White Noise + Baby SleepAug 04, 2022
WHITE NOISE IS SO HELPFUL FOR SLEEPING BABIES!
In fact, one study has shown that 80% of babies fell asleep within 5 minutes when playing a white noise machine.
It has been proven to lower the amount of time it takes to fall asleep as well as increase the amount of time spent in restorative sleep. It also decreases the time to transition from one sleep cycle to the next.
“Shhhhh…..be quiet or you’ll wake the baby.”
Yeah, that’s not really accurate. Babies are used to LOUD noise in the womb. The sound of your blood rushing through your body is really loud... like as loud as a running vacuum cleaner. The noise in the womb is approximately 90 decibels, which is louder than a running shower (which is approx. 70 decibels).
In turn, silence can actually have the opposite effect of calming a newborn because it is so drastically different from your womb. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, playing white noise turns on your baby’s calming reflex, and helps them to feel calm, as it mimics the womb environment.
WHEN SHOULD I USE IT?
Use white noise for all sleeps in the crib! You can have it running at night, for naps, and even on the go if you find it helps them (you can find portable white noise machines). Some people find these portable machines to be fab for those naps on the go the first few months.
Make sure it is a continuous sound and that it doesn't turn off on a timer. It can actually WAKE them up if it’s running and suddenly shuts off (seriously).
HOW LOUD SHOULD IT BE?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the white noise level for infants is 50 decibels at least 3 feet away from your baby. This was recommended in 1999 by the National Resource Center specifically for babies in hospital, premature babies in particular. This limit of 50 decibels actually has nothing to do with protecting your baby’s hearing so you can rest easy there. In fact, the study concluded that harmful effects from loud noises in the NICU “have not been demonstrated consistently” (this reference is linked at the end if you’re interested to read more).
Dr. Harvey Karp from Happiest Baby (the doctor who coined the term “The Fourth Trimester,”) says that white noise needs to be around 60-70 decibels to be effective.
In summary, I think you can just use your intuition. If you personally find it to be uncomfortably loud… then it is probably is too loud. If you can hardly hear it, then you can turn it up a little bit.
If you really want to, you can check the sound level of your white noise machine with free phone applications such as this one.
BENEFITS OF USING WHITE NOISE
It has been shown to decrease the time to fall asleep and to transition from one sleep cycle to the next.
It encourages a deeper sleep (more restorative).
It can be an excellent tool for blocking household noises such as: dogs, siblings, clattering about in the kitchen etc.
Babies are easily overstimulated, so white noise can help to create a block in stimulation, assisting them to calm down and fall asleep.
It mimics what your baby heard and felt in the womb.
It is a helpful sleep association that does not require ongoing parental intervention.
It can turn into a cute part of the bedtime routine as they get older (turning it on themselves etc).
WON’T THEY BECOME DEPENDENT ON THE WHITE NOISE FOR SLEEP?
Yes, they might! My response to this is kind of lame, and you may not agree, but it’s just my opinion so you can take it or leave it….
It doesn’t matter!
It’s just white noise. You can turn it on and walk away. They even have some machines with a battery life just incase the power goes out (shout out to Hatch Baby Rest +). As long as you’re playing a continuous noise that doesn’t turn off, it shouldn’t cause any problems at all and you can keep using it for years to come. In my opinion, it can only benefit them moving forward from toddlerhood into adulthood.
I had never heard of using white noise for sleep until I had my daughter. As we were room-sharing, I began using the machine and I got used to the calming sound and ended up loving it. I now use it myself in my bedroom and prefer to sleep with it running even though there is no baby in my room anymore. I find that it helps me fall asleep faster, its an excellent sleep cue for my body, and helps me to go throughs sleep cycles more seamlessly.
HOW CAN I WEAN THEM OFF IT?
Okay, okay! If you really hate the idea of them using it forever, you CAN wean them off it. This can be done really easily. Simply turn down the white noise machine a couple of notches (or move it further away at first) and do this every night for a few days until it’s off.
It may take a few days for them to wean off it and get used to the silence, so keep that in mind. You can start doing this after 1-2 years old if you like, as I find white noise to be the most helpful in the first year of life.
SOUND MACHINE SUGGESTIONS
Finally…..you never asked, but I’m going to share my favourite sound machines. Just a note to say this is not an advert. I have used these products for years and personally really enjoy them. I paid for every single one myself.
My absolute favourite sound machine has to be the YogaSleep Dohm White Noise Machine (pictured below). I love their natural sound collection.
This is the machine I use for both of my daughters, and I have one in my own bedroom too. I love it because it is not an electronic sound, rather, a more natural, soft, and calming sound. I have three in my house! I also have their travel sound machine here, which is a great option if you’re looking for something more portable.
I also quite like the Hatch Baby Rest sound machine and toddler clock. I do prefer this more as a toddler clock. Although it has some great features (such as being able to control it from your phone), I’m not a huge fan of the sounds. We used it with my first born for about a year on the beach waves sound setting which I found to be the best one. Their “white noise” literally sounds like an old TV, lol.
In summary, white noise can be a SUPER helpful tool in encouraging great sleep for your baby (or toddler…. or yourself).
Do you already use white noise and you’re constantly struggling? I can help! I offer sleep plans for ages 0-4 years!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, February 6). Noise & Hearing Loss Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (linked).
Hume, Kenneth & Brink, Mark & Basner, Mathias. (2012). Effects of environmental noise on sleep. Noise & health. 14. 297-302. 10.4103/1463-1741.104897.
Spencer, J. A., Moran, D. J., Lee, A., & Talbert, D. (1990, January). White Noise and sleep induction. Archives of disease in childhood.
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