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New smart crib aims to relieve frazzled, sleep-deprived parents

Think of it as a bedtime caregiver for your fussy baby.
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Exhausted parents the world over have probably fantasized about a crib that could automatically rock their crying babies to sleep. And Snoo, a new $1,150 smart sleeper, promises to do that. It mimics the sounds of the womb and comes with a swaddle blanket to prevent your baby from rolling over into dangerous positions, which the company says is a big reason more than 3,500 babies a year die in their sleep. To tackle this problem, pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby, Dr. Harvey Karp, teamed up with MIT engineers and designer Yves Behar to develop what they're calling the first smart (and, they add, safest) sleeper.

Gallery: Snoo smart sleeper product images | 5 Photos

Snoo can tell when your infant is crying thanks to three built-in microphones, which can differentiate between environmental noise and a baby's wailing. Then, depending on how noisy the baby is, it will play specially-designed white noise that's either lower-pitched and slower when her crying is softer, or higher-pitched and more persistent when she gets louder. The device will also start shaking to rock your child to sleep.

During my demo, the white noise sounded like heartbeats from an ultrasound machine during a sonogram. The rocking also seemed gentle at first, and as we talked louder near the crib, it grew stronger. Of course, since there wasn't a live baby there and I can't fit into the crib, I couldn't tell how comfortable or effective it would be.

If the problem can't be solved with mere soothing (think: hunger or a dirty diaper) then Snoo can't help. It's only meant for fussy infants who need pacifying, not to replace a caregiver. If the baby relaxes right away, parents won't have to get out of bed. If the crying persists, it's easier for parents to pick between getting milk or a fresh diaper.

Gallery: Meet the Snoo smart sleeper | 5 Photos

When it's time for the baby to go to bed, you can swaddle her in the provided organic onesies (the sheets are organic too). Three are included, one each in three sizes: small, medium and large. The onesies have straps that can be attached to the sides of the crib to prevent your baby from flipping over. Each zips up in front and can be opened from the bottom for easy diaper changes. A mesh panel near the bottom helps prevent overheating.

Swaddling, rocking and white noises are inherently calming actions that soothe not just babies but adults as well. That's part of the reason we frequently fall asleep in moving vehicles and like wrapping ourselves up like burritos in blankets when we go to bed. I can't guarantee, from my brief demo, that the Snoo will be effective at putting your fussy baby to sleep, but it at least seems to be based on sound theories. Still, $1,150 is a lot of money for something we can't guarantee will work. You'd be better off waiting for parenting blogs to test it out before taking the plunge.

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