White Noise For Baby: The Pros & Cons You Should Consider
One of the biggest challenges for new parents is sleep. If it feels like rest is in short supply for both you and your little one in the first few months of life, you’ve probably spent hours scouring the web for tips, tricks, and solutions. There is certainly no shortage of techniques you can try to help get things back on track. If you’re wondering whether or not white noise is a good option, you’ve come to the right place. There are some strong opinions on whether or not parents should use white noise for baby but, like most things in parenting, it’s not so black and white. There are both pros and cons to consider in order to make the right decision for you and your little one. In today’s blog post, we’re explaining what white noise is, how it works, and what you need to consider in order to make an informed choice. Better sleep lies ahead!
Table of Contents
- What is white noise for baby?
- How does white noise for baby work?
- The pros of white noise for baby
- The cons of white noise for baby
- Tips for incorporating white noise for newborn
What is white noise for baby?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is white noise? Technically speaking, white noise refers to sounds that contain all frequencies across the spectrum of sounds that are audible to the human ear played at the same intensity. Many everyday objects emit white noise. For example, hairdryers, fans, and washing machines all emit white noise. You can think of it as low, ambient or background noise that your brain is pretty adept at tuning out.
How does white noise for baby work?
You might be wondering why white noise is sometimes recommended for babies who are having trouble sleeping or settling. The concept is quite simple; it’s the same reason swaddling is recommended: it mimics the environment in the womb. Just as your baby might have trouble adjusting to the expansive environment outside of the womb, they might also have trouble adjusting to all of the new noises. White noise not only drowns out the new noises but it also mimics the sounds your little one grew accustomed to hearing in the womb.
At this point, if you’ve been struggling to get your little one down for naps and bedtime, you might be thinking that purchasing a white noise machine is probably a no-brainer. But, it’s not quite that simple. There are certainly some great reasons to incorporate a white noise machine into your baby’s sleep routine but there are also a few cons you may want to consider. So, let’s explore the pros and cons of white noise for baby next!
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The pros of white noise for baby
It may help your little one sleep
Like most things in parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all solution so there is no guarantee that this technique will work for you and your baby. However, many parents report that a white noise machine not only helps their baby get to sleep faster but also helps them sleep more soundly.
It may help soothe your baby
Beyond helping your little one sleep, some babies also find white noise soothing. So, if your baby is going through a particularly fussy period and you’re having a hard time stopping the tears, this could be a great option to try out!
It can help mask other noises
If you’re managing a house with multiple children who are different ages you don’t need us to tell you that things can get noisy. So, what do you do when your newborn needs a nap but your toddler is ready for playtime? A white noise machine is an amazing way to drown out loud household noises so your older child can play freely while your little one catches up on their sleep.
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The cons of white noise for baby
It might not work for your baby
It’s important to remember that white noise is not a magic bullet solution that will instantly help your little one drift off for a long and deep sleep every time. It’s simply one of many different tools and techniques that parents use for bedtime routines. There is no guarantee that this strategy will work for your baby.
Your baby may become dependent on it
If your baby loves white noise and you’ve started using it regularly to help soothe them, it’s important to make sure that you have a plan in place to wean your child off of the machine. Babies can quickly become dependent on the background noise to fall asleep and this can have negative consequences later on in life. By weaning your baby off of the noise machine, you can help them become better sleepers who can enjoy restful sleep in different environments.
It can damage your baby’s hearing
The keyword here is ‘can’. If the machine is played too close to your child, for long periods of time, or on a high volume setting, there is the potential for hearing damage. If you’re unsure about the safety of the machine you’re using, it’s always best to have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician.
Tips for incorporating white noise for newborn
If you’re going to incorporate white noise into your baby’s nighttime routine here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Ensure that you’re not relying too heavily on the machine. Instead, make it part of a full bedtime routine that incorporates different elements like swaddling, wake windows, warm baths, or a nighttime walk. This way your little one won’t become too reliant on one singular component of the bedtime routine.
- Do your research to find the right machine. Keep an eye out for one that has features like sound selection, appropriate volume levels, and a timer. You may also want to keep portability in mind if you’ll be traveling or taking your little one on visits to meet friends and family members. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are white noise machines made specifically for babies, and others that are made for adults. Be sure to purchase the former as it will likely have more of the features that you’ll need for your baby and will have sounds most suited to soothing a newborn.
- Stuck somewhere without your machine? Sometimes household items are all you need to generate the soothing white noise your baby needs to settle. Vacuum cleaners, washing machines, running water, and even hairdryers will often do the trick.
- Be patient. Sometimes a little bit of trial and error is required to find the right sounds to soothe your baby. There are often different types of noise you can select on your machine. Try them all out and see which one gets you the best results!
- Keep the other senses in mind. Remember, an ambient noise machine doesn’t drown out light or visual stimulation. So, you’ll need to find other strategies to tackle those if they tend to distract your baby.
Finding the right sleep routine for your newborn can sometimes be challenging. But the good news is there are plenty of tried, tested, and true techniques that parents have been relying on for decades to help their newborns get a little more shut eye. White noise is just one of many you can try. In time, you and your little one will settle into the right routine and find your rhythm - we promise. You can do this!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can start using white noise machines early on with your newborn. Many parents begin using white noise machines during the first 6 months of life. This is when white noise tends to be most effective as the sound mimics the environment your baby became accustomed to in the womb. While there is some flexibility with when you can start using white noise for baby, it’s important to plan for when you’ll stop using it. The reason it’s important to wean your baby off of white noise is because it’s helpful for them to be able to sleep in the presence of normal household noises. Ensuring that you have a plan in place to slowly remove white noise from your little one’s sleep routine will help make them a better sleeper as they grow up and experience different sleep environments.
It’s important to consider how loud white noise should be for baby if you’re thinking of trying out this strategy to help your little one get a better sleep. If you are going to use a white noise machine you should avoid playing it at maximum volume. Typically, this is higher than the newborn recommended volume level of 50 decibels. For your reference, this is about the same volume that a standard hair dryer or vacuum cleaner would emit. It is also recommended that you place the machine at least 7 feet away from where your baby sleeps.
Most newborn sleep experts recommend holding off on sleep training until your baby is at least 4 - 6 months old. Prior to that, your little one has a limited ability to self-soothe making it difficult for them to fall asleep without help from Mom or Dad. Once your little one hits 4 - 6 months of age they are better equipped to help themselves get back to sleep if they awake in the middle of the night. Additionally, by this age, your baby likely won’t need as many feedings throughout the night.
It is possible for white noise machines to damage your baby’s hearing. This concern typically arises when white noise machines are played for long periods of time at a high volume. Placing the machine too close to your little one can also be a problem. A newborn’s ears are very different than an adult's so what sounds relatively quiet to you might not be so quiet to your newborn. If you’re unsure which machine and volume levels are safest for your baby, it’s best to consult with your pediatrician.
If your little one is going through a fussy period, you’re probably both a little overtired and sleep deprived. The good news is, there are plenty of tried, tested, and true techniques you can try to get things back on track! Here are a few bedtime routines we love: