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Baby Sleep Secret: White Noise

Sleep. It’s something all new parents covet after bringing baby home—for both themselves and their little ones.

Throughout the years, parents have adopted many tools and tricks to help babies sleep: rocking, swaddling, nursing, and more recently ... noise.

Noise?

Although it seems counterintuitive, you don’t necessarily want absolute peace and quiet when it comes to your baby sleeping.

The womb is a noisy place, so babies are used to loud sounds, so it makes sense that using white noise can help lull babies to sleep. (And keep them sleeping.)

Sleep consultant Jill Spivack of Sleepy Planet says that she and her partner, Jennifer Waldburger, typically recommend using white noise when babies are first learning how to sleep. According to Spivack, “Babies are very curious about what is going on outside of their sleep environment. If they hear noises, it can be stimulating and may discourage them from falling asleep—or it can wake them out of their sleep.” Since outside noise can be extremely distracting, some babies may “need some protection from sound.”

What is White Noise?
White noise is a combination of different sounds or frequencies played together at the same time and at equal levels.

Benefits of White Noise 
White noise can:

  • Block out or mask other noises. This can be especially helpful during daytime naps when the doorbell is ringing, the dog is barking, the laundry is going, your older child is playing … basic day-to-day living!
  • Soothe a baby to sleep.
  • Help reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Help reduce or ease colic.

Different Kinds of White Noise
There are a variety of white noise sources:

  • CDs or downloads from iTunes put on repeat or looped for continuous sound. There are specific recordings of white noise that you can choose from, including basic white noise, womb sounds, a vacuum cleaner, rain, ocean waves, car rides, blow dryer, wind, and more. Note: Spivack recommends a more consistent fan-like noise, instead of sounds such as ocean waves that may dip in or out right at the very time your dog barks!
  • Air purifiers. Make sure the hum of the purifier is fairly loud.
  • White noise machines. Spivack and Waldburger like the Sound Oasis 3000.
  • Fans. Not only does a fan block outside noise, studies now show that it may also help reduce the risk of SIDs by improving room ventilation and reducing “stale air” (the risk of baby re-breathing carbon dioxide).

White Noise Notes

  • Be sure your white noise is played at a relatively loud level. Says Spivack, “White noise should be loud enough to block incoming noise, but not so loud that it will blast the babies’ ears! If it’s louder than a normal vacuum cleaner, it’s too loud.”
  • Try to place the speakers closest to the source of outside noise (along a wall, near a door) and facing toward your child.
  • Keep speaker and stereo wires far enough away from the crib for safety.
  • Play the white noise continuously during naptime or through the night.
  • Steer clear of music as a form of white noise. Spivack feels that “music can be too stimulating once you put the baby down to sleep. Use it during the wind-down routine, but then turn it off and put some other form of white noise on.”

While white noise isn’t the only factor in helping a baby fall asleep (and stay asleep), it is a tool that can certainly help. And let’s face it ... when it comes to sleep and babies, new parents can use all the help they can get!

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