Update: Do I Need a $1,700 Robot Bassinet?

Emily Oster

10 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Update: Do I Need a $1,700 Robot Bassinet?

All about the SNOO

Emily Oster

10 min Read

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about the SNOO. It remains among the top things I get questions about, on Instagram and elsewhere, so today I’m bringing that post out of the archive with a small amount of updated data.

As a reminder: the ParentData archive is a great resource for pregnant people and parents. You can search any keyword and come up with a list of posts (like this one) that I’ve written on the topic. With a paid monthly or annual membership, you’ll have full access to the archive as well as our Friday Q+A newsletters and other special features. Plus, you’re supporting ParentData and ensuring we can continue to grow.

I hope you enjoy!


If your children are the age of my children — my youngest is 7 — you may be asking yourself What is a SNOO? Like wearable breast pumps, it’s something that we missed out on.

Here’s a link, but, basically, the SNOO is a robot bassinet. It’s intended to be used from birth to six months, with the goal of improving infant sleep. To greatly simplify, you swaddle your baby (using their swaddle) and strap them into the bassinet. And then the SNOO kind of auto-soothes them (that’s the idea, anyway) with white noise and rocking that is responsive to their movement. If it doesn’t work, then the bassinet sends an alert to your phone to tell you your kid is really grumpy and you need to come deal with it yourself.

The SNOO is the brainchild of pediatrician Harvey Karp, the creator of the book and videos The Happiest Baby on the Block, which many of us swear by. (Full disclosure: In addition to my being a devotee of Karp’s “5 S’s” — more on this momentarily — he blurbed my first book. However, we have never met and I did not speak to him about this post.) The 5 S’s are a method for improving infant sleep, involving swaddling, holding the baby in a side-stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking a pacifier. The idea with the SNOO is that the robot does a lot of this for you, and keeps the baby asleep longer.

But does it work?

First we should ask the question of what we mean by “works.” I’m going to talk below mostly about the evidence on improving sleep, but it’s worth mentioning that the SNOO is also pitched as a way to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This claim thus far seems to be based on the observation (i.e. in this paper, from the Happiest Baby team) that SNOO users are more likely to engage in back-sleeping and less likely to engage in bed sharing, relative to the general population. This is a bit of a difficult claim to take causally. Someone who is interested in bed sharing is probably not going to invest in a $1,700 robot bassinet for sleep, so the findings in the data are not the same as saying that if you give people the SNOO, they are more likely to sleep on their back. It’s possible, but hard, to learn from that data.

For the more common question of whether the SNOO works on sleep quality, I’m going to answer in three parts: (1) Does it seem like it would work, based on other things we know? (2) Do people say it works? (3) Is there any actual data?

Does it seem like it would work?

Basically, yes.

The main reason is we have good data that the individual parts of the 5 S’s can work. For example, there is a lot of excellent evidence showing that swaddling improves infant sleep. I review much of this in Cribsheet; some of it is really in the weeds and involves bringing babies into sleep labs and attaching monitors to them and so on. The bottom-line result is that swaddling infants increases the length of sleep spells, likely by reducing the risk that small sleep disruptions ultimately cause the baby to wake up.

White noise seems like it helps, as you can see in this small randomized trial from several decades ago or this one, which compares white noise with swinging and favors white noise. (I know many of you will ask: I thought white noise was bad for hearing? I’ve written about that, and as long as you do not have it too loud, it’s fine.)

All of these together (except for the pacifier) have been tested, too, in at least one randomized trial and shown to be effective.

So there is good reason to think the 5 S’s work, and, by extension, you would expect the SNOO to work, at least relative to doing nothing. I think a reasonable question to ask — not answered by this baseline evidence — is how much better it is than just a white-noise machine and a Miracle Blanket. The responsive aspect of the SNOO, including both the noise adjustment and the swinging, is the key feature, but that’s not something we can evaluate based on this data.

Do people say it works?

Many of them, yes. On Amazon, 78% of the ratings are 5 stars.

Not everyone is converted. I did a (totally unscientific) poll on Instagram. After about 10,000 votes, 47% of people said it worked for them, 19% said it did not, and 34% said “it’s complicated.” The comments were illustrative. I got everything from “This changed my life. Amaze!” to “The swinging gave my baby motion sickness and they threw up every time.” The comments were nuanced: basically, that their baby slept well but they didn’t know if it was because of the SNOO.

If I had to summarize the comments, I would say that there are clearly a sizable share of people who found it not just useful but life-changing. Some of this group told me that anyone who says otherwise obviously didn’t read the directions. However: it doesn’t work for everyone, or every baby. And for many people, they thought it helped but that it wasn’t magic.

(This is an argument for experimenting; see below on the “rental” option.)

Does the data say it works?

There isn’t much data.

There is one abstract (a very short paper), published in the journal Sleep in 2020. The paper (also by the Happiest Baby team) reports on about 7,100 parents who used the SNOO and compares the sleep experienced by their babies over the first six months with that of a reference population from other studies.

The abstract suggests that the parents using the SNOO had babies who slept for longer periods and for a longer total duration, as well as with fewer night wakings (on average, one per night in the zero-to-six-month period, versus two in a reference population).

The data for the study comes from the app associated with the SNOO, which is a nice way to collect a lot of data passively, but it does mean that the sample is going to be selected in particular ways, in terms of demographics and perhaps also in terms of their attitudes toward sleep. The reference population they are compared with is based on other studies (which are unspecified), making it difficult to subject this data to any scrutiny. I cannot tell whether the populations or data collection approaches are at all similar. This is the nature of an abstract like this; the authors told me back in 2021 that they are preparing a longer paper, which will presumably answer more of these questions. As it is, I do not take very much from the abstract.

A second preliminary set of results concerns the impact of the SNOO on maternal sleep. This is, of course, not the same as infant sleep, but infant sleep issues typically feed into maternal sleep issues. This study is a randomized controlled trial, recruiting 127 postpartum women with insomnia and randomizing them into either (1) control (i.e. nothing), (2) responsive bassinet [SNOO], or (3) cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

The authors find that the behavioral therapy is useful for lowering insomnia, relative to the control group. The SNOO doesn’t appear to impact insomnia or sleep duration over the first time period in the study, but at six months they do find that those with the SNOO report sleeping significantly longer (about 40 minutes). This is intriguing but definitely needs to be followed up with larger trials, with more measurements and details.

The ideal study would be a large one that would randomize access to the SNOO, perhaps comparing it with advice to use the 5 S’s without SNOO provision. The study would use some kind of passive data collection to learn about sleep for both infants and parents. This is hard but potentially doable, and perhaps we will see this! Until then, I think what we might say is there are reasons to think the SNOO would work but relatively little hard data to know exactly how large the effects are.

Are there risks?

We covered the SIDS risk, which, in fact, isn’t a risk at all with the SNOO but possibly a benefit.

The one risk I have seen discussed (largely on social media) is the idea that it might contribute to “container baby syndrome,” which is a constellation of developmental problems that are thought to arise from a baby spending too much time in containers (car seats, bouncy seats, jumpers) and not developing appropriate motor skills.

The thing is that outside of a few social media mentions, I have seen nothing that would suggest the SNOO has anything to do with this. Yes, the infant is swaddled, but that’s likely to be true even without the SNOO. Your infant will be on their back in a crib of some type, hopefully asleep, in any case. The SNOO is no more container than a non-robot bassinet.

What’s the downside?

The SNOO is expensive. That’s the issue. In some ways, I was reluctant to even write about it, because even acknowledging the idea of getting a $1,700 robot crib seems a little excessive. Especially for something you will use for at most six months, perhaps less. The cost is part of the reason why I hope we might sometime learn something about effect sizes.

However: I will say that there are ways to lower this cost. Happiest Baby offers a rental program; this is especially good if you aren’t sure. Or you can buy a used one. Or you can chip in with your friends and pass it around if you time your babies right. The company has asked the FDA to approve it as a SIDS prevention device. If that happens, insurance may cover some of the cost.

Economics is all about tradeoffs, and this is one. It’s an expensive item that seems like it might deliver some benefits of uncertain size. It’s worth giving some careful thought, as part of your decision, to what else you might do with those funds.

A thermostat against green vintage wallpaper.

Jul 15 2022

2 min read

What’s the Best Thermostat Setting for a New Baby?

One of the safe sleep rules that the nurse teaching our newborn class emphasized very sternly was temperature range in Read more

Emily Oster
A pregnant person and partner sit on a couch surrounded by brown boxes of baby items.

May 25 2023

3 min read

The Best Baby Items — And the Worst

When I was pregnant with Penelope, Jesse and I got a list of stuff we needed that had been passed Read more

Emily Oster
A plastic wind-up lady bug baby toy is seen on a red background

Nov 09 2023

7 min read

Baby Gear and the Environment

Today’s guest post is from Tatiana Schlossberg, author of Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have. It Read more

Tatiana Schlossberg
A new parent in a hospital beds holds a baby during skin to skin contact.

Jan 02 2024

9 min read

Baby-Friendly Hospitals

In 1991 the World Health Organization and Unicef launched a program — the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) — that was designed Read more

Emily Oster

Instagram

left right
Just eat your Cheerios and move on.

Just eat your Cheerios and move on. ...

The AAP’s guidelines recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby “ideally for the first six months.” However, the risk of SIDS is dramatically lower after four months, and the evidence in favor of the protective effect of room sharing is quite weak (both overall and even more so after four months). There is also growing evidence that infants who sleep in their own room by four months sleep better at four months, better at nine months, and even better at 30 months.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking why this recommendation continues at all — or at least why the AAP doesn’t push it back to four months. They say decreased arousals from sleep are linked to SIDS, which could mean that babies sleeping in their own room is risky. But this link is extremely indirect, and they do not show direct evidence to support it.

According to the data we have, parents should sleep in the same room as a baby for as long as it works for them! Sharing a room with a child may have negative impacts on both child and adult sleep. We should give families more help in navigating these trade-offs and making the decisions that work best for them.

#emilyoster #parentdata #roomsharing #sids #parentingguide

The AAP’s guidelines recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby “ideally for the first six months.” However, the risk of SIDS is dramatically lower after four months, and the evidence in favor of the protective effect of room sharing is quite weak (both overall and even more so after four months). There is also growing evidence that infants who sleep in their own room by four months sleep better at four months, better at nine months, and even better at 30 months.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking why this recommendation continues at all — or at least why the AAP doesn’t push it back to four months. They say decreased arousals from sleep are linked to SIDS, which could mean that babies sleeping in their own room is risky. But this link is extremely indirect, and they do not show direct evidence to support it.

According to the data we have, parents should sleep in the same room as a baby for as long as it works for them! Sharing a room with a child may have negative impacts on both child and adult sleep. We should give families more help in navigating these trade-offs and making the decisions that work best for them.

#emilyoster #parentdata #roomsharing #sids #parentingguide
...

It was an absolute pleasure to be featured on the @tamronhallshow! We talked about all things data-driven parenting and, in this clip, what I call the plague of secret parenting. To balance having a career and having a family, we can’t hide the fact that we’re parents. If mothers and fathers at the top can speak more openly about child-care obligations, it will help us all set a new precedent.

Watch the full segment at the link in my bio 🔗

#tamronhall #tamronhallshow #emilyoster #parentingsupport #workingparents

It was an absolute pleasure to be featured on the @tamronhallshow! We talked about all things data-driven parenting and, in this clip, what I call the plague of secret parenting. To balance having a career and having a family, we can’t hide the fact that we’re parents. If mothers and fathers at the top can speak more openly about child-care obligations, it will help us all set a new precedent.

Watch the full segment at the link in my bio 🔗

#tamronhall #tamronhallshow #emilyoster #parentingsupport #workingparents
...

Invisible labor. It’s the work — in our households especially — that has to happen but that no one sees. It’s making the doctor’s appointment, ensuring birthday cards are purchased, remembering the milk.

My guest on this episode, @everodsky, has come up with a solution here, or at least a way for us to recognize the problem and make our own solutions. I’ve wanted to speak with Eve for ages, since I read her book Fair Play. We had a great conversation about the division of household labor, one I think you’ll get a lot out of!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #householdtips #fairplay #invisiblelabor

Invisible labor. It’s the work — in our households especially — that has to happen but that no one sees. It’s making the doctor’s appointment, ensuring birthday cards are purchased, remembering the milk.

My guest on this episode, @everodsky, has come up with a solution here, or at least a way for us to recognize the problem and make our own solutions. I’ve wanted to speak with Eve for ages, since I read her book Fair Play. We had a great conversation about the division of household labor, one I think you’ll get a lot out of!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #householdtips #fairplay #invisiblelabor
...

Prenatal vitamins 💊 If there is any product that seems designed to prey on our fears, it’s this one. You’re newly pregnant and you want to do it right. Everyone agrees you need prenatal vitamins, so you get them. But do you want to be that person who just… buys the generic prenatal vitamins?

Good news: fancier vitamins are not better.  Folic acid is the most important prenatal ingredient. Iron (with vitamin C) and DHA are also nice to have. Other included ingredients have only weak or no evidence to support their use. (If you do not consume animal products, add B12, plus a few others depending on your diet.)

Vitamins are just vitamins. Any prenatal vitamin that contains these is enough. 

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article with everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.

#emilyoster #parentdata #prenatalvitamins #pregnancydiet #pregnancytips

Prenatal vitamins 💊 If there is any product that seems designed to prey on our fears, it’s this one. You’re newly pregnant and you want to do it right. Everyone agrees you need prenatal vitamins, so you get them. But do you want to be that person who just… buys the generic prenatal vitamins?

Good news: fancier vitamins are not better. Folic acid is the most important prenatal ingredient. Iron (with vitamin C) and DHA are also nice to have. Other included ingredients have only weak or no evidence to support their use. (If you do not consume animal products, add B12, plus a few others depending on your diet.)

Vitamins are just vitamins. Any prenatal vitamin that contains these is enough.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article with everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.

#emilyoster #parentdata #prenatalvitamins #pregnancydiet #pregnancytips
...

When it comes to introducing your newborn to the world, timing matters. It’s a good idea to minimize germ exposure in the first 6-8 weeks; after that, it’s inevitable and, very likely, a good idea! This doesn’t mean you need to be trapped inside. The most significant exposure risks are from seeing other people at home — family, etc. These interactions are not infinitely risky, but they do pose more risk than a walk or a trip to the grocery store, since they involve closer interaction. Think simple and make sure everyone is washing their hands before holding the baby. 💛

#parentdata #emilyoster #newborncare #parentingadvice #parentingtips

When it comes to introducing your newborn to the world, timing matters. It’s a good idea to minimize germ exposure in the first 6-8 weeks; after that, it’s inevitable and, very likely, a good idea! This doesn’t mean you need to be trapped inside. The most significant exposure risks are from seeing other people at home — family, etc. These interactions are not infinitely risky, but they do pose more risk than a walk or a trip to the grocery store, since they involve closer interaction. Think simple and make sure everyone is washing their hands before holding the baby. 💛

#parentdata #emilyoster #newborncare #parentingadvice #parentingtips
...

The first edition of Hot Flash is out now! Comment “Link” for a DM to learn more about the late-reproductive stage.

There are times when we expect hormonal shifts. Our reproductive lives are bookended by puberty and menopause. We discuss those changes often because they are definitive and dramatic — a first period is something many of us remember clearly. But between ages 13 and 53, our hormones are changing in more subtle ways. During the late-reproductive stage (in your 40s), you can expect a lot of changes in your menstrual cycle, including the length and symptoms you experience throughout. It’s an important time in our lives that is often overlooked!

🔥 Hot Flash from ParentData is a weekly newsletter on navigating your health and hormones in the post-reproductive years. Written by Dr. Gillian Goddard, Hot Flash provides all of the information you need to have a productive, evidence-based conversation about hormonal health with your doctor.

#emilyoster #parentdata #hotflash #perimenopause #womenshealth

The first edition of Hot Flash is out now! Comment “Link” for a DM to learn more about the late-reproductive stage.

There are times when we expect hormonal shifts. Our reproductive lives are bookended by puberty and menopause. We discuss those changes often because they are definitive and dramatic — a first period is something many of us remember clearly. But between ages 13 and 53, our hormones are changing in more subtle ways. During the late-reproductive stage (in your 40s), you can expect a lot of changes in your menstrual cycle, including the length and symptoms you experience throughout. It’s an important time in our lives that is often overlooked!

🔥 Hot Flash from ParentData is a weekly newsletter on navigating your health and hormones in the post-reproductive years. Written by Dr. Gillian Goddard, Hot Flash provides all of the information you need to have a productive, evidence-based conversation about hormonal health with your doctor.

#emilyoster #parentdata #hotflash #perimenopause #womenshealth
...

There are plenty of reels telling you how to parent. Plenty of panic headlines saying that “studies show” what’s best for your kid. Even good data, from a trusted source, can send us into a spiral of comparison. But I want you to remember that no one knows your kid better than you. It’s important to absorb the research, but only you will know the approach that works best for you and your child. 💙

Now tell me in the comments: what’s a parenting move you’ve made recently that feels right to you?

#parentingcommunity #parentingsupport #parentingquotes #emilyoster #parentdata

There are plenty of reels telling you how to parent. Plenty of panic headlines saying that “studies show” what’s best for your kid. Even good data, from a trusted source, can send us into a spiral of comparison. But I want you to remember that no one knows your kid better than you. It’s important to absorb the research, but only you will know the approach that works best for you and your child. 💙

Now tell me in the comments: what’s a parenting move you’ve made recently that feels right to you?

#parentingcommunity #parentingsupport #parentingquotes #emilyoster #parentdata
...

Let’s talk about sex (after) baby! Today on the podcast, I was lucky enough to speak with @enagoski about her new book on sexual connection in long-term relationships. Especially after having kids, this is something many people struggle with. Emily tells us to stop worrying about what’s “normal” and focus on pleasure in its many forms.

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #emilyoster #emilynagoski #comeasyouare #cometogether #longtermrelationship #intimacy #relationships

Let’s talk about sex (after) baby! Today on the podcast, I was lucky enough to speak with @enagoski about her new book on sexual connection in long-term relationships. Especially after having kids, this is something many people struggle with. Emily tells us to stop worrying about what’s “normal” and focus on pleasure in its many forms.

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #emilyoster #emilynagoski #comeasyouare #cometogether #longtermrelationship #intimacy #relationships
...

Ever wondered if you can safely use leftover baby formula? 🍼 The CDC says to throw out unused formula immediately because of the risk of bacterial growth. However, research suggests that bacterial concentrations do not appreciably increase after 3, 12, or even 24 hours at refrigerator temperatures. Good news! This means there’s not a strong data-based reason to throw out formula right away if you store it in the fridge.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on another common formula question: should you throw away old formula powder?

#emilyoster #parentdata #babyformula #babyfeeding #parentingstruggles

Ever wondered if you can safely use leftover baby formula? 🍼 The CDC says to throw out unused formula immediately because of the risk of bacterial growth. However, research suggests that bacterial concentrations do not appreciably increase after 3, 12, or even 24 hours at refrigerator temperatures. Good news! This means there’s not a strong data-based reason to throw out formula right away if you store it in the fridge.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on another common formula question: should you throw away old formula powder?

#emilyoster #parentdata #babyformula #babyfeeding #parentingstruggles
...

What’s the most important piece of advice for new parents? Here’s one answer, but I want to hear from you! Share your suggestions in the comments ⬇️

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingtips #parentingadvice #newparents #parentingcommunity

What’s the most important piece of advice for new parents? Here’s one answer, but I want to hear from you! Share your suggestions in the comments ⬇️

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingtips #parentingadvice #newparents #parentingcommunity
...

What's in the bag of a Vagina Economist? 👀 Someone please tell me this looks familiar to you.

What`s in the bag of a Vagina Economist? 👀 Someone please tell me this looks familiar to you. ...

Comment ”link” for a DM to learn more about tongue ties 🔗

Breastfeeding is often difficult, especially at the start. For babies with tongue ties, many infants (and their moms) struggle to get the hang of a good latch. This can lead to painful nipples and to inefficient feeding, and then low weight gain.

So what does the data say about the increasingly common practice of cutting tongue-ties in infants to improve breastfeeding success? Several weeks ago, @nytimes published a long and quite scary article on this topic.

After diving into the data, here is what I found. There is limited evidence that frenotomy procedures improve breastfeeding efficacy and the harms of the procedure are minimal. Many women do report that it alleviates pain and helps them with breastfeeding. However, it should not be a first-line treatment for breastfeeding problems.

#parentdata #emilyoster #tonguetie #tonguetiebabies #breastfeedingsupport

Comment ”link” for a DM to learn more about tongue ties 🔗

Breastfeeding is often difficult, especially at the start. For babies with tongue ties, many infants (and their moms) struggle to get the hang of a good latch. This can lead to painful nipples and to inefficient feeding, and then low weight gain.

So what does the data say about the increasingly common practice of cutting tongue-ties in infants to improve breastfeeding success? Several weeks ago, @nytimes published a long and quite scary article on this topic.

After diving into the data, here is what I found. There is limited evidence that frenotomy procedures improve breastfeeding efficacy and the harms of the procedure are minimal. Many women do report that it alleviates pain and helps them with breastfeeding. However, it should not be a first-line treatment for breastfeeding problems.

#parentdata #emilyoster #tonguetie #tonguetiebabies #breastfeedingsupport
...

Tag a friend who needs to hear this 💛 For many choices in parenting, there is no one right answer. We can use research and data to make informed decisions, but ultimately, it won’t tell you what to do. Only you can decide what will be best for your kids and your family.

I’m here to remind you to take a deep breath and trust yourself. I’ll be here to support you along the way. 

Thank you to everyone who submitted videos, including:
@sarah.consoli
@jess_lynn627
@nicolevandenwills
@thedrblair
@ncbenedict29
@haleycimini
@iamkellysnodgrass
@calesse_smith
@garnet__gordon
@jencoopgaiser87
@danigirl18c
@jamielundergreen
@carly_comber
@thecelebratingmama
@emilyannbynum
@eeliz413

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingadvice #parentingsupport #parentingquotes

Tag a friend who needs to hear this 💛 For many choices in parenting, there is no one right answer. We can use research and data to make informed decisions, but ultimately, it won’t tell you what to do. Only you can decide what will be best for your kids and your family.

I’m here to remind you to take a deep breath and trust yourself. I’ll be here to support you along the way.

Thank you to everyone who submitted videos, including:
@sarah.consoli
@jess_lynn627
@nicolevandenwills
@thedrblair
@ncbenedict29
@haleycimini
@iamkellysnodgrass
@calesse_smith
@garnet__gordon
@jencoopgaiser87
@danigirl18c
@jamielundergreen
@carly_comber
@thecelebratingmama
@emilyannbynum
@eeliz413

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingadvice #parentingsupport #parentingquotes
...