AnnaMarie Houlis
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Employers are getting better at giving generous paid time off to new parents. But some companies really fostering the whole family-friendly culture — including Hulu, the Canadian book seller Indigo Books and Music Inc. — by going the extra mile to offer up $1,160 smart cribs for free or at a discount.

Enter: The Snoo. Fast Company has called it the "best crib most parents can only dream about." Why? It's the brainchild of Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of the best-selling parenting book The Happiest Baby on the Block. He says babies want to feel like they’re back in the womb and, therefore, any fussing baby can be calmed by swaddling, shushing, swinging, sucking and lying on his or her stomach or side. So, the Snoo does just that by using sensors to respond to a baby's sounds and movement. For example, when the baby cries, the Snoo rocks and plays white noise. Parents can control the Snoo with an app, of course, and it alerts them if their baby is inconsolable (you know, in need of human attention).

It's been a big hit at California-based video game company Activision Blizzard Inc., which offers its 6,000 employees eight weeks of fully paid parental leave, a breast-milk delivery service, fertility- and pregnancy-tracking apps, and, now, fully subsidizes a Snoo rental for up to six months.

And, of course, the Snoo isn't just a perk for parents. For trailblazing employers like Activision Blizzard Inc., the Snoo promises potential productivity benefits for employers. Their parents on staff will have better sleep, which means they'll come to work more well rested, and that can ultimately lead to increased productivity. It's a win-win.

Besides, the discounted corporate rental rate of $3.50 per day is cheaper than offering employees an additional month of paid leave, so it's a relatively inexpensive perk comparatively. That said, more sleep isn't the only reason new parents need paid leave — that time with their newborns is proven to be critical for bonding for parents and their babies, though only 14 percent of workers get any paid parental leave at all. So paid leave is still important, but the Snoo is nonetheless an attractive, added perk for new parents.

It's still a niche product, however. While it has sold more than 10,000 since it hit the market in October 2016, there are about four million babies born each year in the U.S. — that's a lot of families who could use the Snoo. Karp believes that the corporate market will eventually consume the bulk of his business, and evermore companies will help to get the Snoo into more homes.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

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