A recent video showing a baby being lulled to sleep by a “robot” cot has gone viral, sparking a sharp debate around parenthood and the roles we should play when a child can’t fall asleep at night.
The robot cot was developed by Harvey Karp, who wrote The Happiest Baby on the Block, a book on newborn sleeping and soothing techniques that’s sold over a million copies and remains a top-selling parenting book. Now, he’s created a robotic bassinet called Snoo, which costs $1,160. The device apparently replicates movement and sounds babies hear in the womb, helping them calm down through gentle rocks and white noise, helping them fall back asleep.
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While Karp explains how Snoo was developed after rigorous studies and research, many people believe swapping out an actual human for a robot isn’t only wrong, it’s immoral.
Part of the viral Facebook thread included a woman who wrote:
“I don’t believe babies are meant to be raised by machines. Every minute they are in here, they are missing out on physical touch which includes certain hormone production and positive neurological connections being made. Lack of positive bonding isn’t healthy for anyone and there are many who will abuse this product.”
In response, someone chimed in:
“I own it and it’s the best. The baby never wakes up at night creating an insanely happy baby in the morning after her 12 hour sleep. As a mother of a 10 year old, getting myself and my husband proper sleep at night is crucial too. If you read more on this item, it DECREASES the chances of postpartum depression. The swaddle is also a god send because I’m terrible at doing that on my own. I wish I had this 10 years ago, technology is sometimes a beautiful thing.”
It’s not just parents who are adding to the debate. Gary A. Emmett, Professor of Pediatrics at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, wrote a response article explaining human contact with a crying infant is key, and Snoo dangerously encourages a lack of intimate contact.
The other side of the debate focuses on the health of parents, and how losing sleeping at night with an infant can lead to several health issues, including postpartum depression. Moreover, many doctors have advised parents to let their babies cry it out.Yet, this debate is still heavily one-sided; most comments and articles talk about the extreme importance of human and infant contact. More harsh responses peg parents who use Snoo as “terribly lazy.”
No matter what side of the debate you are on, Snoo raises an interesting (and tough) conversation around parenting expectations, and the role technology is beginning to play in promoting sleep for both babies and parents. With the way technology is advancing, I wouldn’t be surprised if more Snoo-like devices enter the market, despite the sharp criticism that continues to rumble across the internet.
Featured image: @happiest_baby on Instagram