It's the one thing that new parents just can't prepare for, regardless of how many products they buy. The sleep deprivation they experience can be nothing short of torture — after all, militaries around the world use the technique to interrogate prisoners — making it detrimental to parents' mental and physical health. And while there are plenty of products on the market that try to lull newborns and infants to sleep, few give parents the hours-long stretches they really need.
"Parents today have a harder job than ever before," Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the wildly popular The Happiest Baby series of parenting guides, says. "Up to 50 years ago, you had five nannies . . . a whole network of hands to hold your baby. With most families having two working parents, it's exhausting." After more than 30 years of helping parents through the difficult "fourth trimester" — the term Dr. Karp gives for babies' first three months of life — he is moving beyond the pages of his books and videos and building products based on the success of his international bestsellers, the first of which launches today.
The Happiest Baby SNOO may be the world's most technologically advanced bassinet, incorporating Dr. Karp's famed five S's into product form. A beautiful sleeper on its own with a modern wood and mesh design, the bassinet features a mattress that produces white noise and "swings" up to one-half inch each direction to help lull babies to sleep. Hidden microphones detect a waking baby and signal the sleeper to respond with increasing sound and motion, basically providing the same response parents would when a newborn fusses in the middle of the night. Should a baby fuss for more than three minutes, the bassinet shuts off, signaling that the baby is distressed by something that needs parental involvement — a diaper change or a feeding.
"You wouldn't bring your baby into bed if you were drunk," he says, so why would you bring your baby into bed when you're exhausted?
But perhaps the most unique feature on the SNOO is the sleep sack Dr. Karp developed to ensure that newborns stay on their backs throughout the night. The SNOO Sack replaces the swaddle — which has a tendency to come undone, making new parents nervous about suffocation — with a tight sleep sack with "wings" that attach to the sides of the bassinet. Although the design is unusual, it's also practical, making it impossible for a baby to flip over onto his or her stomach overnight.
The SNOO is the first of what Dr. Karp hopes will be an entire line of products created to help parents seamlessly ease the newest member of their family into their home. And it comes at a price. The entire system — including two sizes of swaddlers — will cost $1,160 and is now available at high-end home and baby emporiums. But Dr. Karp says $7 a day — what the SNOO will cost if it is used for the first six months of a baby's life, as it's intended — is a small price to pay for the peace of mind knowing your baby is safe and comfortable.
"Seventy percent of parents will bring their baby into bed with them when [the baby] cries out in the middle of the night," Dr. Karp says. He equates this phenomenon with "drunk parenting" — parents being so sleep-deprived that their brains operate as if they are drunk. "You wouldn't bring your baby into bed if you were drunk," he says, so why would you bring your baby into bed when you're exhausted? Though the SNOO won't magically help a baby sleep through the night, it will give parents more consecutive hours of sleep and teach a newborn about sleep cues that will train them to sleep on their own when they're ready to do so.
As a mom who would have done pretty much anything to get her baby to fall back asleep at 4 a.m., the SNOO sounds like a miracle in the making. In fact, as a mom who fully subscribed to Dr. Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block philosophy — and gives the book to every new parent she meets — it sounds like he's ready to add a sixth S to the philosophy — SNOO.