Parental instincts are such that laying your precious newborn down in a high-tech bassinet that can not only sense when she’s crying but also jiggle and shush her back to sleep might seem unnatural. Mankind is meant to care for its young, not pass them off to a robot. But for some bleary-eyed parents, the SNOO bassinet, shipping Nov. 1, may not seem so dystopian. “Sleep deprivation plus the screams of crying babies are used to train Navy SEALs to endure torture,” said pediatrician Harvey Karp, who conceived SNOO with the help of industrial-design star Yves Behar. “That’s everyday life for the average couple taking care of a new baby.”
Among new moms and dads, Dr. Karp is something of a celebrity. To understand the fuss, watch a few YouTube videos of him quieting screaming infants in seconds. In his book “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” he evangelizes a seemingly miraculous newborn-soothing technique that entails swaddling an infant, vigorously bouncing her (while supporting neck and head) and making a spirited “SHHHHHH” sound directly next to her adorable little ears.
The SNOO bassinet automates that process. When the bassinet’s microphones detect crying, hidden speakers play specially engineered baby-lulling white noise while a gimbal motor rotates the bassinet mattress to and fro. The intensity of the motion mirrors the intensity of the crying.
According to Dr. Karp, over the course of 250-plus preliminary tests, the bassinet could “usually calm a crying baby in less than a minute.” And he stresses that the technique only comforts fussing from fatigue; if the baby is hungry, wet or sick, obviously parents need to get involved. “We don’t want people thinking this is some kind of magic bed—a ‘Neglect-o-Matic’ or whatever you want to call it—where you just put the baby down and they sleep for eight hours,” he said. “Babies don’t do that.”
Retailing for $1,160, the SNOO is among the most expensive bassinets on the market. But Dr. Karp is quick to point out that SNOO does some of the work of a private night nurse for the equivalent of $7 a day. (The bassinet is recommended for children 6 months and younger.) Besides, having this kind of assistance isn’t a luxury so much as a modern necessity; most couples are raising children without the support of parents, siblings or neighbors. “You’re not the only person who’s supposed to be hugging your baby. You’re supposed to have that extra help,” he said. SNOO is just an attempt to mitigate this societal shift. It should “be like having your mother-in-law in your bedroom without having your mother-in-law in your bedroom.”