Updated: Jul 30
Let me start with saying that I’m a big fan (no pun intended) of white noise, in most situations I find that it helps both babies and parents get a better night sleep, whilst creating an environment of calm and mindfulness that is a blessing to foster and develop with any family. It’s pretty hard to stay stressed when you are lying in bed listening to white noise, try it yourself …
What is white noise?
White noise is a tool that you can use to help mimic the environment baby heard in the womb, and to help screen out other daily noises that may bother your baby. It is meant to be background noise. It can be anything from the noise of an untuned radio, a vacuum cleaner, fan or rain. The distinguishing features are that it is constant and not distracting.
Is it safe to use?
It is meant to be in the background, providing a reassuring constant noise, and as long as it stays there, white noise has not been shown to be detrimental for babies from a health perspective. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a white noise machine set no louder than 50 decibels to avoid any chance of impaired hearing
What does 50 decibels sound like? Let me put this into perspective for you.
10 dB(A) rustling leaves
25 dB(A) whisper
40 dB(A) light rain
50 dB(A) recommended white noise level
55 dB(A) household refrigerator
60 dB(A) normal conversation
70 dB(A) toilet flushing
So it’s ok if you baby can hear the white noise machine over a light rain storm, but it’s not ok if it drowns out a normal conversation or toilet flushing
Tips for usage:
Place the device well away from baby’s crib
Low volume setting
Stop playing it once baby falls asleep, if possible
Ensure it is out of reach of the crib, including any wires or cords
My last point isn’t really a helpful one, I don’t have any obvious recommendations for white noise machines, other than to suggest you stay away from the ones that look like cute cuddly toys. If it looks like a cuddly toy you will be more inclined to put it in the corner of the crib and if you’ve read this post, and follow my other musings, you’ll know that I believe that is (a) bad for their hearing and (b) unsafe sleep protocol.
If you are struggling with night or day time sleep then I would absolutely try some white noise. My smartphone has a couple of white noise apps on it and I frequently test a few of the different noises with parents to see if any of my clients respond to them, they normally do. Ultimately it is another tool in your tool box to use when all else fails ;-)
For more information see:
Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels
Sarah C. Hugh, Nikolaus E. Wolter, Evan J. Propst, Karen A. Gordon, Sharon L. Cushing and Blake C. Papsin Pediatrics April 2014, 133 (4) 677-681; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-3617