Using White Noise for Babies

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on using white noise for babies. When you’re a parent, finding ways to help your little one sleep peacefully can be a big task. One method that has gained popularity over the years is the use of white noise. We’ll explore what white noise is, how it may aid your baby’s sleep, and why babies may like the soothing sounds of white noise. We’ll also offer some guidance on how loud the sound should be, along with the potential downsides of using white noise for babies. Let us help you make an informed decision about incorporating white noise into your baby’s sleep routine.

What Is White Noise for Babies?

White noise is the consistent hum of sound that has equal intensity at all frequencies. It’s a specific type of sound signal that serves to mask background sounds. When you tune your radio between stations, for instance, the steady hiss that you hear is white noise. White noise machines produce sounds similar to static or soothing nature-inspired noises, such as the rain or the waves of an ocean.

You don’t always need to purchase a sound machine to have this background noise; some people simply turn on a fan or an air conditioner or run the vacuum or clothes dryer in the next room to create white noise.

White noise sound has become a popular tool for helping babies (and adults) sleep or relax. Parents often use white noise machines or apps to create a soothing environment for their little ones.

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Does White Noise Help Babies Sleep?

Many parents use white noise to help their babies fall asleep and stay asleep. So, how does white noise work? White noise can create a calming atmosphere that helps infants drift off to sleep and blocks out other sounds that may disturb them. This is especially useful for babies who are sensitive to changes in their environment or easily startled by sudden noises. You may also decide to play soft music, such as a soothing lullaby to help your baby sleep, instead of white noise.

Common questions include “Why do babies like white noise?” and “Why is white noise soothing?” It turns out that white noise may block out environmental sounds that may interfere with sleep; some studies also suggest that white noise can mimic the familiar sounds from inside the uterus, such as the mother’s heartbeat or the amniotic fluid waves, and can provide a sense of comfort for babies.

Benefits of White Noise for Babies

White noise may offer some benefits for babies that could help them relax and fall asleep, including the following:

  1. Creating a soothing environment. White noise may create a calming atmosphere that can help babies fall asleep more easily.

  2. Masking sounds. White noise can mask disruptive sounds in the environment, such as traffic and household noises.

  3. Simulating what a baby heard in the uterus. White noise may simulate the sounds your baby heard in the uterus, providing familiarity and comfort.

  4. Encouraging longer and better sleep. Using white noise may help promote better sleep and fewer night wakings in babies, especially those waking due to separation anxiety rather than hunger.

  5. Helping to soothe a colicky baby. The calming sound of white noise can be used for a colicky baby to help them fall asleep. It’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider first if your baby has colic to rule out any illness.

Keep in mind that each baby’s response to white noise can be different. Always pay close attention to your baby's reactions and adjust the volume and timing as necessary for optimal sleep and comfort.

When to Start Using White Noise for a Baby

If you’re considering trying white noise for a fussy baby, it’s important to prioritize responding to their needs first, such as checking if they’re hungry, unwell, or need a diaper change. Once their immediate needs are addressed, if you’re still having difficulty soothing them, you can explore other methods, such as using white noise.

Remember, it’s normal for newborns and babies to cry or wake frequently. As they get older, they may gradually start sleeping for longer periods.

Using white noise for your newborn, baby, or toddler doesn’t have to happen at a particular age. Check that your little one’s immediate needs are met first, giving your newborn time to adjust to their new environment and establish a sleep schedule. Then you may wish to incorporate white noise sounds into your baby’s soothing bedtime routine.

How Loud Should White Noise Be for a Baby?

It’s important to keep the volume of white noise at a low level that’s safe for babies. So, what are safe decibel levels for infants when using white noise? According to experts, 45 decibels is the maximum recommended noise level for babies. Be sure to keep noise sources like sound machines, music, TV, and household appliances at this level or lower, and at a safe distance from your baby.

Noise above 70 decibels may damage hearing over a prolonged period, and all babies, especially newborns, are very sensitive to noise levels. If an environment is too loud for an adult, it may seem even louder to a baby or child.

When using a white noise sound machine, keep the decibel level low (about 45 decibels max), place the machine far away from your baby’s head, and turn it off once your little one has fallen asleep or calmed down.

For some context on volume levels, here are a few average estimates:

  • A refrigerator hum is about 40 to 50 decibels

  • A typical conversation is about 60 decibels

  • Busy traffic is about 70 to 85 decibels

  • A small kitchen appliance, such as a blender, produces about 70 to 90 decibels

  • Sounds from a rock concert or movie theater may range from 80 to 115 decibels

  • A jet plane is about 140 decibels.

When to Stop Using White Noise for a Baby

There is no set age or guideline for when to stop using white noise for babies. Some parents continue to use it until their child outgrows the need for help falling asleep, while others use it throughout early childhood. As long as the volume is kept at a safe level and it’s helping the baby sleep, there is generally no harm in using white noise for an extended period.

Is White Noise Bad for Babies?

Many parents wonder if white noise and sound machines that produce white noise are bad for babies. There’s currently no evidence that suggests white noise at low levels is harmful to babies. However, it’s important to use caution and keep the volume at a low, safe level, and make sure the noise source stays at a distance from your baby’s head.

Potential Drawbacks of Using White Noise for Babies

Like every other tool, white noise comes with its own set of potential drawbacks. It’s crucial to be aware of these and use any white noise machines judiciously to ensure the safety and well-being of your baby.

  • One potential downside is that your baby might become dependent on white noise to fall asleep. Over time, this may make it difficult for them to sleep without it. If you’re traveling or in other situations where white noise isn’t readily available, your little one may have difficulty sleeping without it.

  • If the volume of the white noise is too loud or the device is too close to your baby’s head, it could potentially harm your baby's hearing.

  • Your little one simply might not enjoy white noise. What works for one baby won’t necessarily work for another. It’s best to find out what works best for your little one and consider incorporating it into your chosen sleep training method, if you choose to sleep train.

It's essential to use white noise responsibly and monitor your baby's reactions closely. If you notice any potential negative effects or your little one doesn’t like it, consider reducing the volume or trying other methods to promote peaceful and safe sleep for your baby.

The Bottom Line

White noise for babies may be a helpful tool that could help encourage them to sleep soundly and peacefully. It could mimic the familiar sounds your baby heard in the uterus, or some other ambient sound, to create a soothing environment that can block out disruptive noises.

Always use caution and keep the volume at a safe level when using white noise for babies to avoid any potential drawbacks. Remember to consult with your child’s healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance on using white noise for your baby.

So go ahead and give it a try if you think it might benefit your baby's sleep routine! And if you’re looking for a sound machine to play white noise for your baby, check out our 7 best sound machines as voted for by Pampers parents.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.