If you haven’t heard, babies are a lot of work. They’re so much work that parents spend astounding amounts of money on gadgets that claim to ease life with baby. Most people know about bottle warmers, wipe warmers, vibrating seats, noise machines and music-playing mobiles.
This week, I honed my skills as a technology reviewer and new mom to learn about a handful of innovative nursery gadgets.
I tested two devices made by 4moms, mamaRoo and Breeze, with some help from my six-month-old son, Liam. (Welcome to the family!) I also learned about Mimo, a onesie with built-in sensors to monitor an infant’s respiration, skin temperature, body position and activity level. And I familiarized myself with two machines that mix bottles of baby formula much like your coffee maker prepares a cuppa joe, at just the right size and temperature.
Conveniences like these can cost enough to make adults throw temper tantrums.
But depending on how desperate you are, you might find that they save you in a pinch — or make luxurious gifts for your new-parent family members and friends.
I started with the 4moms products, which I set up in my home. The company is known for its Origami, an $850 auto-folding stroller that also has generators in its wheels, daytime running lights, an LCD dashboard that tells the temperature and a phone charger. I think my stroller should also cook me breakfast if I’m paying $850, so I didn’t review the Origami.
The mamaRoo uses five different motions to imitate parents’ movements, like bouncing up and down and swaying from side to side. It also plays nature sounds or music from any device with a headphone jack, and sound comes out of two speakers on the swing’s base. It has a stationary mobile that hangs over the child’s head, but doesn’t move.
MamaRoo competes most directly with a swing that I own, the Fisher-Price My Little Snuggabunny (also available in other animal themes, like “lamb”), which swings the baby while playing nature sounds or lullabies, and entertains with a mobile that spins and moves up and down. The mamaRoo is $40 more than the $180 Fisher-Price model, but it takes up considerably less space in a room — a real plus for a city dweller like me. In addition to its big footprint, the Fisher-Price swing needs clearance around it for swinging, which requires even more room.
If my baby reviewed the mamaRoo, I’m pretty sure he’d be mostly positive. He seemed to like it most when this swing was in its farthest-reclined position. From there, he could rest and reach out to play with the mobile, rather than glancing around the room like he did when the swing was tilted more vertically. And the built-in sounds that come from the mamaRoo’s speakers were loud enough to use as an efficient white-noise machine.
I thought my son would be wowed by the mamaRoo’s various movements, including Car Ride, since he loves riding in the car, and Rock a Bye, which sways up and down like I do when trying to calm him. But after the first few seconds of trying each movement, he seemed to react the same way he does with the Fisher-Price swing — somewhat relaxed, but not instantly calmed. It’s possible that a younger baby might be more enchanted by the mamaRoo.
The 4moms Breeze competes with Graco’s well-known Pack ’n Play Playard, which varies in price, but costs around $80 for a basic model. (The Pack ’n Play name has become so common that it’s like the “Kleenex” of playards. If you stay in a hotel with a baby, you’ll find yourself asking if they have a Pack ’n Play for your room, when you’re really just asking if they have a portable crib to set up and use.)
However helpful, the most irksome thing about the Pack ’n Play is setting it up or taking it down, a job I usually like to pass to my husband. Both of us know how to do it, but neither of us enjoys the task.
Setting up the 4moms Breeze is straightforward: You push down on its center button, which instantly spreads its support feet out in four directions. It took me three minutes to set up, compared to the 15 minutes or more I spend on the Pack ’n Play. If you have a young baby and want to use the bassinet feature of the Breeze, its included bassinet netting attaches to the crib rails and hangs in the top portion. Mattresses are included for both setups, and a $30 waterproof bassinet sheet is sold separately.
The Breeze also comes with a travel bag and an oval-shaped, waterproof changing pad for use in the bassinet.
Neither the Breeze nor the Pack ’n Play feel light, in spite of the fact that they’re designed to take on the go. But the Breeze felt noticeably heavier to me, and, in fact, it was: The Breeze weighed in at 30 pounds versus just under 23 pounds for the Pack ’n Play.
The nursery revolution continues in wearable tech and formula mixing. I came across three more gadgets that I learned about but wasn’t able to test.
For parents who are constantly worried about their baby’s real-time well-being, the Mimo Baby Monitor is a three-part system that tracks baby’s vital signs. (I tried to get one for testing, but Mimo’s supply was too low to send one in time.) Parents can buy a $200 starter kit, which includes three kimonos (baby onesies), a tiny green turtle that attaches to the onesie, and a Lilypad base station. The turtle and kimono work together to track baby’s respiration, skin temperature, body position and activity level. They use Bluetooth Low Energy to send this data to the Lilypad base station, which connects to your home Wi-Fi and sends data to your smartphone via the Mimo app. The Lilypad also has a microphone, so your baby’s sounds can be streamed to your device.
Finally, I learned about machines that aim to help prepare bottles of formula so parents don’t have to do it. The Formula Pro by Baby Brezza and the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Perfect Prep each cost $150, and work with various bottle types. But the Formula Pro measures out correct amounts of formula powder and water, while the Tommee Tippee unit still requires that you measure out your formula amounts.
If you’re a new parent, you may be tempted to splurge on high-end devices like some of these. Just remember that most of them can only be used for a short period of time, and not all of them work as well as you might imagine.