By Dylan Vidal
An electronic smart crib that claims to be the “safest baby bed every made” has caused a stir on social media, with mothers all around the world weighing in on the latest technological ‘development’ in parenting.
Released last year, the SNOO baby bassinet is only available online and many Australian parents are forking out a hefty $1500 AUD for the product which promises to quickly calm down babies for a better night’s rest.
Created by Pediatrician and best-selling author, Dr. Harvey Karp, the crib comes equipped with a white noise machine, a swaddle and high-tech sensors that claim to detect when a baby is in distress, aiming to teach them to self-sooth and remain calm during the night.
Parents flocked to social media after the popular Facebook page, GiGadgets, posted a video in September 2017 showing off the features of the ‘smart sleeper’.
Now, parents are divided with critics slamming the product for its ‘reckless’ disregard for human skin-to-skin contact and encouragement of lazy parenting.
Chris Holt’s comment, which criticizes parents for being too lazy to hold their babies, leads the comments section with over 1,000 Facebook reactions.
Not surprisingly, there are an equal number of critics, including this comment from Sofeena which offers a more empathetic perspective.
One commenter by the name of Natasha felt especially provoked by Chris’ comment and took to social media to weigh in on the debate.
“Chris Holt you’re not a mother, so you don’t understand. Stop judging. Don’t be dense on purpose,” she commented.
“This would be a godsend especially right after delivery when the mom is not only exhausted from the delivery, but also exhausted from the lack of sleep from the day or two before delivery. Last two babies I delivered after eight hour labors and not having slept for at least 48 hours before hand.”
However, supporters such as Tass came to Chris’ defense by backing up his initial comment.
“With my baby a hug is enough for her to make her sleep even though she is hardly 2 months old. I’m scared if I put her on this device she will die crying but won’t sleep.”
This product has even drawn the attention of users over on the official SNOO product webpage, with many users complaining that their product had caused their baby to cry and scream profusely.
One user said; “I purchased the [SNOO] with high hopes, and unfortunately it causes our newborn to scream as she sleeps much better in a regular bassinet. After contacting customer service, aside from offering a sleep consultation, there is nothing they can do. Very frustrating given how expensive these are. Big thumbs down.”
Experts have weighed in and are equally divided on whether the crib is making the lives of parents easier or if it is detrimental to a baby’s development.
Jennifer Hamilton, parenting expert and creator of the popular baby app WOTBaby, doesn’t deny the short-term gratification of a product like the SNOO, but warns parents of the dangers of not giving their child the hands-on care they need.
“Yes, they [electronic cribs] are not very good. In the long term they’re not going to work. It’s stripping of you the opportunity to make mistakes in order to learn and go forth and communicate with your bub as they go,” said Hamilton.
“Those first few weeks is crucial for bonding for mother and baby so skin to skin contact just the smell from mother or father. That baby is bonding greatly just by the smell. It’s all instinctual in those first couple of weeks. They are just like little instinctual beings and they need it for survival.”
“The constant rocking sensation is just adding to that stimulation so I would imagine that would cause more unsettledness as the baby’s growing rather than learning how to sleep in a still bed as they’re growing and developing…So if we’re constantly putting them off to sleep with rocking and patting and all of those things then babies don’t learn how to sleep.”
Jennifer Hamilton comments on both sides of the debate.
However, Kathy Fray, New Zealand’s No.1 best-selling author on birth, babies & motherhood, disagrees with these claims and calls for the end of criticism and guilt tripping from ‘sanctimommies’ (a sanctimonious mother).
“Who the heck are you to be so judgemental?” said Fray.
“Slathering parenting guilt upon guilt atop of our loving caring Mothers today, is one of the absolutely worst things that routinely occurs these days, far far too rampantly. It’s plain bloody awful actually, and it is also enormously responsible for good wonderful mothers, worrying to ridiculous levels of anxiety.”
In fact, Fray supports any technological advancement that will make her life easier and says that owning a device such as the SNOO crib would have been beneficial to her when she was a parent.
“I could easily recall multiple times when owning a rocking-cot could have felt divine for me and for baby,” said Fray.
“Trust me, when you’ve got a 4 year old having a hissy-fit melt-down, and a 2 year old having her 3rd‘accident’ in her pants in the past two hours, and the baby is now drastically overtired and going to be hard to settle, because the morning preschool teacher wanted to have a prolonged ‘friendly chat’ at the lunchtime pick-up, and the cat has just spewed a fur-ball in the middle of the lounge, then the idea of being able to place Bubs into an electric cot would have been a dream! And I just don’t reckon that would have made me a bad Mum.”
Hamilton doesn’t blame mothers like Fray for having this approach to parenting, and says that parents are turning to these devices because they are not being educated with the skills to properly understand their baby’s needs.
“There is a real fear there. There is not enough education leaving the hospitals. There is not enough support and there is not enough people teaching mums how to settle their babies,” said Hamilton.
“You’ll find that if you put your baby on anything, if you put them in a basket on top of the washing machine they will go to sleep. If you put them in a pouch and carry them around they will fall asleep. But of course, that way they will get that skin to skin contact which is a much better way, but what I’m saying is that babies are easy to switch off and settle they will settle with rhythm, with warmth, with constriction and being wrapped tightly, all those things that recreate the environment of being in the womb is what are going to respond to.”
Nevertheless, when it comes to the SNOO crib, Fray says that any criticism against the smart crib is “a speculative guess” at best, and denies there being any possible negative developmental side effects on newborn children.
“I cannot imagine they received an Ethics Committee approval to confirm this theory, or that Mothers agreed to be part of the research,” said Fray.
“So, from that perspective, the product critics, are purely hypothesizing.”
Fray believes that by eliminating ongoing long-term sleep deprivation, the SNOO can alleviate the severity of Postnatal Depression and reduce the stress on stay at home mothers.
“One thing we know scientifically with complete certainty, is that parental sleep deprivation dramatically increases rates of postnatal depression. “
“Should her partner do some of the workload? Sure! But he’s typically gone all day 5-6 days a week, and if he was anything like my husband – a senior carpenter using cut-your-fingers-off-in-a-split-second tools- then he’s leaving at 6am [and] I want him very well slept indeed.”
The SNOO manufacturers were contacted and asked to comment on the debate but did not respond.
This article was sub-edited by Helena Ladomatos