Parenting is hard… and exhausting. Indeed, newborns’ erratic sleep patterns can truly wreak havoc on new parents’ shuteye. But is sleep deprivation a rite of passage into new parenthood? Pediatrician and baby-whisperer Harvey Karp says it doesn’t have to be with the SNOO.
Best known for his “5 S’s strategy” for soothing babies, Karp took his many years of expertise in sleep science to develop the first-ever “smart bassinet.” In 2016, the SNOO Smart Sleeper was born, promising new parents longer and better nights of sleep – for their infants and consequently for them, too. Dubbed “the biggest game-changer” in the sleep department by thousands of reviewers, the SNOO has fascinated the press from its very beginning. We wanted to wait until the product was thoroughly vetted before writing a review of the SNOO. So now it’s verdict-time: can the SNOO really save the day… ahem, night?
I (Charlene) used the SNOO with my second child and put together this tell-all guide about it based on my own experiences, the reflections of dozens of other users, and careful product research to help you figure out whether the SNOO might make a worthwhile purchase for your family.
Is the SNOO worth it?
In a nutshell: possibly. I know, I know – for such a big-ticket item, you’d probably prefer to see a big confident “YESSSS!” But alas, every baby is unique and thus responds differently to different products. What works for one infant may not work for another, so we can’t make any guarantees.
That said, we absolutely LOVED it – my son was sleeping eight hours straight by the time he was 6 weeks old and slept through the night shortly after (more on that later). Though my son might have been born a good sleeper, I like to believe that the SNOO had a little something to do with it.
First things first: let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, the SNOO is pricey. Costing over $1,700 (with taxes), it may be the most expensive piece of baby gear (or furniture period) you’ll ever purchase.
The good news is, its resale value is fairly good, listed for up to $1,000 on various resale websites.
Note that the SNOO purchase comes with a 30-day trial period, so if it’s not working out for you, know that you can return it and get your money back.
How It Works
The SNOO smart bassinet uses womb-like sensations (rocking and swoosh sounds) to help babies fall asleep faster. Thanks to its sensors, the SNOO knows when and how to respond to fussy infants and will use white noise and motion to calm crying and boost sleep.
It has 4 different settings that range between softer and quieter to fall and stay asleep, and faster and louder for midnight meltdowns. If your baby calms down and falls back to sleep, the SNOO will eventually stop the motions and white noise (depending on the settings you decide on). But if the baby remains upset after a few minutes at the highest setting, the SNOO stops and signals through the app that the baby requires your attention (a wet diaper or a little snack, perhaps? Yes, those will still happen. Not even the SNOO can completely eradicate the midnight munchies).
The SNOO comes complete with a mattress, a fitted sheet and three attachable swaddles (one S, one M, and one L to grow with baby). Take it out of its dust bag and attach the legs to the bassinet – an easy process with the colored arrows. Once the arrows are aligned, simply push the leg into the slot until you hear a click to secure them. Then, turn the knobs until you feel some resistance. Repeat this process for each leg.
You’ll then flip the SNOO onto its legs and set it up next to an outlet (*NOTE — it needs to be plugged in!). Your SNOO is ready to use. For a step-by-step on how to set up, visit the brand’s page.
1. Swaddle your baby in one of the SNOO sleep sacks. Choose the size that’s appropriate for your infant’s size/weight. Read more about swaddling.
Made of organic cotton and breathable mesh to avoid overheating, this swaddle is as foolproof as it gets. It features inner velcro panels that keep your baby’s arms tightly down so as to avoid any startle reflex. Once you secure the arms, zip the swaddle closed and voilà! No need to practice secret ninja moves or burrito wrapping every time you swaddle.
We loved this sleep sack, not just because it was easy to use and stress free, but also because my son, though extremely strong and tenacious, never found a way to Houdini his way out of it. Swaddle: 2,436 – Leon: 0.
2. Secure the swaddle to the bassinet with the clip-in wings. This feature is to prevent babies from turning onto their bellies. Remember that the supine position is the best way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
When my first son was an infant, I lost so much sleep not because he wasn’t sleeping, but because I was so freaking worried about sleep safety. Every night, I would sleep with one eye open and constantly check on his positioning and breathing. The new-parent anxiety is REAL, folks (especially if you’re already an anxious person).
With my second, the SNOO’s attached swaddle really gave me peace of mind – there was literally no way for my baby to toss and turn into unsafe positions. That alone made a huge difference in my ability to get more shut-eye. Most parents — even those who aren’t wowed by the SNOO itself — appreciate the security the swaddle provides.
BTW: The SNOO sleep sack was so popular that Karp created the Sleepea: the same SNOO swaddle, but without the clip-in wings, that you can use with any bassinet and/or crib. So you can buy them even if you don’t have a SNOO.
On the downside, if your baby falls asleep anywhere but the SNOO, it can be *awkward and hella annoying to affix your swaddled baby into the SNOO after the fact.
Making this transfer does take some getting used to, but I discovered the trick: put your baby slightly higher in the bassinet than you envision him to be, so that it’s easy to slide the wings into the bed’s attachment. They are fairly stretchy, so it ended up being easier than I anticipated.
Another tip: you may want to try turning the SNOO on before securing the baby, as getting the motion started before putting your baby down seems to be effective for many parents.
3. Turn the bassinet on. The bed will start slowly rocking your baby to sleep while also playing a soft continuous woosh – a sound comparable to what babies hear when they are in the womb. This combo is supposed to help your infant fall asleep on their own, faster. Essentially, the SNOO serves as an extra set of “hands” so you don’t have to do all the rocking at bedtime.
I was skeptical about this^^ at first. After all, nothing beats the sweet, sweet “mom sway.” But I had to accept defeat (or is it a win??) ‘cause by the time Leon was 6 weeks old, he’d fall asleep within minutes. On his own. (“On his own,” HAH.) Meanwhile, I was catching up on Game of Thrones with a glass of wine in hand. We’d bathe him, feed him, sing him a little song, and put him down awake. Shortly after, he was sound asleep, and the SNOO would stop rocking (though we did keep the sound machine going – we live in New York City so our surroundings can be quite loud and disruptive). Magic, y’all.
4. Let the SNOO step in when your baby fusses. Of course, Happiest Baby doesn’t claim that all night wakings will be eliminated. After all, babies still need to eat periodically throughout the night, so some wakings are normal and expected. But when your little one wakes and starts crying in the middle of the night, the bassinet will know to speed the motion up and increase the soothing sound – so you can, hopefully, rest easy.
The company claims that the smart bassinet can soothe babies back to sleep in less than a minute. But if not, that’s when the stronger, higher settings kick in. If the SNOO progresses through all the levels and the baby is still crying, the moving/sound features discontinue and the app sends an alert to let you know that they need you.
This feature really did afford me longer nights at an early stage. While Arthur (my firstborn) didn’t sleep through the night until we sleep-trained him at 8 months old, Leon was sleeping through the night (and I mean, 12 consecutive hours) by 3 months (we didn’t dodge the 4-month-old regression, though it wasn’t as brutal as with Arthur). Sometimes, I actually had to wake him up, and by the time he was just six weeks, my husband and I were routinely getting 8-hour stretches of sleep (#humblebrag).
Does It Actually Work?
Though a majority of parents report success — strong evidence in support of the SNOO’s efficacy — there are also families who used it with two different children and reported it working with one but not the other. Again, to every child their own – that’s what makes shopping for baby things (whether it’s strollers or bottles or swaddles) so difficult. Other parents said they had to figure out their baby’s sleeping schedule and daily/evening routines before the SNOO actually started working for them.
One thing to be aware of: though the company offers settings that will help your baby transition off all the swaying and “white noising” when the time comes, it can be hard for little ones to quit the SNOO (just like it can be hard to quit swaddling…). After all, babies grow accustomed to the constant motion and soothing sounds (shoot, they came out of the womb accustomed to these sounds, which is the entire premise of this space-agey bassinet altogether, hah). We were able to wean Leon off the SNOO gradually by following the same method as the one commonly recommended to wean off the swaddle: freeing up the arms one by one, then using the weaning setting on the bassinet. But many parents said that graduating from the smart bassinet to the crib was a big challenge, and they felt like they were starting from scratch.
One parent said, “Our Snoo stopped moving within 4 weeks of using it. Now we are dealing with a baby that is used to sleeping with the SNOO motion and noise. Bad idea!” This was a used device, but still worth emphasizing: this device is just that — a device — and because it relies on electricity, you do run the risk of finding yourself at the mercy of the technology. If anything happens to the SNOO (a malfunction, say) or the power goes out, you may be sh*t out of luck.
That being said, there are many reports of parents who started using the SNOO because their newborn required endless rocking, swaying, walking, bouncing; whose babies didn’t sleep more than 1.5 consecutive hours at night. And in many of those cases, the smart bassinet did wonders. Some parents say their babies were sleeping 12 consecutive hours at 8 weeks old.
The SNOO’s built-in app doesn’t beat around the bush – it’s simple, straightforward, and has no bells and whistles.
Through the app, you can customize your baby’s SNOO settings. Translation: you can choose your “start” levels for motion and sound (slower/faster and softer/quieter) as well as how responsive you want the bassinet to be to cries and movements.
Additionally, the app doubles as a sleep monitor (note: not an audio or video monitor): it tells you if your baby is calm and sleeping, or if they are fussy and being soothed by the SNOO. It also tracks sleep. I personally didn’t use the stats because I would have driven myself crazy checking it unnecessarily. But if you thrive with data, you’ll enjoy this: you can check the total amount your baby gets each day (nap and nighttime combined), the longest stretch of ZZZs per night, and how much your baby sleeps during the day vs. night (just to name a few).
Some people reported connectivity issues – such as syncing the app with the actual device — which is really unfortunate when you have a fussy baby. Similarly, some users complain that if there’s an internet cutout, power outage or you mistakenly unplug the SNOO (how old fashioned, LOL), reconnecting the bassinet to the app can prove challenging. I personally didn’t have these issues, but they’re something to note and be aware of.
Ok, when it comes to sleep, the way a product looks doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter. But I’m not gonna lie: I am not mad that the SNOO actually looked good in my bedroom. With its mid-century modern looks, the bassinet didn’t look out of place. In fact, it blended really well and elevated my decor. I love it when function and fashion meet.
I personally didn’t need to reach out to customer service, but the word on the street is that it’s stellar. When you buy the SNOO, you get access to 24/7, 7-days-a-week assistance. Parents rave about tips and advice they received from this service, ranging from how to best use the swaddle to getting replacement parts easily. It’s really a no-fuss inclusion.
If you are planning to use the SNOO for more than one child, note that the warranty only lasts one year. Similarly, if you are planning on buying a used SNOO, know that you run the risk of it being out of warranty.
Most parents who use it agree: the SNOO is worth it. Yes, it’s expensive, but it promotes (more, better) safe sleep: not only does it deliver in the peace-of-mind category, it also very literally helps babies sleep better and longer by mimicking conditions in the womb. For me, those two things were enough to make me a better (read: well-rested) caregiver. Of course, the SNOO doesn’t work for everyone (no product does), and if you can’t fathom spending so much money on a baby product, renting it might be a better option for you. If not, consider a cheaper bassinet (there are other smart sleepers out there now), knowing you can buy Happiest Baby’s swaddles separately.