If you ask other moms what their baby “must-haves” are, almost all moms will say a white-noise machine. So, you’ll probably end up putting one on your registry, you will receive one as a gift, but maybe you aren’t sure why you’ll need one.
*Spoiler Alert* Yes, you’ll want one!
Today I want to shed some light on why white noise devices are so helpful, how to use them, and answer popular questions I receive about them.
So…Why a white noise machine?
Your little one came into the world accustomed to background sounds. The womb can be a noisy place. While it provides a fair amount of padding, your baby in your tummy was surrounded by ambient sounds for nine months, and may find a low hum comforting now in their new world.
Silence is something new and strange for newborns while white noise is actually soothing for newborns, as it mimics the sounds from the womb. So, using a white noise machine creates a similar, comforting environment which can be incredibly helpful to soothe a fussy baby and help them settle to sleep.
White noise machines aren’t just useful for newborns, but also infants and toddlers. White noise machines help block out ambient, environmental noises, such as the garage door opening, dogs barking, and other sounds within the house, like your coffee machine, your husband making breakfast, or your older kiddos running around playing.
During the lighter stages of sleep, which happen in the early morning hours and during daytime naps, a white noise machine can keep them sleeping if their body isn’t yet ready to wake.
Another benefit of a white noise machine is that they can travel easily. Babies who have slept with a white noise machine learn that when that sound comes on, it’s time for sleep. It’s a great travel companion when sleeping away from your normal sleep environment to cue your baby it’s time for sleep.
How should I use a white noise machine?
There are a variety of white noise machines out there. Some come with simply white noise, while others come with an array of different sounds, ranging from white noise, to lullabies, or even ocean waves or sounds of the jungle. My advice is to use “white noise” or even “pink noise”. These sounds are constant with little to no variation in frequency and pitch.
Sounds that fluctuate can actually be too stimulating for the brain and unintentionally pull your baby out of a sleep cycle, which is not the goal during sleep periods!
With that in mind, my second tip for using a white noise machine is to have is on the entire duration of your baby’s sleep period. Don’t use the timer feature to go off after 15 or so minutes. More often than not, it’s the breaks in silence that jar the body awake, which is why I like constant sounds, not lullabies or ocean waves.
I’ve had my share clients tell me their child wakes at the end of each lullaby and struggles to fall back asleep. And I always advise, replace that lullaby with a white noise machine. But hey, if it’s not broken, there’s nothing to fix.
I’ve also had many, many families that tell me that their little one wakes within 10 minutes of power outage and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. So use that battery backup option if you have it!
The placement of your white noise machine can also make a difference. Ideally, you want to place the white noise machine between your child’s sleep space and the source of the most environmental noise, whether that’s near the bedroom door, the window to the outside, a shared wall with a sibling, or if room sharing, between your bed and their sleeping space. I’ve even had some parents double up, putting one white noise machine inside their child’s room and on the outside of the door for an extra barrier.
How loud should the white noise machine be?
Best practices are that your white noise machine should be placed at least 5 feet from your baby’s head and that the volume is no higher than 50%; it should be background noise. That’s about the equivalent of a running shower. To put into perspective, if you are in the bathroom while your partner is showering, you’ll need to speak up to hear them, but the noise isn’t hurting your ears.
From a technical standpoint, 50 decibels is standard practice; however most sound machine don’t have decibel levels. To determine what decibel your white noise machine is producing, there are several apps (like Decibel X) you can download that will help ensure the correct volume. Just place your phone in the crib where your baby’s head goes and turn up the sound machine until it reaches a decibel at or below the 50 dB range but also at a volume that feels comfortable for you.
Will my baby become dependent on a white noise machine?
Some babies simply don’t like the sound of white noise so there’s that.
But research shows that white noise — the steady, unobtrusive kind that masks other noises, like sirens and barking dogs — not only helps babies fall asleep but can help adults doze off, too.
Most of us actually do sleep better with some sort of ambient noises, like a box fan or an AC unit humming, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t sleep without said noises.
But back to the original question at hand, will your baby become dependent on white noise for sleep? This is like saying you are addicted to sleeping with a pillow.
If I told you that you couldn’t sleep with a pillow, you probably won’t like it. You’d probably prefer your pillow and it might not be the best night of sleep, but you’d still sleep nonetheless. Similarly, white noise machines can help to improve your baby’s sleep so why not make that a part of their sleep environment
If you are concerned about creating a dependency, I encourage you to wait until your child is 3-4 years old to wean off her white the noise machine. By then, most of the major milestones and sleep transitions are in the past. Gradually beginning turning down the volume each night, until it’s no longer audible.
Which white noise machine is best?
There are tons of options on the market to suit your needs, but my favorites are:
If used appropriately, a white noise machine can indeed improve your baby’s sleep habits, helping them to sleep through the night, improve daytime naps, and fight off early morning wakings, without becoming dependent. So why wouldn’t you want to add this in your sleep tools?!
If you’re already using a white noise machine, but aren’t seeing a full night of sleep and would like to dig deeper into what’s going on, please reach out. I’m here and happy to help!