If your baby often struggles to drift off to sleep, baby white noise could be just the sleep aid your little one needs. White noise is the name given to relaxing sounds that can help turn on a calming reflex. When played in the background, white noise might even help babies drift off for a few hours if they're struggling to settle down at bedtime.
The sound of the sea or calming acoustic music tend to be the go-to sounds for adults when we want to relax, but when it comes to babies it’s actually white noise sounds that are more effective in creating a soothing environment, as it resembles the kind of sounds they heard in the womb, which is often why white noise is good for newborns.
What is white noise for babies?
By definition, white noise is a sound that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing in equal amounts. It's very different from the usual lullaby or bedtime story you may have tried in the past.
White noise sounds similar to TV or radio 'static', but constant background noises such as a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, fan or running water also help promote sleep in the same way.
Watch this video below to hear what white noise sounds like.
White noise for babies: Pros and cons
• It may help some babies fall asleep
• Good if you live in a noisy house (or if baby has noisy siblings!)
• Can help babies drift back off to sleep if they are startled by a moro reflex
• Some babies can become dependent on white noise
• Some white noise can exceed recommended noise limits for babies - this is set at 50 decibels
• It doesn't work for every baby
If you feel like you've tried everything with your little one to try and get them to sleep including making sure their bedroom temperature is right, invested in a good mattress, made sure they're in comfortable nightwear with a sleeping bag, ensured they're getting their night feeds, tried all sorts of sleep aids and perfected their bedtime routine, then you may want to consider the option of sleep training.
Tips for using white noise
1) Choose a noise you can tolerate
There are so many different options of white noise to try, from rain and nature noises to static or the sound of hairdryers, so get experimenting and see what works.
Search on YouTube to find what types of noises you find relaxing, and try these on your baby. Once you’ve discovered what works, invest in an app or sleep toy with that type of sound.
You need to make sure it’s a noise that you’re happy to listen to as well as you’ll be hearing hours of it too!
2) Get the noise just right
Maximum volume can be incredibly loud on some white noise machines so use your common sense to make sure it's not too loud for her delicate ears. Experiment with the volume to fine-tune how well the white noise works.
Don’t raise the sound level any louder than the noise of a shower in the next room, though, and position the device well away from your baby.
3) Only turn it on when they're ready to sleep
It can be tempting to turn white noise on in the hope it will make your baby sleepy but this won’t work and will actually just reduce its effectiveness.
Once she shows signs of being relaxed and tired, then turn on the white noise. As soon as they wake up, turn the white noise off so it doesn’t mask the normal everyday noises which teaches them things they need to learn while alert.
4) Think pink
Studies have found that pink noise, which is fuller, deeper or richer than white noise, actually does an even better job of improving your baby’s sleep because of its subdued quality. Examples of pink noise include a heartbeat, rainfall and rustling leaves on a tree.
Pink noise is generally gentler on the ear and creates a more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere compared to white noise which are all a higher pitch and slightly harsh. Like all of us, babies are individuals so take the time to find the best match for your baby.
5) Use it as a sleep cue away from home
Your baby will soon begin to associate white noise with sleep, so choose a portable sound that you can use when you're away from home and little one is in a travel cot. This will help her settle when she’s in an unfamiliar place and give you a better night's sleep too.
6) Keep the same noise
Once you’ve found a winner, stick to it! Use this noise exclusively and it will become part of the background as a familiar sound and your baby will accept its quiet, almost hypnotic rhythm.
Things can change though so keep an eye on your baby in case she might respond to something else in a few months’ time.