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Jennifer Van Grove: Snoozing On The Mommy Job

By Jennifer Van Grove San Diego Union-Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Jennifer Van Grove shares her experiences with the "Snoo". As Van Grove put's it, "It's funny (but not) how minimal sleep and lengthy stretches of trying to comfort an inconsolable baby will eventually make $1,200 sound like a totally fair price to pay for a baby bed."

San Diego Union-Tribune

Earlier this year, I brought home something both completely life-changing and terrifying. Sure, I could be talking about Makena, my now 3-month old baby girl. But really I'm referring to Snoo, the smart bassinet that my husband and I purchased after a month or so of sleep deprivation.

The invention of Dr. Harvey Karp, the pediatrician and author behind the Happiest Baby enterprise, Snoo promises better sleep for baby, and parents by association, by using a combination of white noise and movement to lull your wee one, encased in the accompanying swaddle sack, to sleep.

The bassinet doubles as an always-on soothing device, equipped with tiny microphones to cycle through five levels of louder sound and faster jiggling that correspond with the intensity of baby's cries. It turns off, and notifies parents via push notification, only when the baby can't be calmed.

In some ways, Snoo is like a more hands-on Amazon Echo for a newborn, meaning it's a digital assistant always listening for its wake word, or cry, in this case, and equipped to respond with an answer that's more often right than wrong.

Confession time. I didn't have the mental capacity to ponder the potential pitfalls of this too-good-to-be-true sounding gadget before buying one. Nope. I just needed help, and fast.

Later, I would read about other moms' concerns, which range from fear about the Snoo interfering with parents' ability to bond with their babies to outright disdain for parents who are seemingly lazy and unwilling to rock their babies to sleep. One might also worry about what Happiest Baby will do with babies' sleep data, which the company does collect, or be uneasy about introducing infants to a device at birth.

But our introduction to the Snoo went something like this: A close friend who came to stay with us for the second week of our little girl's life recounted how one of her friend's bought "this really expensive and fancy" bassinet when her newborn proved to be a very bad sleeper. My husband and I Googled said sleeper and chuckled to ourselves in disbelief that anyone would spend $1,200 on a bassinet.

Fast-forward a week or two and, after a particularly cacophonous day, I happened upon, "The Happiest Baby on the Block," a 16-year-old book authored by Karp that teaches a method he calls "the 5 S's", standing for swaddle, side-stomach position, shush, swing and suck, for calming a crying baby.

The book also reasons that all babies are born three or four months before they're ready for the world. This fourth-trimester message and the calming techniques really resonated me, so much so that I couldn't stop myself from daydreaming about Karp's magic-sounding bassinet based around the same thinking.

It's funny (but not) how minimal sleep and lengthy stretches of trying to comfort an inconsolable baby will eventually make $1,200 sound like a totally fair price to pay for a baby bed.

We ended up buying our Snoo second hand for $580, making the cost even easier to stomach. Thank you, Facebook Marketplace.

Truthfully, we have no regrets, even after having ample time to contemplate the ramifications of a machine coddling our baby night after night.

Our baby loves her Snoo, so much so that I can now set her down in it and watch as she transitions from a state of fussiness to utter zen in a matter of seconds.

It's not atypical for her go down at 8:30 p.m. partially awake and stay in the Snoo until 5 a.m. before we need to intervene.

Granted if she's hungry, has a dirty diaper or just isn't in the mood to chill, the Snoo won't be able to work its magic and we happily resume our regular parenting duties. We are, after all, now rested enough to function at our best.

But I get why you might judge us. It does, on occasion, feel like we're cheating our way through the infant stage. Karp, who I recently interviewed for a forthcoming U-T podcast series, reasons that the Snoo merely uses technology to do the most ancient thing of all: rock and soothe babies.

"Today, if you have a nanny or night nurse, you're pretty well off. If you have two or three of them, you're positively wealthy," he told me.

"But up until 100 years ago, and throughout the entire history of humanity, parents had five or six nannies. They had the grandmother, the aunt, the older sister, your next door neighbor, the next door neighbor's older daughter. You had a whole cadre of helpers.

What parents are doing today, by raising a baby on their own, which they think is normal, couldn't be more abnormal.

Really, what Snoo is ... it's your older sister. It's the person who came to your house and said, 'you know what, Jenn, you sleep. I'm going to rock, shush and hold the baby all night long and I'll get you if Makena's hungry."

Karp, of course, is used to being pressed on the foreignness of Snoo. For instance, when peppered about whether this is introducing too much tech too soon, he retorted that it's no different than putting the baby in a swing or a car.

"If you imitate, give (infants) the sensations that they're used to for nine months in the womb, why wouldn't we do that? Then they're going to sleep better and calm faster," he said. "Just like you. You could sleep on the floor, but you're used to sleeping on a bed with certain sheets, or a pillow or a blanket. Why should I take that away from you if that's how you sleep better?"

I suppose whether you accept Karp's rationale or not is a choice based on your own baby belief system. The only reassurance I need is this: I can sleep at night. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Jennifer Van Grove covers e-commerce and digital lifestyle for The San Diego Union Tribune.

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