Can White Noise Help Your Baby Sleep?

Sleep is essential for everyone, especially a growing baby! You may be looking for ways to help your baby sleep. Someone has probably recommended you try using white noise.

But what is it, and does it really work? Let's go over all the questions you have about white noise for babies.

Using White Noise To Help Your Baby Sleep

We've all been there. Your little one is awake all night just to fall asleep as soon as you start your day. It can be frustrating trying to figure out ways to help your baby sleep through the night.

Maybe you've checked all the boxes: Your little one is fed, has a clean diaper, and is in a warm, safe environment. So why aren't they sleeping? You might have heard white noise for babies mentioned before. What is it, and how do people use it?

What is White Noise?

Technically, white noise is made by producing noise at every frequency the human ear can pick up, all at the same time. This noise is like a “shushing” sound or the fuzzy sound emitted by a static radiofrequency.

The theory is that our sleeping brains focus on the white noise, which is a consistent layer of sound and helps us sleep calmly without abruptly waking up during the night.

For our purposes, it's important to note that the power of noise is measured in decibels. Different audio measures in different decibels (dB):

  • Whispering: 20dB
  • Indoor conversations: 50dB
  • Vacuum cleaner: 70dB
  • Food blender: 80dB

We'll highlight here that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended noise limits for newborns in a hospital nursery of 50dB or less. White noise machines are recommended to have this limit as well.

How Does White Noise Work?

White noise for babies mimics the environment in the womb. Before they are born, babies are connected to a constant feeding source, they're warm and cozy, and it's pretty loud. They can actually hear the sound of their mother's blood flow, which is around 70 to 80 decibels. This level is louder than a vacuum cleaner!

It's a big adjustment coming into this world where they have to figure out how to tell us when they are hungry and tired. Babies are not used to being in a completely quiet environment, which can be difficult for them.

When thinking about ways to help your baby sleep, remember that they are adjusting to many changes already. Creating a layer, or blanket, of noise by using white noise will remind your infant of the womb and encourage them to sleep.

If you live in a busy city or have older children, you don't live in a quiet environment. But when you're trying to help your baby sleep, you don't want to hear horns honking and doors slamming. White noise for babies drowns out any jolting noises that might disturb them.

How To Use White Noise To Put Baby To Sleep

So how do you use it successfully to help your baby sleep? Is there a proper way to use it? When should you use it?

Picking a White Noise Machine

You can find all kinds of white noise machines on the market. There are ones made especially for infants, and you can also find lots of white noise apps on your phone. Some people use a YouTube playlist to play white noise for free, and our video baby monitors all let you play white noise to your baby. So, which one is the right one for you?

Choose a highly rated one that's portable so you can use it when you're sleeping away from home. Find one that uses both a power cord and batteries, just in case you don't have access to an outlet.

Also, think about picking a white noise machine that has different types of noises, including:

  • White noise
  • Heartbeat
  • Shushing
  • Ocean Sounds
  • Rain and thunder
  • Lullabies

While the rest aren't actually white noise, babies respond well to them. See which one your baby likes best!

Using a White Noise Machine Safely

You should never mount white noise for babies on or near a crib. The AAP recommends placing speakers 7 feet away from a sleepy baby. Keep cords out of reach.

Be aware that while most white noise machines follow AAP recommendations for noise limits, if it's too loud for you, it's too loud for your baby. Observe your baby and use your judgment as a parent.

Also, don't give up! When you're trying to help your baby sleep, it can be tricky to figure out what they need. If nothing else is working, play around with different noises and volumes. The white noise that works for some babies may not work for others.

White Noise For Successful Sleep

To help your baby sleep better using white noise, introduce it slowly and use it consistently. White noise can be a great tool to help your baby develop a healthy sleeping routine.

Start at the lowest setting when introducing white noise to young infants. A higher volume can be soothing for upset babies but try lowering the volume after your baby falls asleep.

Include a white noise machine in your little one's sleep routine. About 15 minutes before it's time to  sleep, create a calm environment for children by using a quieter voice and limiting external stimulation like screens and music.

When it's time to sleep, turn off the lights and turn on the white noise machine. White noise for babies signals that it's time to calm down and sleep. When it's time to wake up, turn off the device and let light into the room. This routine signals them that it's time to wake up and play!

Pros and Cons of White Noise For Babies

Pros

  • White noise can help your baby sleep because it soothes them. In one study, 80% of infants introduced to white noise fell asleep faster than those who fell asleep without it.

  • Scholars believe that sleep aids, like white noise machines, can help infants experience more prolonged periods of deep sleep, reducing the risk of SIDS.

  • You don't have to stick to one sound. Noises that work for one baby may not work for another. Choose a white noise machine that has different sounds and find one your baby likes!

  • White noise can be free! You don't need to purchase an expensive machine to benefit from this tool. Find a free app on your phone or play a YouTube white noise video (with screens turned away from your child).

Cons

  • White noise for babies can be harmful if used incorrectly. If it's played too loud, it can lead to hearing loss. If it's played 24-hours a day, there's a small risk of a developmental delay in hearing or speech.
  • There is a risk of dependency. If your baby gets to the point where they cannot sleep at all unless there is white noise playing, you will have to decide if it's time to wean your child off using it.

FAQ

There are a few common questions around incorporating white noise into your baby's sleep routine. Here are the main questions from other parents:

Should I Use White Noise For My Baby All Night?

There’s no harm in using it all night and during nap times if you’re using it at the recommended decibel limit. Try to limit white noise at other times, like the sound of loud fans when your baby is awake.

What If My Baby Doesn't Like It?

If your baby is irritated when you play white noise, adjust the volume and try different noises on your white noise machine. White noise isn't for all babies, and that's okay.

Can I Use White Noise Machines in the Car?

Yes! If you're traveling, you can keep things as consistent as possible to help your baby sleep. There are several small, portable white noise machines available that are great for the car.

At What Age Should Baby Stop Using White Noise?

There is no recommended age to stop using white noise for babies. If your child is in daycare, it may be best to stop at around 12 to 18 months, which is when most centers will stop using sleep aids during nap time. Or you can wait till they're 3 to 4 years old. At this age, they stop meeting developmental milestones that might interfere with sleep.

How Do I Wean My Baby Off White Noise?

Starting at nap time, lower the volume each time until it's not on anymore. Then do the same for nighttime sleep. Your baby may need a few nights to get used to sleeping without it but be patient.

White Noise Can Help Your Baby Sleep

So, can white noise help your baby sleep? Yes, it can! If you follow recommended guidelines, white noise for babies can be a great tool that parents can safely use to soothe their little ones. It can help them fall asleep and stay asleep longer.

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