I sleep-trained my son when he was four months old. It was a tough week, but the weeks before it were tougher. I could tell you all the reasons why I did it – my son wouldn’t fall asleep nursing; he only conked out in infuriating 2 or 3 hour chunks and then would take an hour (OR MORE) to be rocked back to sleep; he couldn’t seem to get comfortable sleeping in our bed. Or I could just tell you that in order for my husband and me to remain sane and capable parents, we needed our son to get himself to sleep sans rocking and sleep for at least a good part of the night. After a very tough week, he did both.
But for many parents, sleep training is its own bewildering, much-longer-than-one-week slog. That's where technology – the kind I wasn't remotely aware of in my personal sleep-deprived fog three years ago – might just save the day, easing a babe to rest and, as a result, her parents too. But can all that technology really solve all your early parenting sleep problems?
Philadelphia-based family physician Hilary Rosenstein says, “I totally support trying lots of different tools to get the baby to sleep and figuring out what works for your kid. I like to give new moms encouragement that they are doing a great job and will figure out how to be the best parent to their baby, and that this difficult sleep stage is likely temporary.”
The Snoo, a vibrating bassinet designed for babies up to six months old, is at the forefront of well-reviewed, if eye-bulgingly pricy, sleep technology. Developed by pediatrician, sleep expert, and author of the wildly popular newborn sleep guide, The Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo promises to “reduce crying” and “boost sleep” safely for $1160. The bassinet, which is currently on sale for the holidays, is accompanied by a set of Karp’s signature swaddle sacks.
For those in the market for more affordable white noise-based options, you might consider the Scandinavian-designed Whisbear or the Munchkin Lulla-Vibe. The Whisbear, a stuffed bear that emits a “pink noise” that mimics the womb, can be snuggled by baby anywhere. It’s also got a cry sensor, so if your little one wakes up in a rage (and I mean, in those early months, who doesn’t?), the Whisbear snaps to attention and begins soothing again.
The streamlined Lulla-Vibe is a vibrating paddle designed for tucking under a bassinet, crib mattress, or stroller seat. Its gentle vibrations promise to literally lull an infant to sleep and because the paddle works on a timer, parents can doze off blissfully without needing to turn anything off.
Speaking of keeping tabs on your baby’s sleep aids, there’s also a new monitor on the market, the Nanit, a must-have for data loving parents. The Nanit, which comes with an app, logs everything, and I mean everything, that happens -- from the moment you put baby in the crib to the moment you take baby out, including sleep onset, visits over the course of the night, and whether your kiddo is getting the most rest possible or spending a large portion of the night fussing, playing, or just plain awake.
There’s no doubt sleep aids like these can abate the anxieties associated with both sleep deprivation and early parenthood. But Rosenstein says, “I also feel like so much of the baby-related industry is ripe for exploiting the anxieties of new parents. It can make parents feel like they need all this expensive stuff, and that if they can't afford it (or are conflicted about spending the money on it), they are lacking and their kids will suffer.” Even if they work wonders for some, she says, medically speaking, none of these items are necessary.
Ultimately, you want to see what feels right for you as the parent, and remember that, as Rosenstein says, it’s not so much that your baby needs all these things, and more that high-tech gear can bring relief when things are really tough.
For many parents, just knowing that these ingenious products exist in the world is comforting -- especially when they can be ordered at all hours of the night thanks to the beautiful and tireless Internet.