There are very few things you will work harder at in the first few weeks and months (and even years!) of your babies’ life, is how to make them sleep. Probably the most asked question of a new mum is “Are they a good baby? Do they sleep?” – the question that we all dread!
Because the answer, sadly, is that most babies don’t sleep all that well, and sometimes this goes on for much longer than all the books say they are “supposed” to be sleeping badly.
Sleep is very important for healthy development and growth, as well as mood – a tired baby can be incredibly cranky, and a tired parent can be exactly the same!
One of the best inventions of this day and age, for any exhausted parent who simply CANNOT get their little one to sleep peacefully, is white noise. It can seem like utter magic, when your screaming baby goes from red faced and howling one minute, to sleeping peacefully the next, simply because of a little added sound.
What is this magic, and why do babies like white noise? Let’s find out.
What is white noise?
White noise is a cover-all name for a sound that is low, consistent and soothing. White noise was originally designed to contain every frequency that the human ear can hear, both high and low, and it is emitted at a constant sound level and speed.
White noise can help babies to link their sleep cycles together – babies naturally sleep for no longer than 20-45 minutes, and having a calming sound that they hear as they are going to sleep can really help them drift back into another cycle when they stir – hopefully without waking you up!
You can make your own white noise using a fan, an air conditioner, a hair dryer – or, for added ease, you can use any number of apps or programs that produce the magical sound.
There are also a number of white noise machines that you can buy, some with heartbeat sounds and music as well as white noise, so you can experiment to see which works best for you and your little one. You can try to find one that is also a baby light projector.
Why do babies like white noise?
When babies are in the womb, they are safe, warm, protected and comfortable. When they come out, life becomes much harder – they feel hunger, they have to work on regulating their body temperature, and everything is bright and noisy.
Also, being in the outside world they suddenly become aware that they are no longer a part of their mother – all of this can lead to a lot of nighttime (and daytime) screaming and struggling to sleep.
Despite it being so safe and comfortable, the womb is actually a pretty noisy place! There is the sound of Mum’s heartbeat, her breathing, the flow of her blood – and that’s not to mention the outside noises.
The sound of the mother’s body is the loudest, most constant sound for the developing baby, and white noise mimics the sound of the womb, making babies feel safe and secure on the outside too.
White noise can also work by drowning out other noises in the house, like doors slamming, people talking, the TV – or every other little tiny sound that can wake a drowsing infant from its slumber!
With white noise playing, you can safely hold a conversation, and even flush a toilet, without waking up your baby.
How to use white noise
Having first established a calm, peaceful bedtime routine, with a warm bath, supper and stories (or whatever works for you and yours), take your baby into their sleeping area and turn the white noise on.
You should always start it on its lowest setting, because at their loudest most white noise machines are too hard on baby’s little ears.
Place the white noise close to where baby is sleeping, but not in their sleeping place. Items in a crib or a bed can be very dangerous for babies, particularly for the first year, so keep the machine out – and make sure there are no trailing wires for curious hands to grab hold of.
White noise producing machines come in all strengths and sizes, so experiment a little to find out which setting, and which volume, soothes your baby the most.
You can leave the white noise playing all night, or you can turn it off once you’re sure that your baby is in a deep sleep – and if they wake up you can always turn it on again.
How long should you use white noise to get your baby to sleep
There is a school of thought that says, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – if your baby sleeps through the night then you’re onto a winner!
However, there can be a few downsides to getting your baby too hooked on white noise. Not least is the fact that if they become too dependent on it, they may struggle to sleep without it.
This may be fine if you’re always at home – but what if you stay away a night and forget to to bring the white noise machine?
Most children’s sleep does tend to naturally improve by the time they’re two or three (some earlier, some later – don’t panic if your baby is different!) so it would be a good idea to slowly wean them off the white noise before then, so they can get used to settling themselves.
White noise is a great tool to add to any new parent’s arsenal. It will help your baby to get to sleep faster and to stay asleep longer, and will drown out the noise of other siblings and household noise.
A baby sleeping well means that the whole household is better rested and happy, and will improve their development and overall health.