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  • Writer's pictureGina Mydlo, PT, DPT

You Don't HAVE to Get the SNOO

A thoughtful, non-judgmental opinion from a specialized pediatric physical therapist.

Recently I’ve been asked by parents and other therapists what my opinion is of the SNOO.

If you aren’t familiar with the SNOO, it’s totally OK. But it seems to be all the latest rage in baby products right now.

Baby products are getting increasingly more technological (as is everything else in our world), and the SNOO is definitely one of them.

Basically, it is a basinet that has a swaddle sack that is velcroed in place. It then also provides a multitude of options as far as rocking or gliding your infant based on your infant’s movements or sounds (crying). It of course pairs with an app on your phone and gives you data on your infant’s sleep, as well as allowing you to make adjustments according to how you want the SNOO to function. It also has white noise options and some other features, but you get the gist.

The SNOO was created by Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. When you read what he has written about why he created the SNOO and how he believes it can help prevent SIDS, I can definitely see why new parents are attracted to the product and consider purchasing it or renting it – even with the hefty price tag. His messaging speaks to two of our main instincts as parents – to protect (from SIDS) and to survive (by getting sleep).

As a pediatric physical therapist, there are a couple thoughts I have about this product.

1. It leaves parents who can’t afford or who don’t have it possibly feeling like they aren’t doing enough to keep their child safe, and/or not “training” their baby to be a good sleeper.

It might make parents feel like they are missing out, or that their infant is missing out on quality sleep. It might even make parents feel like their baby is at an increased risk of SIDS if they DON’T use it, because of that added “safety” feature of the swaddle being velcroed into place in the bassinet.

This makes me pause and wonder how this will affect the mental health of parents. For the parents who don’t have the SNOO, how unnecessarily stressful that might feel to think those things. It’s not true, of course, but that doesn’t mean that these thoughts don’t cross our minds as parents.

In my opinion, there are great ways to get your newborn or infant to love to sleep without “sleep training” or using the SNOO. But parents need access to this information, and need to be educated on what typical newborn and infant sleep skills are. I would caution those who want to purchase the SNOO thinking that it will help their infant learn to sleep through the night, because in actuality that is not an age-appropriate expectation.

If we start off with the right expectations of our baby’s skills, and we are educated on and have the support needed to implement some easy strategies to encourage sleep, then we won’t NEED to rely on those “sleep training” strategies.

Easier said than done – I know. But that’s why I teach these skills in my online course Baby’s Best Start. Instead of offering you a product that helps sleep for a few months at most, I offer education and support that will set your infant up for sleep success for life. In my obviously very biased opinion, I just don’t think you can replace education with a high-tech basinet.

2. On the other hand, many parents report that it gave them such “peace of mind” and really helped their mental health knowing they are taking that extra step for safety.

And trust me, I am no stranger to postpartum mental health disorders (I suffered immensely from depression, anxiety, and PTSD after my son was born), so to have something that eases that worry is priceless. And if it does indeed help baby fall asleep or stay asleep even just an hour longer, that can mean the difference between a mom who can’t function and a mom who can handle the responsibilities of the next day. Nobody can argue with that.

3. I also wonder, are we just delaying things? How does the transition go from the rocking basinet to the crib or whatever sleep surface they go to next?

For some babies I hear it goes well, without any hitches. But are those the babies that would have developed appropriate sleep skills regardless of using the SNOO? Or are those families ALSO implementing helpful sleep strategies in addition to using the SNOO? Because I have heard from many parents that the transition from SNOO to crib was difficult, and they ended up using different “sleep training” methods anyways.

For the babies that don’t transition well, I wonder why that is? Are they really just used to being met with vestibular movement when they start to arouse, and are now missing it? Or are there other things going on? Are they getting enough sleep opportunities? Are they experiencing age- appropriate awake times? Are they prone to having specific sensory needs? Do they have reflux, gas, or other GI issues? Are they tight (have tension in their bodies)? Are they getting teeth? Are they going through a growth spurt? My point is here, that there is so much more that goes into “sleep issues” than just one variable – in this case the SNOO.

Before we go blaming the SNOO or the opposite – claiming the SNOO is responsible for our baby’s sleep habits, we need to be aware that there are so many other factors that affect our baby’s sleep skills.

4 . What about the babies that don’t respond well to the SNOO?

There are definitely parents out there that report that their baby “hates” the SNOO, or just simply that their baby did not stop crying by the movement.

We have to remember that every baby is different. As humans, we all have differently functioning sensory systems. Part of our sensory system is being able to process and tolerate movement through space, and we all can have different reactions to the same movements.

So if you suspect that baby is not responding well to the SNOO's movement, it may just be that rocking and movement is STIMULATING to your baby, not CALMING. Or it could be that baby is crying out to be comforted another way. Maybe baby wants to be picked up and held, wants to feel your touch, wants to be vertical for a moment. There’s lots of different ways to think about it, and we must remember that each child has individual needs and will respond differently to stimuli.

5. What about the swaddle that is velcroed in place? Does that impact development?

There is no way to know for sure. The SNOO is relatively new and there are no quality studies done on whether or not a baby’s physical development is hindered by having a swaddle that is velcroed into one spot. I think we just need to proceed with caution and evaluate our own situation.

The worry here, is that the velcroed swaddle will restrict baby’s movements more than baby being swaddled and free to make different adjustments and movements in a crib or basinet. I absolutely can see how being velcroed into one place will most certainly limit movements while sleeping. The question is, will that limitation of movements affect baby’s development during the day? The answer probably is…. It depends on the baby. If a baby is more prone to developmental delay or difficulties, or already has a hard time acquiring motor skills, then being velcroed in the SNOO for many hours a day probably isn’t helping the situation. However, if a baby does not have tension, has appropriate strength, flexibility, head shape, and is achieving all the milestones at an age-appropriate time, then there really is no need to be overly concerned.

It’s a similar situation to what I tell parents about other containers like bouncy seats. Bouncy seats (SNOO's) are not necessary, and overuse can contribute to some babies to developing delays, but not ALL babies who use a bouncy seat (SNOO) are delayed.

Morals of the story?

  • You don’t HAVE to have the SNOO to help your baby develop great sleep habits or keep your baby safe.

  • Since every baby is different, every family’s experience with the SNOO will be different.

  • The SNOO is only one piece of the sleeping puzzle – there are many more factors that go into developing age-appropriate healthy sleep habits.

  • As parents, you deserve to be educated on typical sleeping skills and how to promote healthy sleep habits.

I think it’s nice to be able to talk decisions like this out with someone, and this is my best attempt at doing so! Please let me know in the comments what your experience has been, because I think that we can all learn from each other.

If you are expecting a baby and want to learn more on how to set up healthy sleep habits for your newborn from day 1, OR if you have a baby at home and need support with your baby’s sleeping skills, then definitely check out my online course Baby’s Best Start.

Gina Mydlo, PT, DPT

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