“Quiet, the baby is sleeping.”
It’s one of the most common phrases parents and guardians use around newborns out of fear that a noisy intruder will wake a sleeping baby who has taken hours to settle.
But according Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and child development expert, this is all wrong.
In fact, Karp says babies should be getting the opposite attention.
“When babies are born they’re not ready, they really need a fourth trimester of rocking, holding, shushing and calming,” he says.
But doing that 24-hours a day is exhausting and unsustainable.
So, Karp created a smart bassinet that replicates similar conditions babies are used to in the womb.
“The womb is not a quiet place,” he says.
“The sound is louder than a vacuum cleaner, there is constant jiggly motion. Even when you’re asleep you’re rocking the baby as your breath and your diaphragm goes up and down.
“So the biggest mistake doctors recommend it putting them on their back in a quiet room.
“For sure the back is the best position, but babies don’t sleep well in a quiet, non-moving bed. It’s sensory deprivation for them.
“All adults have fallen asleep in planes and trains and buses, or on hammock with the sounds of the wind and ocean… it’s all because it imitates the womb experience.
“That’s why [babies] fall asleep at rugby games and parties where there’s a din around them.”
The smart bassinet, or the SNOO, is responsive to the baby, rocking and producing white noise when it child is upset.
The SNOO “hears” the baby’s cries and automatically boosts sound and motion, like a caregiver would if they we’re holding them.
The bed is designed to naturally train babies to self-soothe and sleep through the night.
Additionally, it has safety clips which you can connect to baby’s swaddling and prevent rolling and disturbance from the baby.
In fact, it’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the only bed that keeps babies safely on their back all night long.
The bed is also connected to an app which parents can use to adjust the motion and sound to the needs of the child, an alert system to notify parents when the baby is not calming, and weaning settings to prepare the baby for an easy transition to a cot.
While Karp acknowledges that a baby can sleep without these cues, doing so is harder on the newborn.
“It’s not that they can’t sleep without those things it’s just that they don’t sleep as well,” he says.
“Adults could sleep on the floor… But you’re not going to sleep as well.
“As the baby goes through their first few months of life, they become more neurologically mature. They become better able to control their sleep aids — self soothing. Then by six months of age, they’re more able to sustain sleep without motion and swaddling,” he says, adding that he still recommends white noise as they get older.
The pressures on modern parents
Karp says there is also too much pressure on the modern parent to do it all.
“Up until 100 years ago, all women had five nannies — their grandmother, their aunt, their older sister, their next door neighbours, older daughter.
“There is this big lie in our culture that you’re just supposed to [do it all].
“People say ‘a good mother doesn’t complain,’ and ‘if you don’t want to wake up every two hours then why did you have a baby to begin with,’ and all of this shaming that goes on.
“Mothers and fathers are heroic for the amount of work they’re doing.
“Taking care of a baby, or multiple children, all on your own is really something that we’ve never done throughout the history of humanity.”
It’s these overburdens, he says, that lead to a number of problems facing families today including postnatal depression, martial stress, exhaustion, and more.
“Sleep deprivation is the number one complaint that new mothers have across the world,” he says.
“Post natal depression and anxiety occurs in 15-20% of all mothers, and there’s nothing we’re currently using, other than medication, as a prevention.
“SNOO is the first time we’ve had something that has the potential to prevent depression before it actually happens.”
He adds: “Exhaustion turns out to be hundreds of millions of dollars of healthcare costs, and hundreds of millions of dollars of employer costs here in Australia.”
In a time when we’re using technology in every facet of our lives, why not let it help benefit you and your newborn?
“SNOO is just a little bit of a helper, and that’s the beauty of technology — to help you to be more efficient,” he says.
“We like vacuum cleaners, we like hair dryers, we like dishwashers, and SNOO is just a sophisticated swing that will give you a bit of a break, and more importantly gives the baby what they baby really needs.”
So what’s next?
Having only recently hit the Australian market and currently for sale for an eye-watering $1,600, the company is looking at making the product more accessible to a broader portion of the population by eventually renting the beds out.
“Hopefully in a couple of years we can do that in Australia,” he says.
“It may be supported by Medicare or insurance companies, and for just dollars a day it becomes much more affordable for a broad cross section of the populous.”
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