Are you using white noise effectively?

by | Jun 4, 2018 | Sleep Consultant

Are you using white noise effectively?

If you’ve ever looked into how to help a baby sleep or settle well, chances are you’ve come across white noise as a recommendation. You might even be using it already. But are you using white noise effectively?

These days there are a huge variety of portable white noise machines and apps available. But not all white noise is created equal. So here are some tips to help you use white noise to your advantage, especially when it comes to sleep.

Tip 1: Know why you’re using it

Did you know that there are different reasons for using white noise? And the reason you use it can change with the age of your baby. Typically white noise is used for three main reasons. These are to:

  • stop your baby crying,
  • help to settle your baby into sleep, and
  • mask external noise.

Newborns

During the newborn stage (0-12 weeks), white noise is a great tool for both soothing and encouraging sleep. It’s effectiveness at this stage of life (often called the 4th trimester) is because it recreates the sound of the womb. It may surprise you to learn that the womb is a noisy place, but at the same time, that noise was also pretty consistent. Using white noise helps simulate the womb environment. This is calming because it’s something your newborn is already familiar with.

Infants

Past the 3-month mark (give or take), the memory of the womb has dulled, so the effectiveness of white noise to soothe at this point becomes somewhat limited. That doesn’t mean you should just ditch it however. After the 3 month mark sleep also becomes a lot lighter, so that’s when white noise can help mask all those annoying sounds that can wake your baby. And the older and more alert your baby is, the harder it can be to resettle them if they wake early. So white noise is still a valid tool – as long as you’re not expecting it to stop your 6-month old from crying.

Tip 2: Pure white noise is best

These days when people talk white noise, they can mean a variety of different sounds. Likely you’ve seen that your white noise app comes with the sound of the ocean, raindrops, a hairdryer or a heartbeat (to name a few). But pure white noise is a mix of sound waves blended together (just like white light is a mix of all colour wavelengths mixed together). This means the modulation and pitch doesn’t change.  True white noise is reminiscent of static. And while a heartbeat can also be soothing at times; it isn’t white noise. (And if you do want to go rogue with sounds, you’ll find that the hairdryer and raindrop sounds are typically more soothing for sleep than heartbeats and birdsong).

Tip 3: Keep it continuous for sleep

If you’re using white noise for sleep, it is best to keep it continuous. That is, playing for the entirety of your child’s sleep time. And yes, that means playing it all night long. Basically, when your child wakes at night (as everyone does frequently) you want the conditions to be the same as when they went to sleep so they can easily resettle. And when the noise they went to sleep by has suddenly stopped, this can cause some children to wake fully, wondering what has changed.

Tip 4: Watch the volume

This tip goes back to why you’re using white noise in the first place. It’s important to note that the volume used to stop a baby crying in the short term is NOT the volume you should be using to settle to sleep.

Yes, there is a theory that you can use LOUD white noise to stop a newborn baby crying. And loud white noise appears to work; but you also need to be very mindful of your newborn’s delicate little ears. Anything over 80 decibels can cause hearing loss.  So always keep loud noise short to get their attention and help them calm. And once your baby has stopped crying hard and starts to settle down please turn the volume way down.

For settling to sleep and to mask external noises, white noise should typically be the volume of a running shower. That’s not very loud. Yes, in some circumstances it makes sense to turn the volume up (think Guy Fawkes Night and New Years). But otherwise, low is good! Just because most white noise machines have the ability to go really loud, it doesn’t mean you should use them at that volume.

So there are four tips to ensure you’re using that white noise to the best of your advantage. What do you think? Does white noise work for your little one?

And if you’re using it, but still having some issues with sleep, please take advantage of my free 15 minute phone calls. Sleep can be complex, but it is well worth working on! You can find a time for a call HERE. And if you’re not already following along on Facebook and Instagram for sleep tips, giveaways and fun facts, please do so.

Because everyone needs a good night’s sleep.