly reasonable price when similar products without the smarts can cost as much as $150.
Every baby's needs are different, but the SmartConnect Sleeper offers enough features to appeal to most parents. Personally, after testing and living with the sleeper for a couple weeks, my family's having a hard time adjusting to life without it. It's well worth a $100 investment if you're in need of a little calm in the hectic life of new parenthood. For that reason, the SmartConnect Sleeper has earned CNET's Editors' Choice Award.
What it does
The Fisher-Price SmartConnect Sleeper has a pretty standard basic design. The plush material that cradles your baby is comfortable and breathes well. The sleeper rocks on the curved tracks at its base. You can even attach the included textured plastic rings to the harness so your baby can receive tactile stimulation while falling asleep.
Here's where the smarts come in: On the side of the sleeper, a control panel allows you to queue music, ambient sound, vibration and rocking. This control panel is replicated on the iOS and Android-compatible app with more precision -- you can control vibration patterns and intensity, rocking speed and even specify particular environmental sound effects.
Other devices feature vibration and speakers (although SmartConnect's are better than). The novel addition is the automatic rocking. A short leg extends from the bottom of one of the sleeper tracks and rocks the baby. It's a simple mechanism, but it moves the baby like you do when you're rocking them to sleep.