Like many parents to be, physician Tania Elliott was worried about being sleep-deprived once her baby arrived.
So the Long Island City resident and her husband invested in a high-tech solution: a stylish, $1,300 computerized Snoo bassinet, which promises to boost a baby’s slumber by one to two hours.
Parents zip their infant into a special swaddle sack that then clips into the Snoo Smart Sleeper, ensuring baby stays on his or her back. The gadget sways and plays calming noises. It has sensors that detect if a baby wakes up and then signal it to rock more vigorously or play white noise. If that doesn’t get Junior back to sleep, an alarm sounds to alert Mom and/or Dad. There’s also an app to control the contraption remotely.
Elliott’s baby is now 3 months old, and the new mom is happy with her investment: “Having an almost extra pair of hands to hold and rock her [has been] like gold to me.”
Since it first launched in 2016, the Snoo crib has gone from a curious luxury for millennial parents to a common splurge that’s increasingly accessible. Earlier this year, the company started a rental program priced at $112 per month, and there’s a growing market for parents looking to buy or sell used Snoos on Craigslist and eBay. (It’s meant for newborns and babies as old as 6 months, although some outgrow it sooner.) Snoo’s parent company, Happiest Baby, Inc., raised $23 million in second-round funding at the end of 2018.
But while some parents think the costly contraption is heaven-sent, others are slamming it as an expensive and unnecessary robot parent.
“It’s gotten a ton of hype, but I think we need to be realistic that it’s not going to 100 percent guarantee eight hours of consistent sleep from Day 1,” says Katie Dill, an Upper West Side mom and blogger at Bash & Co. who used a Snoo for her second child, born last May.
Much of the hype is due to its high-profile creator and supporters. The Snoo was invented by Los Angeles-based, Queens-raised pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of the 2002 perpetual best seller, “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” and his wife Nina Montée. Initial investors included Justin Timberlake, Zoe Saldana and Scarlett Johansson.
The gadget embodies Karp’s idea of the “fourth trimester,” which stresses the need to create a womblike environment for newborns to feel safe and calm. Thanks to his invention, he’s said that “usually by 2 or 3 months [babies] are sleeping seven, eight, nine hours in a row.” He also hails it as “the safest baby bed ever made” because it positions infants on their backs and keeps them from potentially rolling over. (According to the National Institutes of Health, having an infant sleep on his or her back, which can also be done in a traditional bassinet, greatly reduces the risk of SIDS.)
Safety concerns and sleep were selling points for Carly Marks, a 36-year-old mother from Cherry Hill, NJ. When her husband, Josh Dodes, saw a Snoo ad on Facebook when she was trying to get pregnant, the two were sold. When her baby came home from the hospital, it worked like a charm. “I put her in the Snoo crying — she closed her eyes and went to sleep, just like the ad,” says Mark.
‘Babies need to be held and talked to.’
She was so impressed with the robo crib that, 14 months ago, she launched a Facebook group called Snoo Mamas, which has quickly grown to more than 3,800 users. “There are a lot of questions that only a Snoo user can answer,” she says.
But not all users say it’s a godsend. Nikole Feliciano, from Long Island City, is happy with the Snoo, but says sometimes the motion limiter doesn’t work: Rather than rocking more gently at Levels 1 and 2, it goes up to 3 and 4 by itself. “Those are too aggressive,” says the 30-year-old, who works in higher education. “At Level 4, it rocks quite fast, and the baby cries.”
And Philadelphia pediatrician Gary Emmett doesn’t recommend it at all. “Any machine that takes children away from human beings’ touch and language is not going to help them grow up to be their best,” he says. “Babies need to be held and talked to,”
Or, as Dill so succinctly puts it, “Robomom just isn’t a substitute for Mom or Dad snuggles.”
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