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My Thoughts on the SNOO as a Pediatric Physical Therapist and Mom to Be!

a baby being zipped into the snoo bassinet swaddle by mother

As a new parent, navigating the world of baby products can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to ensuring your little one gets the best sleep possible. Even for myself as a pediatric PT with so much knowledge of all the baby products out there, it is still overwhelming to me to begin to create my registry for our son that is due this Fall. But, I have done a fair amount of research into this product and I am sharing all of my thoughts with you!

Sleep deprivation is real and sometimes calls for desperate measures. This often leads to a lot of products that are designed to help your baby sleep through the night. One product that has gained significant attention in recent years is the SNOO bassinet. Marketed as a revolutionary sleep solution for babies, the SNOO has sparked discussions and debates among parents, healthcare professionals, and experts in child development.

One of the key features of the SNOO is its ability to keep babies on their backs throughout the night, aligning with safe sleep guidelines recommended by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. By preventing babies from rolling onto their stomachs, the SNOO aims to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and promote a safer sleep environment. Furthermore, the SNOO's role as a "smart" bassinet that responds to a baby's cries and attempts to soothe them back to sleep raises discussions about the nuances of responsive parenting versus automated interventions. While the convenience of having a device that can assist with nighttime soothing is undeniable, it's essential to strike a balance between meeting a baby's needs and fostering their independence and self-soothing abilities.

Let's start by breaking down what the SNOO bassinet actually is. Essentially, it's a bassinet equipped with a specific swaddle that securely attaches to the bassinet. The swaddle restrains the baby's movement and connects to the bassinet, allowing it to move from side to side, creating a swaying motion. The idea behind this movement is to mimic the sensation of being rocked to sleep, helping babies to settle and sleep more soundly. There is also the white noise feature that is designed to soothe babies to sleep and help them stay asleep.

two different babies secured into the snoo bassinet swaddles

Initially, the SNOO gained popularity through word of mouth, with many parents swearing by its effectiveness in helping their babies sleep through the night. However, one of the significant milestones for the SNOO came when it received FDA approval last year. This approval lent credibility to the product and bolstered its reputation in the baby sleep market.

But what does FDA approval really mean in this context? Essentially, it signifies that the SNOO has been evaluated for safety and efficacy by the FDA. The approval process involves rigorous testing to ensure that the product performs as intended and poses minimal risk to users. For sleep-deprived parents, seeing that a product is FDA-approved can provide reassurance and confidence in its effectiveness. The FDA approved it to be marketed for what it is intended to do: keep babies on their back for sleep. If you use it correctly, the swaddle and clips are so secure your baby is barely able to move, so you know they will stay on their backs. There have not been any publisched studies on it's impact on SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome), so they can only market that it keeps babies on their backs to sleep, not that it is reducing the rates of SIDS.

However, it's essential to recognize that FDA approval doesn't necessarily guarantee that the SNOO is the right choice for every baby. While it may be effective for some infants, others may not respond well to it's restrictive positioning or it's swaddling mechanism. Additionally, there are potential concerns regarding prolonged use of the SNOO and its impact on infant development. The FDA approval does help allow it to be used in hospitals, for babies in the NICU's or special care nurseries, this product could have a lot of pros. First off, those environments are already unnatural, and I have heard from therapists and nurses who work in these specialized care environments that there are reported positive outcomes using the SNOO with premature infants, or infants who are born addicted to opioids and are trying to be rehabilitated. Again, these are already unnatural environments, but I think this is a strong pro for this type of product.

Let's get back to home use. One of the primary criticisms of the SNOO is it's restrictive positioning, which limits the baby's movements during sleep. As a pediatric physical therapist and expert in development, I often caution against prolonged restriction of movement, as it can interfere with the development of motor skills and may contribute to conditions like torticollis or plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). The fixed positioning of this device can worsen head shape or any tension or muscle tightness that babies with these conditions have. This can also apply to other containers and positioning devices on the market such as car seats, swings, baby seats, jumpers, walkers, etc. For the sake of this blog, we'll stick to just discussing the SNOO!

Some parents swear by the ability of the SNOO to let their newborns sleep through the night, as early as days old - but that is not biologically normal (newborns should be waking up through the night to feed). Also, parents often report a decrease in their startle reflex which wakes up them up through the night, or decreased hitting themselves in the face. Babies are born with primitive reflexes that they need to integrate throughout their first few months of life in order to appropriately develop. These primitive reflexes are present for a reason, some help them through the birth canal while others are essential for survival (like the startle reflex). The startle reflex wakes babies up throughout the night, which can be essential for feeding, weight gain, and can also be neuroprotective to ensure baby is breathing. More to come on the primitive reflexes in a future blog post! I often hear and observe that babies learn new motor skills in their cribs for the first time, such as rolling, crawling and pulling up. Restricting their movements in the first 6 months of life can interfere with this natural learning environment and delay the integration of reflexes as well as delay achievement of new gross motor skills.

So what if your baby is using a SNOO and you are not yet ready to make the transition out of it? Here are a couple of tips that I recommend:

1. During awake periods, prioritize activities that encourage unrestricted movement and development. This includes supervised tummy time, floor play, and engaging with toys that promote motor skill development. Creating a safe, open, unrestricted and stimulating environment for exploration and movement can help counterbalance the effects of prolonged swaddling or restrictive positioning. Looking for ways to change up your tummy time routine? Check out my free tummy time guide here. I also have a month by month guide in my shop that you can check out here for ideas and activities to do with your baby in the first year of life.

2. Utilize the arms free swaddles early on so at least your baby's arms are unrestricted during sleep and this can help with varied head positions and integrating the startle reflex earlier.

3. Use the weaning mode or on the lowest settings to try to minimize lengthy dependence on the motions, and to set your baby up for success when they need to transition out of it.

4. Although the SNOO advertises that it is safe to use until 6 months, as a pediatric PT, I always recommend to transition out of a swaddle at any signs of rolling or 8 weeks, whichever comes first. This is also the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, read more about their updated safe sleep guidelines here.

Ultimately, when considering whether to invest in a SNOO bassinet or any other sleep product, it's essential for parents to weigh the pros and cons carefully. While the SNOO may offer benefits in terms of sleep quality and convenience, it's crucial to consider the potential impact on infant development and well-being. By being informed and proactive, parents can make the best decision for their baby's sleep and overall health.

Moreover, as with any baby product, it's crucial to consider your baby's individual preferences and needs. What works wonders for one baby may not have the same effect on another. I have heard from parents of multiples that report one of their babies loved it, and the other hated it so they were unable to use it the second time around. Taking a wait-and-see approach after your baby arrives can help you assess their sleep and comfort needs more accurately before investing in specialized sleep products like the SNOO. After all, the SNOO bought brand new does come with a price tag of almost $1700, which seems like a large investment for a product that may or may not work, and can absolutely only be used for 6 months at max.

In conclusion, while the SNOO bassinet has garnered praise for its ability to promote infant sleep, it's essential to approach its use with caution and consideration. After all, a well-rested baby is important, but so is their overall growth and development. As we navigate the evolving landscape of parenting aids and technologies, informed decision-making and ongoing dialogue among parents and experts remain paramount. Who knows what new technology and products we will seen marketed to parents in the near future!

And if you haven't already gathered, I will not be adding the SNOO to my baby's registry! I anticipate sleep to be a challenge for myself as a new parent, but I am intending to use other strategies and tools to create a safe, but natural sleep environment for my newborn. If you are worried about being able to have a safe sleep environment and being able to keep your baby on their backs in a safe sleep space, then maybe this is the right product for you. But, you will have to have another safe sleep environment set up or ready to go as this product will only last you a few short months.

Want to hear more about this product and the conversation I had with Madison from Serene Moments Doula on her Podcast - The Postpartum Plan? Check it out here!

If you are looking for my top rated toys and products for tummy time & beyond, check out my Amazon storefront.*

Looking for more support, or for professional advice from a pediatric PT, book a FREE discovery call with me directly here.

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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