Using White Noise to Help Your Baby Sleep
Like many individuals, you probably feel marked by the sound of white noise. Interestingly, there’s a cute little lad in your household who finds it quite relaxing and therapeutic so much that he sleeps soundly to the sound of white noise perhaps coming from a stuffed toy, static radio transmission, or even the trailing sound of your voice.
Surprised your baby can respond positively to white noise? Don’t be.
This article is just for you. Continue reading to discover what white noise is, where to get it, how to safely use it, and points to consider while using it. Without further ado, let us now get down to brass tacks of white noise and how it can help your baby sleep better.
What Is White Noise Exactly?
If your Physics teacher never bored you out like mine, then you most likely have heard of white light which is observed when every light frequency in an electromagnetic spectrum of light reflects all at the same time. White noise is similar. Here, different sound frequencies mixed together and playing all at once and continuously in the background produce an unending “shhh” sound.
Sometimes, the term “white noise” may also refer to the combination of everyday sounds found in nature and the surrounding environment that fades into the background. White noise includes but is not limited to the sounds produced by gushing wind, heavy rain, and home appliances like blenders, hairdryers, and the whirring of your washing machine.
How Does It Work?
White noise and its use as a sleeping aid were researched by Dr. Harvey Karp (author of The Happiest Baby on the Block) and his “fourth-trimester” theory.
As a growing fetus in your womb, life was warm and snug, and your baby was used to hearing loud noises such as the rushing of your blood and fluids, your heartbeat, and even the sound of your voice. Life on the outside after birth seems quiet and pales in contrast to life in the womb.
Given that your baby is in a new environment and is yet to have a fully developed reflex reaction, unfamiliar sounds like the slamming of doors, loud footsteps, and even strange voices will startle and jolt him awake making him restless and cry. Here’s where white noise comes in as it helps block out sounds that your baby might find frightening, and the process is called “sound masking”.
The efficacy of white noise on babies is seen in Dr. Karp’s research as he opines that using white noise to mask scary sounds could add 1-3 hours of sleep to a swaddled baby in the first few months of life.
From my research, I noticed that the average baby aged 0-24 months will sleep about an extra 1.5 hours if white noise is employed throughout the night. Interestingly, with white noise in the background and the infant sleeping soundly, parents also sleep better as well making it a “win-win” situation.
Examples of White Noise Machine
As mentioned earlier, radio static, sounds from household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, washing machines, humidifiers, and blenders serves as excellent examples of white noise. They are however not encouraged for prolonged use during an infant’s nap time.
Yet another source of white noise that can be left on all night is a fan (standing or ceiling). During my research, I discovered that the sound of a fan is a great form of white noise that helps your baby fall asleep and stay asleep without posing any health risk to the baby. The average infant going to sleep with the sound of a fan will fall asleep at least 8 minutes faster than a baby without any form of white noise.
In addition, you may choose to purchase a CD of white noise at your popular store or simply stream white noise audio on YouTube or download a white noise app on your phone. You may find these popular app brands helpful; Baby Snooze, Sleep pillow, and Noizio.
The market is flowing with brands and manufacturers who will give you a run for your money on white noise machines. Primitive models had to be plugged into a power socket while white noise is played. Today, however, much smarter, and portable models are produced which can easily be packed on the go and are more efficient to use. In the spirit of technological advancement, sound machines that combine traditional white noise effects in sync with natural soundscapes like crashing waves, whale music, and rainforest sounds are now in circulation.
Talking about giving you a run for your money, some white noise solutions consumers prefer to use combination products with far better appeal including distinguished brands like ASM, Sound Oasis, Marpac, and Baby Shusher because these products can simulate sounds your baby have experienced while in the womb and can even be integrated with a baby monitor, alarm clock and smartphones.
Another remarkable company that specializes in sleep solutions for families is CloudB. The Sleep Sheep and the Tranquil Turtle are two of the most ingenious combinations produced by CloudB and designed to be portable and offer effective white noise solutions for families.
If you think investing money in a white noise solution is counterproductive or would break the bank, I strongly recommend that you set up a fan near your baby’s cot and possibly turn on the ceiling fan if the weather is favorable.
Here is a note of caution though; never use the TV or an active compute screen as a source of white noise because the flickering of artificial lights in the display screen will serve as a distraction to your baby and will disrupt his nap and that is no good.
Are White Noise Machines Dangerous for My Baby?
According to a comprehensive study carried out in 2003, results indicated that prolonged and excessive use of white noise could have adverse effects on hearing and speech development in infants. Noteworthy is the fact that the study was carried out on rat pups and not human babies. With prolonged and frequent exposure to white noise, the development of hearing in the rat pups was delayed until the exposure to white noise was stopped after which hearing developed and reached normal levels.
The record has it that the study though comprehensive did not offer conclusive results as to if infants could be harmed by prolonged use of white noise. However, the researchers advised against constant exposure to white noise although everyday exposure may not do any harm. Better safe than sorry right? I’m pretty sure I read your mind correctly.
Also, in 2014 some researchers investigated white noise machines and published an article titled “Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels” in the same year. The article pointed out that white noise machines in circulation are capable of producing volumes of about 85 dB and more.
Prolonged exposure to an 85 dB sound would be harmful to the hearing of a full-grown adult. Now, imagine what it would do to a baby’s hearing.
What Decibel Level to Choose According to my Baby’s Age?
It has been established that auditory development in babies occurs between the ages of zero and six months while the baby has an auditory threshold of about 25-35 dB during the first 12 months of life. Adults with normal hearing capacity only have an auditory threshold of 0 dB. This implies that when white noise is played at 50 dB, the sound of the noise will be softer to a baby than it will to an adult.
Regardless of the 2014 research into noise machines, Dr. Karp informs us that sound in between 60-75 dB is harmless to your baby. However, the recommended noise limit in pediatric hospital rooms and nurseries is below 50dB which is also the decibel level for holding a natural conversation.
Thankfully, several apps on smartphones today such as SPLnFFT and SoundMeter+ can measure and report decibel levels with accuracy. If you are concerned about the auditory safety of your child, in the long run, be sure to reduce the volume of white noise your baby is exposed to or turn off the white noise once you notice your baby is asleep.
How to Stop Using it and When to Quit
While white noise is like a pacifier or a sleep inducer for infants, children who have come of age and adults alike have sleep accessories as well. A night light, sleeping on the cold side of the pillow, or needing a glass of water at the bedside works for many.
If you however choose to invest in white noise solutions to help your baby sleep better, make sure you have complete control over the level of exposure to white noise.
What Solution Had Worked For You
If you are a greenhorn on the subject of white noise, this article must have been quite the eyeopener as to what white noise is, where to find it, how to safely use it, and when to quit using it.
Does your baby sleep better with white noise in his room or does silence reign in your household? We would love to know what has worked for your family at one point or another. Feel free to leave a comment below.