Monday, June 11, 2018

SNOO review - the first two months


First things first, if you want to judge me for purchasing a very expensive robot bassinet, that's fine. As someone who has a lifetime of experience with periodic insomnia, I place a really high value on sleep. Which isn't to say I didn't have qualms about this big ticket item. So many qualms. But I read a million reviews and then they had a big Black Friday sale and we decided to go ahead and order. If you're considering a purchase, keep in mind that they frequently have 30% off sales, last year the Black Friday sale was 40% off, AND you can select your desired ship date to coordinate with your due date (critical, since they also offer a 30 day trial period in case your baby is not one that loves the SNOO). I also feel pretty confident that I'll be able to resell it when we're done with it in six short months (yes, it's only intended for the first six months or so, which I realize makes the price harder to swallow).

This is a completely unsolicited and unsponsored review, just in case that wasn't clear. Along the way it kind of turned into a sleep diary of the first two months, so there's a lot of detail in here that doesn't necessarily relate directly to the SNOO. Also, some of these notes I wrote as we were going through it and some I added later on, so the tense is inconsistent throughout and guess what? The baby is waking up right now so I've decided to I'm not going to fix it because otherwise I don't know when I'll get a chance to finish this. Sorry.

If you don't want to wade through my week by week thoughts, here is my summary after two months with the SNOO: There isn't any way to say exactly what is making a baby sleep, but I do think the SNOO is contributing to better sleep, especially as we get her acclimated.

PROS: The SNOO is good looking, I looooooove the app which gives me a really clear picture of her sleep patterns, and the SNOO swaddles are amazingly easy to use (you can also buy their swaddles for standalone use if you don't want to get a SNOO). By week 8 we are consistently getting 6 - 7 hour sleep stretches (knock on wood) and we can even sometimes lie her down drowsy but awake and she'll put herself to sleep with the help of the SNOO. The customer service is great and they are happy to talk through your situation and troubleshoot with you on sleep issues (see my notes from week 6, when I broke down and asked for help).

CONS: It's really expensive and they usually grow out of it by six months. However, they have big sales regularly and I think I'll be able to resell it pretty easily when we're done. The only other con I have is that you can't see through the sides of the bassinet, so in the beginning I would get up a lot to see if her eyes were open. I've thought about clipping a little camera on the end of the SNOO so that I could check on her from my phone but at this point she's sleeping longer stretches so it doesn't feel as critical anymore.

Okay, deep breath. If you want allllll my sleep deprived thoughts about our first two months with the SNOO, read on ...

Initial thoughts: The SNOO arrived exactly the day we asked for it to be shipped, a couple weeks before she was due. I went with the earlier arrival time because our doctor told us there was a chance she'd have to be delivered early. Ha! She hung out until 41 weeks and the SNOO just sat there taunting us. It's super easy to set up (based on my observation - I watched D do it while I lay on the couch) and it's very sturdy (also heavy). It fits right in with our blend of midcentury modern and Ikea furniture. It comes with one fitted sheet and one swaddle sack in each size. I went ahead and registered for an additional sheet and an additional sack in each size, assuming we'd need to do laundry.

Critical - the SNOO can be operated without the associated app, but you really want the app. It's beautifully designed and lets you control the SNOO from the comfort of your own bed, but the real advantage is that it keeps a log of your baby's sleep times, and how often the SNOO has to step in and soothe the baby. This is amazing, especially in the blur of new baby craziness. I love being able to look back and see how she's sleeping (bearing in mind that in my case, I do wear her a lot for daytime naps, so I don't have any data for that). Every morning we check the log and I realize that my sense of time is not great at night - sometimes I think she was awake forever and it turns out it was just 30 minutes, other times I'll think we had a decent night and realize that I spent 2 hours rocking her at 3am. In the app, the light blue represents peaceful sleep, while the dark blue shows where the SNOO steps in and comforts her by increasing the motion and the white noise. Most of the time she isn't anywhere near fully awake at these points, she's just going through a light sleep cycle and struggling to get back to a deeper sleep. If she fully wakes up and opens her eyes, we can usually tell within 30 - 60 seconds that she isn't going back to sleep without our intervention, and then we just take her out and soothe her ourselves. The SNOO has a time out function, but we have only ever let it time out once early on. We learned pretty quickly how to recognize when she needs us, vs. when the mechanical comforting is enough.

snoo logs months 1 - 2
Example nightly logs from SNOO (I just picked out a few to show the general progression of her sleep during this time - the light blue shows her sleep, the dark blue is where the SNOO is soothing her)

Week 0: 4/10-4/17 We started her in the SNOO the first night we brought her home, and we were getting 2 - 3 hour stretches within the first day. We didn't count on the SNOO to rock her to sleep, so I would usually feed her, hold her a bit and then put her down. The SNOO swaddle sack is super easy to use, even when you are exhausted. The only concern we had is that it's super light and breathable and partly mesh, which will be amazing in summer but we were having chilly nights. It's not a huge deal because you can just put them in warmer pajamas. The sack slides into guides to secure it in the SNOO, and you can't operate the SNOO unless the sack is in place. We alternated between putting the sack in place in the SNOO and setting her down and zipping her in vs. getting her settled in the sack, rocking her to sleep and then setting her down and securing the sack into the guides. Either way, the moment of transition is the awkward part when you have to be super careful not to wake her up. By week 5 we'd realized we could improve our odds of success if we gently pre-heated the mattress by placing a heating pad in there on low and then pulling it out right before putting her in. The last day of week 1 she slept for almost 7 hours straight and we nearly broke our hands patting ourselves on the back for our genius purchase (spoiler - this was an anomaly in those early weeks!).

Week 1: 4/17-4/24 Still sticking with 2 - 3 hours stretches at night. We mostly accepted that she didn't want to go to bed until 11pm, and the hours between 8pm and 11pm were the hardest of the day. We took turns jiggling her in a dark room, with lots of white noise, to try to get her to fall asleep deeply enough to transfer her. But once we got her down, she'd generally sleep from 11pm - 2am (or sometimes 3:30am!), wake up to eat and go down easily and sleep for another few hours. This felt super manageable. We weren't being super consistent about putting her in the SNOO for naps, because we were both home and it was too tempting to either hold her while she slept or go on little outings while she slept in her carseat.

Week 2: 4/24-5/1 No real change, but towards the end of the week we noticed that her sleep was much more broken, and the SNOO was having to soothe her a lot more. In practice, that meant that we weren't getting all that much sleep, because even though we didn't have to get up and rock her back to sleep, I would still wake up whenever she got agitated and then I'd watch her to make sure she fell asleep again (again - these aren't full wake ups with crying and open eyes, it's just her going through a light sleep cycle and struggling a bit to fall fully asleep again). She barely made any noise that this point, so a deeper sleeper probably would have been able to sleep through it, although I think most moms will wake up. I think the SNOO was hugely helpful here, because if it wasn't soothing her back to sleep one of us would have had to get up to rock her each time. 

Week 3: 5/1-5/8  Mostly the same as week 2. We're averaging 1 - 2 wake ups per night (really just for feeding, though, and she usually would go back down easily) and can usually count on a 3 hour stretch and even get a few 4 and 5 hour stretches. The time between 8pm and 11pm is still our hardest but once we get her down around 11, we at least know that she won't fight going down after feedings for the rest of the night (babies are weird - I'm not sure how to explain this but it was incredibly consistent). We're feeling pretty decently rested at this point, partially because we're still both at home on leave and can sometimes nap during the day.

Week 4: 5/8-5/15 Dustin goes back to work and Adrian's sleep starts getting off track (I don't think those things are related but it does mean that we can't take turns napping during the afternoon so things start feeling hard). We still have some nights that follow the usual pattern but we have others where she wakes up multiple times and we struggle to get her back to sleep in the SNOO. She will fall asleep easily after nursing, but then get angry when we try to transfer her. I start keeping her on my chest for longer and longer after nursing, hoping that she'll be deeply enough asleep to move her. It sometimes works but sleep deprivation is setting in. I am super focused on making sure she sleeps during the day so she doesn't get overly tired. I wear her for hours each day and it does seem to help because we no longer have to jiggle her for three hours to get her to sleep at night.

Week 5: 5/15 - 5/22 All hell breaks loose. Our longest sleep session in the SNOO this week is an hour and a half. We have mostly solved the transfer problem (by pre-heating the SNOO mattress and rocking her deeply to sleep before putting her in) but now she's waking up 30 - 45 minutes after we put her down, almost like clockwork, and the SNOO can't soothe her back to sleep. She is AWAKE. I am totally desperate, and end up letting her sleep in our bed for a few nights, which I really, really, didn't want to do (note - let's not have a co-sleeping debate here. I am 100% supportive of safe co-sleeping, but we just aren't set up for it, mostly because I'm not willing to kick Circe out of our bed - she is 13 and going through enough transition already). Adrian is a champion sleeper on my chest at night (and in her wrap during the day), going for up to six hours, but I'm barely getting any sleep because I'm so worried about her. We get a Dock-a-tot from a friend and test that out for a night and it works okay because at least we don't have to get out of bed as much to check on her, but I still want her in her bassinet if at all humanly possible.

Week 6: 5/22 - 5/29 I email SNOO in desperation, asking for advice and they immediately set up a phone call with one of their sleep consultants (if you get a SNOO, don't wait to ask for help!). The consultant calls as scheduled and I'm shocked and a little star struck when it's Dr. Harvey Karp himself (not sure if this is normal or if everyone else was busy). He is incredibly nice and asks a lot of questions about Adrian's sleep patterns, age, etc. and offers his recommendations, some of which might have sounded weird if we weren't already half delusional from lack of sleep. Per his advice we:
1. Elevate the head of the SNOO a little bit. They sell risers for this but in a pinch you can do it by placing tuna cans under the legs, which is hilarious.
2. Raise the baseline setting for the SNOO, so that it rocks a little more throughout the night (done through the app).
3. Increase the white noise, possibly by using a hair dryer. We haven't gone this far and just increased the volume on our noise machine.
4. Elevate her legs by placing a folded receiving blanket under them, inside the SNOO sack. We folded up a blanket into a square, placed it so that it was pressed against her butt and her legs would rest on it.
5. Place a one pound bag of rice on her chest, to mimic the pressure she feels when she sleeps on us. I weighed out a pound of rice into a sandwich size ziploc, wrapped it in cloth and we zipped it inside her SNOO sack. Between the rice and the blankets under her legs, we had to size up to the medium sack and the entire set up looks totally crazy.

But it's working! After a few nights she actually seemed to associate all these things with comfort, because even if she was fussing when we laid her down in the SNOO sack, she would start to calm down as soon as we started zipping her in, and she seemed much happier. A few times we were even able to put her down drowsy but awake (the ultimate goal) and she would go to sleep on her own. Her sleep started improving and we were getting back up to four hour stretches. I started making an effort to put her down in the SNOO for at least one daytime nap, to help her adjust faster. They recommend having your baby sleep in the SNOO for all naps for best results, but at this point sleeping is her main activity, so if I set her down for every nap I'd almost never get to hold her and I'm not willing to do that.

Week 7: 5/29 - 6/5 Regression - she spent a couple days sleeping all the time, then a couple days not wanting to sleep. I guess this is a wonder week for her (she's a week ahead on that timeline because she was a week overdue) so maybe that's the reason. She isn't cranky, but it's so crazy to spend an hour rocking and soothing her to sleep, then the second I lie her down her eyes pop open and she looks at me with a huge grin. After a few days it clears up and she's willing to settle down again.

Week 8: 6/5 - 6/11 We finally start getting longer stretches of sleep! I'm not sure how much is due to the SNOO, how much is due to her age (and the fact that she's finally over 10 lbs), and how much is due to the fact that we have finally been able to get her to take a bottle. She has always had a hard time eating at night and she'd cry to eat but then pull off and cry every minute or two, leading to a ton of frustration for both of us. When I frantically googled "baby fussy in evening" all I got was a million hits about the witching hour and cluster feeding. She's usually a really efficient eater and doesn't do much comfort nursing, so it's a stark contrast to her daytime behavior. The night we were finally able to get her to take an evening bottle she drank five ounces and then went right to sleep with no bouncing and slept for six hours straight. Our new routine is for D to give her a bottle every evening before bed. I often just pump and then pour it directly into a bottle and for some reason she's much happier taking it that way. She's been really consistent this week with sleeping a 6 - 7 hour stretch, waking to eat and then sleeping another 3 hours or so. I never thought that consistently getting five hours of uninterrupted sleep would feel so good.

It's nice that the first two months wrapped up on a high note, but of course I'm worried that by posting this I'll jinx us and she'll go back to refusing to sleep. I just keep reminding myself that everything (the good and the bad) is just a phase, but it will gradually get better over time if we keep working at it.

If you have questions about the SNOO let me know and I'll do my best to answer based on our experience. My plan is to post three of these reviews, each one covering two months (since they usually stop using it at six months).