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Slumber Bear - Depriving Newborns Of Contact?

I stumbled upon a forum the other day where "baby essentials" were being discussed. As you know I think there are very few things that are truly essential when baby is small - and as the discussion following the above entry highlighted, essential varies widely parent to parent, baby to baby.

But I did notice the "Slumber Bear" was mentioned several times so I went to check it out.

The description from Amazon:
"Designed by a doctor and used successfully in maternity wards for over 30 years, the Prince Lionheart Slumber Bear Plus has helped millions of newborns (and their parents) get a good night's sleep. The Slumber Bear Plus features a multi-function sound box playing womb sounds, lullabies, ocean waves and white noise. There is also a recordable feature allowing you to save your own unique message for baby. Comforting sounds lull baby to sleep in minutes and sound and motion sensors reactivate the recording when your baby cries or jostles the bear.
Each Slumber Bear Plus arrives with its own silkie. Parents can bond with baby by keeping silkie close to their skin, transferring their scent to the blanket. The scent then comforts and reassures baby when parents are out of reach and the soft, smooth texture provides beneficial tactile stimulation."

"How it was designed ... By placing a specially designed 8mm microphone inside a pregnant mother's uterus, directly next to the unborn infant's ear. Insertion of the microphone moments before the mother went into labor enabled Dr. Eller to record the major intrauterine sounds that the baby had been hearing for the last four to five months prior to birth. The recorded sounds were then clinically tested on thousands of babies in hospital nurseries, and proved to be a natural audio baby pacifier. Based on the knowledge that the birth experience and transition from the peaceful, quiet existence inside the mother's body is a very traumatic time for the newborn, it has been proved that the recorded intrauterine sounds produce a calming effect on the newborn infant after birth."
  Firstly I wonder how they define a "good night's sleep", is that by the newborn standards or parental norms?   Secondly why on earth do parents need to bond with baby via a piece of cheap cloth?  You can hold the cloth to transfer your scent, then this cloth can be reassuring to the baby?

Seriously how did the human race bond before?

Perhaps (just throwing random ideas out there) they held the baby, he was in turn comforted by the scent, touch and sounds of his mother or father - oxytocin was released all round and thus they bonded?

Now babies can't have free access to their parents, instead they have to learn to soothe themselves to sleep alone - with parent smelling material and a machine making parental sounds?

The trouble is it seems, that newborns need their parents - but that doesn't make money!  As is highlighted above, transition to the outside world can be traumatic for newborns; as a result they are meant to stay close to their mother - her scent, milk, voice all serving to ease that transition.

If a baby needed to hear womb sounds to settle appropriately, wouldn't our bodies make this sound?  Or maybe babies actually only need this if separated from their parents - if they can't have the real thing.  Doesn't it kind of trick babies into thinking they're close?

And is this a risk free plan?

Earlier this year a study by Nils Bergman published in Biological Psychiatry found:
Heart rate variability in 2-day-old sleeping babies for one hour each during skin-to-skin contact with mother and alone in a cot next to mother's bed. Neonatal autonomic activity was 176% higher and quiet sleep 86% lower during maternal separation compared to skin-to-skin contact."
Indeed Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented on the study's findings:
"This paper highlights the profound impact of maternal separation on the infant. We knew that this was stressful, but the current study suggests that this is major physiologic stressor for the infant."
 Read more here

From the description above, note how the product was developed and tested in hospital nurseries - places where babies are separated from their mother and placed alone in cots.

Read the reviews on Amazon and it's noted how great that when the baby makes a sound it restarts and soothes them!  No parental effort required, genius.  If the cot is next to you, give it a tap and away it goes.  I don't see any reviews from those sleeping with their baby, only from those having trouble putting their baby down alone or settling/sleeping alone.
"His Mummy wore the snuggle blanket down her top for a night to make it smell of her and now the combination works a treat.  The little man keeps hold of his snuggle blanket while asleep and if ever he wakes with a start the noise machine kicks in and soothes him back to sleep"
"Firstly I should state that this has been absolutely instrumental in getting my baby to sleep in her own bed and I would recommend it to anyone who's baby has trouble self soothing."
"Bought this as a last resort for our baby who would only ever settle in our bed, as soon as we tried to put him down he would scream. Now he falls asleep to the womb noises and also settles very quickly."
"We bought this for our son when he was 4 days old as he wouldn't settle in his crib at night."
"Slumber bear - only thing that got her to sleep in her basket"
Notice the pattern?

Plus some rather worrying ones:
"We had an eight week old baby who wasn't sleeping and thought, what the hell, we will try anything! Within a few nights we could see her settle."
"I credit this with helping my baby learn how to sleep. He is 4 months old now and has slept through the night (12 hours a night without waking up) since he was 2 and a half months old because each time he woke up at the end of his short sleep cycles not for a feed it helped him get straight back to sleep."
8 week old human infants aren't supposed to sleep for 12 hours without waking up - they're meant to wake and rouse (for a whole myriad of reasons).  Using something like this to induce abnormal sleep/wake cycles isn't "natural" or beneficial to the baby - even if it's convenient to parents who want their 12 hours!

Perhaps someone will come up with something so the parents don't even have to faff around feeding baby themselves, the other big newborn need.  Depriving baby of even more contact...

Oh wait, they did already!

So there may be risks baby will choke, but you know parents are busy nowadays!  Who has time to stop and feed a baby anyway - let alone get up and soothe one when you can kick the cot and have it done for you.  Babies are hardy, they will adapt with lots of gadgets to replace their parents right?

Nappy changing robot anyone?

PS - white noise can be settling to an overtired unsettled infant; vacuum cleaners, untuned radios, hairdryers, white noise machines and white noise phone apps are all available. Sure they wont restart when your baby murmurs, wont play womb noises but if these are more than occasional use items it makes more sense to address the cause of the fussyness and consider whether expectations are realistic.


  1. I don't think it has to be so black and white. While it is obviously not a good idea to use this as the sole means of comfort for your baby *you should be the first and main source* it sounds like it could be very valuable and useful, especially if you have multiple young children. There is nothing wrong with having things that help you out- if you are an overwhelmed parent that is worse for your child than if you use a few gadgets here and there to help you be able to have a break and keep everything rolling along. What babies need most is a parent who truly loves them and cares for them- that is not defined by whether or not there's a Slumber Bear in the house.

  2. I don't think I would have wanted something like this with a newborn. She needed her mommy and I was happy to be there for her.

    But now that we're in the middle of the 4 month sleep regression (she's 5 months old) and she's waking up 5-6x a night still, even though she eats plenty during the day (I don't work, so I'm home with her, she has access to boobs all day long!) I must admit, it's... TEMPTING to try.

    I think the use as a mommy replacement as a newborn is probably not a good idea, but I can see that it might have it's place.

    I'd never label it an "essential" though. Essential, to me, was some clothes, a carseat, my Moby, cloth diapers, wipes, and bath supplies. Pretty much everything else we could have (or did!) live without.

  3. Just another way to take your money and baby's needs be damned. If baby is waking, and this stupid thing is responding, parents cannot judge if baby just needs to settle again, or if baby's needs are even more urgent and demanding. Totally not worth staying in bed for the risk. Being a mom doesn't end when the sun goes down.

  4. Lol. That baby feeding thing. That is scary. Babies, it seems, are viewed as inconvenient distractions from the march back to work and The Quest for Stuff. For some families on low incomes, that's a grim reality, for those better off, just ideology. My wife and I are struggling with the idea of her going back after 11 months. It's not even the loss of income, really, so much as the loss of her job and having to give the maternity pay back. We're both hoping one day we'll look back and know it was the right decision for the little one.

  5. I bought one of these blasted things! We had a co-sleeper adjoined to our bed and my daughter still wouldn't go in it. Her will was stronger than slumber bear. I bought it because my older son would never "go down" and only slept in the sling or on me and I would've liked to be able to put him down sometimes. Reading the research quoted above looks like they knew best afterall!

  6. A slumber bear is no way 'essential' to a parent and of course they should not replace the important role that mum or dad plays, however I can see how they could be a useful comfort. The trouble is a lot of (new) parents are afraid to follow instincts to respond to their baby's needs and as we seem to live in a culture where a baby 'sleeping through' is the ideal, then parents will turn to devices like this. We definitely need to do more to educate parents that frequent wakings is the norm and is actually desirable, despite it being not a lot of fun for tired mum and dad.

    From my own personal point of view, being a mother of four children (a set of twins aged six and a set of twins aged two) I know the practical difficulties of trying to settle small babies and look after other children at the same time. While I wouldn't have wanted to use a Slumber Bear to get my twins sleeping 12 straight hours, it can see how it would have served a useful function and provided them with some comfort, allowing me to tend to my other children.

  7. My 3rd baby wouldn't sleep anywhere but in my arms... so that is where she slept. I bought several slings and wore her for every sleep until she was 4 months old. I also had a 2 year old and a 5 year old to look after, so sitting around with a sleeping baby was not an option, as much as I enjoyed doing it! One day I tried putting her in her bassinet and she slept for 2 hours - because I waited until she was ready - no gadgets, no CIO, nothing but me and my boobs :) She turned 1 last week, and now sleeps in a sidecar cot next to our bed. But we both still enjoy baby wearing at least once day!

  8. I personally wouldn't use one because I'm happy to have close contact and bed share to mine and my children's hearts content. But there are some parents out there that even when they have this information, understand and empathise with their baby and who still don't feel comfortable bed sharing, baby wearing etc for what ever reason. If this stops someone going down the CIO or CC route and gives a baby some of what they want in that absence of what they need.....I don't see the 'harm'.

  9. I had the slumber bear for my LO and found it very useful. Not so much the bear, but just the sound box. We did co-sleep and I wore him a lot, so it wasn't used to soothe him to sleep, he only slept with me, neither was it used at night, but if I ever had to put him down in the day (which he didn't like much) he found the womb noise comforting.

    That picture of the baby being fed by, erm, it's chair? Made me gasp!

  10. I used the slumber bear sound device in between the cots at the hospital when my twins were in the nicu for 12 days. It made me feel better that they could hear something more soothing than the sounds of the monitors. I haven't used it since we came home (18 months ago) and we bed share and I'm up throughout the night still nursing, but I don't mind- and they need me! Anything can be misused, and any new parent can be given ill advice and think it's the right thing to do. I just followed my instincts, but couldn't be with my boys 24 hours a day (only 18 hours, lol!) I think there is credible use for a device like this, but I'm not seeing the benefit of drowning your baby with a bottle held by a chair. :(

  11. Absolutely Shauna! I agree, especially as UK hospitals simply aren't set up for full time KMC x

  12. We have something similar to this- it's a "music box" looking device and it plays music and "womb noises." Now, we've never let my son cry-it-out, and at 13-months-old, he still wakes up 3-4x a night, but it has been really great to soothe him, as well as block any outside noises from disturbing his sleep. Also, we didn't start using it until he was 3+ months old. It is almost exactly like a "white noise machine" you see for adults who need white noise to go to sleep, except it plays "baby" tunes and has a womb sound. LOL, hilariously, I actually find the womb sound to be very calming, and have fallen asleep with it many times. :P