SNOO’s Birth Story!
Behind every precious baby lies a unique birth story. The tales range from awe-inspiring to humorous to harrowing…and everything in between. Each story is deeply personal and special, and SNOO’s birth story is no exception. In honor of our baby’s sixth birthday, we’re proud to share SNOO’s jubilant entry into the world.
2002: The Glimmer in Dr. Harvey Karp’s Eye
It’s impossible to share SNOO’s birth story without honoring The Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp’s groundbreaking 2002 video and book that laid the framework for SNOO’s conception. This bestselling book is where Dr. Karp first shared the radical notion that babies are born several months too early (the fourth trimester) and require womb-like sound, motion, and touch (the 5 S’s) to trigger a little one’s calming reflex, sort of an inborn “off” switch for fussing and “on” switch for sleep. These ideas went on to revolutionize our understanding of the needs of young babies…and the key skills that help new parents master their new job. In fact, the 5 S’s (swaddling, shushing, swinging, sucking, and holding Baby in side-stomach position) are so synonymous with baby sleep that thousands of Happiest Baby educators have been certified to teach these wonderful techniques in hospitals, parenting clinics, military bases, teen parenting programs, as part of child abuse prevention initiatives, and more…all around the world.
2008: The Seed is Planted
Several years after The Happiest Baby on the Block debuted, Dr. Harvey Karp gave a lecture on one of the topics he’s most passionate about: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). He shared that 3,500 healthy American babies die in their sleep year after year—and that the number of these tragic SIDS deaths had not gone down in over 20 years. Dr. Karp asked, “If a foreign nation was killing 3,500 of our babies every year, we would probably declare war. Why aren’t we doing more to end this terrible situation?” After the talk, one of the attendees tossed the challenge back to Dr. Karp, saying, You’re a leading pediatrician, can’t you do more to fix the problem? Dr. Karp took the request to heart.
2008: The Sketch
Unable to shake the comment and request hurled at him earlier in the day, over dinner with his wife Nina Montée Karp (Happiest Baby’s president and co-founder), Dr. Karp grabbed a pen and hotel napkin and began sketching. That 10-second doodle was the very first rudimentary sketch of SNOO, complete with its organic oval shape, a few artistic flourishes to indicate womb-like sound and rocking, and—most importantly—a way to keep sleeping babies safely positioned on the back.
Dr. Karp knew that his concept—featuring three of his 5 S’s: swaddling, shushing, and swinging—would do so much more than help keep babies safe. He had already seen the way his 5 S’s dramatically transformed screaming, colicky babies into sleeping angels…and exhausted, stress-addled parents into confident, well-rested caregivers.
This “hi-tech bassinet,” he hoped, could use his “low-tech” ideas to save thousands of babies’ lives and make life easier for millions of parents in one fell swoop! The notion was so compelling—and felt so urgent—that Dr. Karp and Nina bet everything they had and dedicated themselves to working seven days a week to solve these enormous problems.
2011: The Prototype
As Dr. Karp searched for an engineering partner to help bring his dream into reality, a friend recommended he meet Dr. Deb Roy, PhD, a leader at the celebrated MIT Media Lab. Together they built a team and began creating DIY prototypes. First it was a swiveling plank of wood. Next, a bright green plastic laundry basket with a special swaddle and little handles poking out to allow parents to jiggle the platform, picking the exact rhythm that worked best for their baby.
Dr. Karp shuttled between Los Angeles, New York, and Boston for many months, enlisting the help of dozens and dozens of babies—easy ones and very challenging ones—who tested the gradually improving prototype. First, the babies tested the prototype for just a few hours…and then days, then weeks, then for several months. Dr. Karp knew they were on the right path when some parents delayed returning their prototypes—and others offered to pay to keep theirs!
2011-2015: The Long Labor
Seeing the extraordinary promise of his idea, Dr. and Nina Karp next sought out a collaborator who could transform the magical green “laundry basket” into an elegant, award-winning aesthetic. They were thrilled to begin work with Yves Béhar, a world-celebrated industrial designer, dad of 2 (now 4), who was already a big fan of the 5 S’s. The dream birth team was set!
Filled with idealism and optimism, Dr. Karp thought it would take roughly one year for him and his illustrious team to create his smart sleeper. In reality, it took several years, including tens of thousands of hours building, tweaking, and upgrading the bed…and testing with hundreds of babies. Their very ambitious goal was not just to make a bed that worked, but to use advanced engineering to create a bed that would work for tens of millions of hours. Why? Because the Karps’ intention—from the beginning—was to make a bed that could be used over and over, which would reduce costs, be more environmentally-sustainable, and allow millions of families to have access to low-cost SNOOs through a rental program (and eventually, they hoped, to no-cost SNOOs…covered by insurance companies and other third-party payers).
While the labor was significantly longer than expected, all parties agreed that it was well worth the wait!
2016: The Birth!
On October 18, 2016—after much anticipation and hard work—Dr. Karp and Nina welcomed their baby into the world…the smartest baby bed ever made. Named by proud big sister, Lexi Montée (Dr. Karp and Nina’s daughter and Happiest Baby’s VP of Marketing), SNOO (short for snooze), officially became the newest member of the Happiest Baby family. (SNOO is sometimes called Dr. Karp’s 6th S!)
SNOO, like all babies, carries the DNA of its parents. This revolutionary safe and responsive baby bed is deeply imprinted with Dr. Karp’s core belief that babies not only want the soothing womb-like rhythms found in the 5 S’s—but need them. SNOO also inherited Dr. Karp’s safe-sleep dreams, confidently securing babies on their backs all sleep long.
Today, at a mere 7 years old, SNOO has become the first and only infant sleep system to receive FDA De Novo Authorization for keeping sleeping babies safely on their backs. Plus, SNOO has helped babies enjoy more than 500 million hours of safe sleep. SNOO’s parents could not be prouder! (For important safety information visit happiestbaby.com/fda).
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.