“Should I use white noise for my baby or toddler?” is one question that I get a lot as a child sleep consultant. You probably stumbled upon this page by asking Google the same question! The short answer? YES!
Now, you ask, “Why?”
Let me break down the reasons why below, but first let’s answer the question “what is white noise”? According to Howstuffworks.com:
Combining sounds of all different frequencies together is how white noise is produced. If you took all of the imaginable tones that a human ear can hear and combined them together, you would have white noise.
The adjective “white” is used to describe this type of noise because of the way white light works. White light is light that is made up of all of the different colors (frequencies) of light combined together. In the same way, white noise is a combination of all the different frequencies of sound. You can think of white noise as 20,000 tones playing at the same time.
White noise contains all frequencies, so it is frequently used to mask other sounds.
Pretty cool, right? White noise’s cousins, pink and brown noise are also good options. Steer clear of music and the TV, which can disrupt sleep because the sound isn’t constant. These can keep baby from getting into a deep sleep with all the sound variations.
Benefits and reasons to use a sound machine:
- It is really pretty loud in utero. Starting around 23 weeks, babies begin hearing more of the world around them – they hear Mom’s voice, her blood rushing, her heart beat, and her stomach digesting. Around week 27, babies begin hearing sounds outside of Mom. Babies in utero slept with a lot of consistent, fairly loud noise around them. When they try to sleep in a silent environment, it feels really strange for them.
- Integral part of a soothing routine. I recommend turning on the white noise machine as a part of the soothing sleepytime routine. To reduce stress and decrease overstimulation from the world around them, try utilizing white noise. White noise also helps babies to feel secure, relax into a deep sleep and helps keep babies sleeping. It is also something consistent that they only use during sleep periods so it cues babies that sleepy time is coming.
- Mask sounds outside of your child’s sleeping environment. White noise helps to mask sounds coming from within the house or outside. Think about your alarm going off at 5:30 am, your other children, the neighbor that loves to mow the lawn at nap time or your favorite show on Netflix. All potential sleep disruptors! White noise helps you to alleviate worrying about waking your child during the day and at night.
- Portability. Bring it with you anywhere and it helps children to have the soothing comfort of home with them, even when they aren’t there.
- Room sharing. If you are room sharing, it helps to prevent parents and children from waking each other up.
- Adult sleep. Whether you are room sharing or sleeping in your own sleep space, you’ll benefit from sleeping with a sound machine for many reasons, but primarily because it will help you to sleep more deeply. Babies can be really loud when they sleep and if we hear every noise, it may put us on high alert all night long. A sound machine in your bedroom is your friend! It will help you to sleep more deeply and only be awakened when your child has fully awakened.
White noise tips:
- Pump up the jam (I just dated myself…again)! It should be pretty loud – around 55 decibels is considered safe and position the sound machine at least 6 feet away from the crib or bed. Download a free decibel meter app on your phone. Position the sound machine where the majority of the sound you are trying to block is coming from.
- Ensure it runs consistently for all sleep periods – you don’t want one that runs on a 45-minute timer. When your baby wakes up, he’ll want his white noise back on and who is in charge of that? YOU!
- Don’t worry about your child becoming dependent on white noise – children transition away from white noise pretty easily as they grow into toddlers and preschoolers. Consider this…if it helps your child get into a deeper sleep, why would you want to transition away from it?
My favorite white noise options:
- Marpac Hushh – this one is my personal favorite and I’m not alone! It was voted by parents to the Babylist Best Products of 2016 (this is still its most recent list)! Portable, rechargeable, great volume options.
- Marpac Whish – this unit replicates the soothing “ssshhhh” sound that is universally calming to babies and has enhanced volume control.
- Soundly Sleeping App – if you are using an old phone, iPod or tablet for a sound machine, you can download this app, which has three great options – white, brown or pink noise. Brown is my fav. To avoid sleep disruption from blue and white lights, put the device in airplane mode and turn the unit face down.