Merriam Webster defines white noise as “a heterogeneous mixture of sound waves extending over a wide frequency range.” this means that it is a combination of sounds that have high pitches and low pitches and everything in between.
The mixture of these sounds drowns out most of the other sounds, because, hearing all different frequency of sounds at the same time, gives your brain trouble in picking out one sound over another.
To help your baby sleep better at night, pediatricians often recommend relaxing activities, such as warm baths, and such-like, but when nothing seems to work, parents might turn to alternative measures like white noise.
Does White Noise Help You or Your Baby Sleep?
As stated above, white noise refers to sounds that mask other sounds that might occur naturally in an environment, and if you live in a city, for example, white noise could help block out noises associated with traffic.
Specific sounds like rain-forest or soothing beach sounds might be used to help encourage sleep regardless of environmental noises. There are even machines specifically designed for use with infants, and some are equipped with instrumental lullabies, and even a heartbeat noise that is used to mimic that of the mother.
Furthermore, white noise is very similar to womb sounds such as your heart beating, blood flowing, mommy breathing, etc., and these womb-like sounds can be comforting to your baby, especially newborn infants who have not yet gotten used to the outside world.
The constant repetitive sounds of white noise can also help you or your baby not only to fall asleep but to stay asleep, which can be the most challenging part. The constant whirring of white noise can give you the continuity of sound that soothes your baby to stay asleep or drowns out house noises such as people talking, cooking, etc. This is especially helpful if your baby can’t get used to sleeping with noise.
A groundbreaking 1990 study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that white noise could be helpful for infants. Forty(40) newborns were studied, and it was found that 80% were able to fall asleep after five minutes of exposure to white noise.
The Pros of White Noise For Babies
- Babies fall asleep faster with white noise in the background.
- White noise can block out the household noise.
- Some white noise machines for infants have a heartbeat setting mimicking the mother, which is comforting for newborns.
- White noise reduces the risk of SIDS. A relatively famous study showed that babies had a significant reduction in the risk of SIDS if they had a fan in their room. Nobody knows why the fan helps, although many believe it has to do with the white noise the fan makes.
- White noise is easy to wean off of, and when your baby is older, you can gradually start to decrease the volume of the white noise until you’re done. However, if they wake up more frequently then you can simply turn the white noise back on.
White Noise May Aid Sleep
The most obvious benefit of white noise for babies is the fact that it could help them fall asleep faster. It has even been noticed that some babies tend to fall asleep at noisy times outside of regular naptime or bedtime, and such babies might respond positively to white noise.
The Cons of White Noise For Babies
- White noise machines may exceed recommended noise limits for babies and that has consequences.
- Some babies can become dependent on white noise machines to be able to fall asleep.
- Not all babies respond positively to white noise.
How Safe is White Noise for the Babies?
Taking into consideration the fact that babies come from a very loud place (mother’s womb), where their life started, white noise is unlikely to be unsafe for the babies.
However, if you play white noise from a machine, smartphone, a tablet or a computer, don’t place it right next to your child’s body or head and try to set the volume under 50 decibels if possible.
Some parents are skeptical about white noise, believing that it will cause dependence, but the truth is that white noise is not that difficult to wean off of.
As your baby matures, the white noise’s volume can be reduced more and more every day, until the baby gets used to sleeping without it.
Where Can I Find White Noises?
White noises can be found on YouTube channels, apps and even recorded audio files audio device.
There are also white noise machines and radios.
Even the recorded parents’ voices played back in a device can be used to help the baby fall asleep more easily and cry less.
Despite the potential benefits, in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) tested 14 white noise machines designed for infants and found that all of them exceeded recommended noise limits, which is set at 50 decibels.
In addition to increased hearing problems, the study found that using white noise might increase the risk for language and speech development.
Based on these studies, pediatricians recommend that any white noise machines should be placed at least 7 feet away from the baby’s crib.