For many new parents, a solid night's sleep may feel like a distant memory. Babies sleep on and off throughout the day and night and while interrupted nights can be hard you need to remember that it's not forever.
If your little one struggles to drift off into a peaceful slumber, white noise could just be the solution you need. If you're sitting at home reading this wondering what exactly white noise for babies is, don't worry - we'll explain everything you need to know in this post.
What is white noise?
White noise is the name given to a variety of sounds at all frequencies that the human ear can hear equally. It gets its name from white light, which is a blend of all visible light wavelengths at equal intensity.
White noise uses a mixture of frequencies to create a static-like sound and is mostly compared to radio static, an oscillating fan, or a hairdryer. Some people (including babies) find the noise soothing, whilst others can't stand it!
Studies have shown that playing white noise for babies can help to mask background household noise such as siblings and even pets!
According to research, white noise can also help with:
- Trouble sleeping in adults and children
- Crying in babies
- Performance at work
- ADHD Symptoms
How do white noise machines help my baby sleep?
A white noise machine helps with sleep induction by creating a cosy and comforting environment for your baby to fall asleep in. White noise is so effective in helping your baby fall asleep because it mimics the sounds your baby heard when they were in the womb.
To begin with, white noise, set up your white noise device or sound machine somewhere away (2 meters) from the baby's crib and set it at 50-70 decibels, around the same level as a power shower. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that this decibel level is enough white noise to activate your baby's calming reflex, which helps them to sleep.
It is recommended when using white noise to help with your little ones' sleep you need to play it continuously through their sleep phase. So, all night long or throughout a nap with no breaks. If the white noise stops it is shown that your baby is more likely to wake as a result. your white noise machine to this level, it can be played all night.
Once you have set your white noise machine to the right level, play it in the background when you are getting ready for your nighttime sleep routine. Soon enough, your baby will begin to understand that white noise means sleep!
Benefits of white noise for babies
There are plenty of benefits to playing white noise to your child - aside from helping babies sleep quicker, it can also help to block out other noises in the background as traffic, siblings playing, general chit chat, and even dogs barking.
Certain white noise machines have a heartbeat setting that mimics the womb and this is often comforting to newborns as it makes them feel safe and sound. Additional benefits of white noise include:
It can aid sleep
The main benefit of white noise is that it helps babies to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. If you notice that your baby often falls asleep in noisy environments (if you have older children at home or they regularly attend nursery), then it's likely they will respond well to white noise rather than going to bed in total silence.
White noise helps to mask background noise
White noise machines are great if you have other children who are older and like to make noise around the house as they can help to block these noises and ultimately help your little one drift off quicker.
Disadvantages of white noise for babies
There are some cons to white noise for babies including:
- Your baby can become dependent on white noise to go to sleep.
- Your baby may not respond positively to white noise sounds.
- Potential developmental problems.
Potential developmental problems
White noise is brilliant for many children, however, a 2014 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that out of 14 white noise machines they tested, all of them exceeded the recommended noise limit for children (which is around 50-70 decibels).
The research study found that too much exposure to these levels of noise can be damaging to your baby's ears and cause delays in auditory development.
Based on these findings, it is recommended that white noise machines should be placed at least 2 meters away from your baby's cot and you should keep the volume on the machine below maximum volume.
Your baby may become dependent on white noise to fall asleep
While babies may sleep better upon hearing white noise, once it's taken away they may wake and this can be a cause for concern if you are planning to go away without it as your baby may not settle.
Tips for using white noise
Choose a white noise that's pleasing for you all
You might not think it, but there are tonnes of options out there when it comes to white noise! From radio static to the sound of a hoover, heavy rain to the sound of a fan there is plenty to choose from, so try a few different ones and see what works best at sleep time.
There are plenty of sounds out there on Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon Alexa, so get listening and experimenting!
Set at the right volume
While it can be tempting to put white noise on maximum volume (especially if your little one is fussing) you want to make sure that it's not too loud for small ears.
Test out a few low volumes to see how they work for your baby and remember to ensure that it's no louder than a shower running.
Only play white noise at bedtime
White noise alone won't make your baby sleepy, it can only help them sleep when they are tired so it's important to only play white noise before naps and at bedtime if you want to ensure its effectiveness.
Once your baby is showing the signs that they are ready to go to sleep, then put on the white noise. When they wake from their nap or sleep, switch it off so that it doesn't mask everyday noises that they will learn from.
Use it when you're away
If you go away for the night such as to grandma's house or on holiday, make use of white noise. This will help your baby to feel more relaxed in an unfamiliar environment so that you all get a better night's sleep.
If you are experiencing sleep challenges or would like ongoing sleep support from an expert then take a look at our Sleep Series courses. 94% of the parents who use these courses report better sleep as a result and describe the support given by our Sleep Consultant, Erica Hargaden, in our private support community as life-saving!