Why Babies Love White Noise

Why Babies Love White Noise

White Noise Helps Baby Sleep Flickr@Kekka

Babies love white noise. Let’s start with looking at it from baby’s perspective. They’ve just spent their entire life in the womb. And the womb is deafeningly loud. It is just slightly less loud than a lawnmower. Loud is normal to a baby. Life outside the womb is uncomfortably quiet. White noise sounds like “home” to a baby.

The Volume Inside the Womb

The Noise Level Your Baby is Used To

Why You Should Use White Noise with Babies?

Baby Sleeps Through the Night

White Noise Helps Baby Sleep Flickr@Kekka

All babies, ALL, should have loud white noise when they sleep all the time until they are at least 1. White noise is hands down the most effective, easiest to implement, inexpensive sleep aid for babies. It is also the sleep aid that parents most frequently DON’T use or they don’t use it CORRECTLY. I’ve had parents tell me they don’t want to use white noise because they are afraid their baby will become addicted. Or they don’t want to have to invest in a $70 white noise machine from the Sharper Image catalog. Or they think they are using white noise, but whatever device they are using barely makes enough noise to drown out a library whisper (yes I’m talking about you sleepy sheep – these don’t work, please don’t buy one).

White noise is hands-down the best and easiest thing you can use to help you and your baby sleep better.

1

White noise reduces stress in babies.

What do babies get stressed about? Just about everything. They’re stressed when they’re over-tired, they’re stressed because their world is more stimulating than they’re ready to handle, they’re overwhelmed with lights, faces, and excitement. White noise creates a safe space for them by blocking out that stimulation.

2

White noise helps babies sleep.

They fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. Babies have what are called “sleep arousals”, usually about every 20-45 minutes. Ever wonder why your baby only naps for 20 minutes at a time? Well it’s because when she hits her sleep arousal at the ~20 minute mark she is unable to fall back into deeper sleep and thus her nap is over. White noise helps babies gently navigate these arousals to get longer, more restorative naps. It also helps to block out the noise of life (older siblings, doorbells, garbage trucks, etc.) that can interfere with naps and night sleep.

3

White noise helps babies cry less.

Did you know that shushing is a sound that people universally understand and make with babies? Shushing is simply white noise that you make yourself. The key to using white noise (sushing or from a radio) to help calm a crying baby is that it needs to be LOUDER than the crying. Holding a screaming baby while shushing like a gentle librarian is useless. Your baby can’t hear the shushing over his own crying. You need to shush LOUDLY (sounds a bit ridiculous I know) so that the calming noise can penetrate above the crying. Also you may need to continue to shush for a while. Loud sustained shushing can be a challenge. If you’re starting to feel dizzy and/or see stars it’s time to outsource your shushing to an electric white noise device (radio, et al).

4

White noise reduces the risk of SIDS.

A relatively famous study (famous if you read a lot about baby sleep, so honestly you should be a little proud if you haven’t heard of it) 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 – it could be my moving the air around although many believe it has to do with the white noise the fan makes. We DO know that white noise reduces active sleep (which is the sleep state where SIDS is most likely to occur).

5

White noise will help YOU sleep.

Parents notoriously wake up every time the baby grunts or gurgles (and babies are NOISY CREATURES). Newborn swings can also be quite noisy, especially when they’re banging away mere inches from your bed. White noise will help mask these small noises so you and your partner can sleep better.

6

White noise is easy to wean off of.

When your baby is older (generally after their 1st birthday) you can gradually start to decrease the volume of the white noise. If they continue to sleep well, you’re done. If they wake up more frequently then they used to turn the white noise back on.

How to Use White Noise?

White Noise from Boom Box Radio

Boom Box for Baby Flicker@istopcrappics

You don’t need to buy ANYTHING – no sleepy sheep, no Sharper Image white noise generators, no mystical baby white noise CDs. Any old boom box, stereo, or alarm clock will work. In fact you can probably use the alarm clock in your your bedroom. You have a baby now, you no longer NEED an alarm clock. Simply set it to static (if you have a hard time finding a good static station on the FM dial, try searching on AM), turn up the volume, and you are all set. Put your radio where the baby primarily sleeps (probably your room). When the baby moves into his/her room, the white noise device goes too.

Turn the volume up to roughly 50 db (approximately the volume of somebody taking a shower if you are standing in the bathroom). It should definitely be louder than you think. It shouldn’t be UNCOMFORTABLY loud (if it bothers YOU, it’s probably too loud). Leave the white noise on whenever your baby will be sleeping. Whatever you are using to make white noise should be continuous. Any CD or Sleepy Sheeps (have I mentioned my loathing of these things?) won’t work well because they will TURN OFF at some point.  While this may not cause problems for newborn babies (under 3-6 months) eventually you will find yourself with a child who wakes up crying every 45 minutes when the Sleepy Sheep turns off.

If you have a particularly fussy baby or are looking for ways to survive the dreaded witching hours, you may want to bring your white noise maker out into living room (or wherever you like to grind through the fussy part of the day) to help create a calming environment for your fussy baby. Simply move the radio back to the bedroom when it’s time to sleep.


123 Comments


  1. Best sound machine money can buy, if buying one is your thing. This one is loud, runs both on batteries (in case of power outage, which has saved my butt during the night three times this summer!) and plugin, has timers but you dont need to use them, will run continuously. The waterfall noise is perfect for my little one and helps with drowning out our creaky old house noises and day to day life and I SWEAR she sleeps better because of it (well and because of sleep training).

  2. Best sound machine money can buy, if buying one is your thing. This one is loud, runs both on batteries (in case of power outage, which has saved my butt during the night three times this summer!) and plugin, has timers but you dont need to use them, will run continuously. The waterfall noise is perfect for my little one and helps with drowning out our creaky old house noises and day to day life and I SWEAR she sleeps better because of it (well and because of sleep training).

    http://www.amazon.ca/HoMedics-SS-2000-Relaxation-Machine-Nature/dp/B000F3QG0U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376183870&sr=8-1&keywords=homedics+sound+spa

    and PS its cheaper at Walmart!

  3. White noise, really? Are you sure it’s not pink noise?

    Pink noise (equal amount of energy per octave) sounds way more “natural” than white noise. I’m pretty sure that what is described here as “white” is in fact “pink”…

  4. I recently tried to wean my 17 month old off white noise. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I lowered the volume until I couldn’t lower it anymore. Then at its lowest volume, I set the timer to turn off after 1 hour. She woke up crying within minutes of the room going silent. Do I need to worry about this? Did I go about it the wrong way?

    • Hi

      She is addicted to the white fan noise. I think you should just leave it on ,and she is addicted, its no big deal. Ive used a fan to sleep my whole life. I feel soo upset and cant sleep without it. I have a friend like that, too. Shes already used to it, please don’t pull it from her now.

  5. My Previously decent night sleeper has started consistently waking between 3 and 5 am. My DS is 7.5 months old and until about 3 weeks ago he pretty consistently slept from 8:30 or 9 ish until about 8:00 am… Is 7.5 months to old to introduce a white noise machine if we have not been using one before?

  6. You don’t need to spend any money on white noise sound machine you have an application for your mobile phone Baby Lullabies & White Noise application
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.babyLullabies which is safe, easy to use, and extremely effective and the most important think my baby cry less and sleep better.

    This application include white noise sounds, ocean surf, relaxing river, running water, electric fan, vacuum cleaner.

  7. My daughter just turned 9 months and we’re going crazy trying to get her to take long naps and sleep through the night. I really want to try white noise, but is she too old to start??? Or could it still work?

  8. I tried white noise last night for the first time with my 6 1/2 month old. (Didn’t spend a cent; just tuned a radio to the static between stations.) He did fall asleep nursing (oops), but I moved him to the crib after just a minute or two instead of ten like I had been doing. I said some goodnight words and left. He woke up and started to fuss, but a few minutes later he was quiet. Overnight I heard him twice, but it was more like moaning or whining, not even crying. He quieted down (and I assume went back to sleep) within ten minutes the first time, twenty minutes the second. So I woke up twice, but I got to stay in bed all night! I put him to bed like that again tonight — no fussing at all!

    My question is: The radio I’m using also makes a high pitch sound with the static. It sounds very similar to ringing in the ears. I’ve tried fiddling with the dial, but it still makes the sound. Is this a problem? I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop (it’s only been a night and a half), but as it stands now I’m so sold on white noise that I would definitely consider buying an actual white noise machine if need be.

    • That’s great news!

      As for the noise on your radio, it’s hard to say because I am not there, obviously :) There are plenty of free apps of MP3s that work great so if you have a smart phone or ipod and sound dock that would be an option? Or try the radio on a different station (sometimes AM works better). Lots of people use a humidifier or fan so that’s another option if you have something like that lying around.

      Good luck!
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Pediatrics Study on White Noise: Sounding Off on Sound MachinesMy Profile

  9. Hi! The JSTOR link for “White noise creates a safe space” doesn’t seem to work for me. Would you be able to share the name/author/year of that study? I’d like to have a look at that. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. How to Get Baby to Sleep Better Part 1 | Troublesome Tots
  2. What Everybody Ought to Know About Baby Swings | Troublesome Tots
  3. Can I Make Noise While Baby Sleeps? | Troublesome Tots
  4. My new study secret | Sapphire and Rain
  5. What to Do About Infant Reflux?
  6. What Everybody Ought to Know About Baby Swings
  7. Because They Told Me So: Five Pieces of Advice I Wish I Had Taken. / theBabaBlog
  8. Sleeping Tips for a Newborn | BabyClip

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge