The Benefits Of White Noise For Your Baby
Medically reviewed by Josh Reviewer
Do you sleep better with the sound of a fan or the rain pitter-pattering outside? Your little one may feel the same way. White noise for baby can be a helpful tool to lull them to sleep and keep them sleeping soundly.
Your baby spent nine months getting accustomed to the beating of your heart, the air going through your lungs, and many other ambient sounds. It’s no wonder that white noise would be a welcomed addition to their sleep outside of the womb.
This article will share everything you need to know about using white noise to soothe your baby to sleep.
Table Of Contents
- What Is White Noise For Baby?
- The Best White Noise For Your Baby
- Benefits Of White Noise For Babies
- Potential Cons Of Using White Noise
- When To Stop Using White Noise
- Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep With White Noise?
What Is White Noise For Baby?
Sound waves are composed of different frequencies that we hear as various sounds. The noise spectrum includes everything from a high-pitched whistling to a low, growling rumble.
Similar to how we assign colors to multiple frequencies of light, noise is also classified based on its properties. Scientists use terms such as frequency, amplitude, and intensity to divide noises into different color groups.
White noise is perhaps the most well-known. It creates a constant flow of ambient sounds. It’s called “white” because, similar to a white light that is a combination of all different colors, white noise is a combination of different frequencies of sound.
The beauty of white noise is that the combination of high, low, and medium-frequency sounds masks other sounds that may disrupt sleep, like a doorbell or people talking.
When you hear static from the television or the hum of a vacuum cleaner, you are hearing white noise. Other sounds in this category include:
- Hair dryers
- Running water
- Air conditioners
And most notable to your baby, the sounds they heard in the womb.
White isn’t the only color attributed to sounds. Among others, there’s also brown noise, black noise, blue noise, and pink noise. Pink noise is said to be better for babies older than four months because this is when sleep regression may begin due to an increase in development.
Pink noise has reduced higher frequencies compared to white noise. Natural sounds, such as rustling leaves and ocean waves crashing against a rocky beach, are considered pink noise. It is believed to be more soothing than white noise.
This belief comes from a study in which researchers synced pink noise with adult brain waves while in deep sleep. The use of pink noise resulted in a longer duration of deep sleep.
Brown noise has an even lower frequency than pink. This type of sound is low and rumbly. It includes strong wind, a tumbling waterfall, or growling animals. Heavy rainfall could also be considered brown noise.
These sounds are thought to relax the brain and calm anxiety. If your baby is troubled by the thought of going to bed, brown noise might help them feel more peaceful.
Blue noise is the opposite of brown noise. If brown noise is bass, blue noise is treble.
These high-frequency sounds include hissing water from a kinked hose and industrial construction when several power tools get used simultaneously. Rainsticks, with dried beans rushing past nails, can also make blue noise.
Which Noise Color Is Best?
With so many different noise colors, which one is best for your baby? The one that helps them sleep.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all sound you can play that’ll guarantee your baby falls asleep quickly. If there was, parenthood exhaustion wouldn’t be such a big deal. We’d just hit play on some magic sound, kick back, and relax while our babies slept peacefully.
But the truth is, each baby is different. What works for one might not work for another. You’ll have to do some experimenting.
Start with white noise because it’s the classic color used for sleep. Because it encompasses such a wide range of frequencies, it has the most potential to block out other sounds in your home. Try this type of noise for a few nights.
If you don’t notice any difference in your baby’s sleep, select a different color to try. Hopefully, soon you’ll discover which one your baby likes best.
The Best White Noise For Your Baby
There are several options for white noise that can promote restful sleep for your little one. Let’s take a look at a few of these below.
1) White Noise Machines
If you choose to use a white noise machine, make sure to pick a device that has different sound selections to choose from. That way, you can determine which ones work best for your baby. Most machines include at least 20 sounds.
Automatic-off timer settings are also convenient if you want to turn the machine off after a few hours. In addition, portability is important so your little one can sleep soundly wherever you go, like Grandma’s house or on a trip!
2) White Noise Apps or Videos
If you don’t want to buy a white noise machine or are in a pinch, you can play sounds straight from your phone. YouTube has videos with white noise for babies, like the sound of an air humidifier or vacuum cleaner.
There are also apps you can download on your phone that play sounds like rain or a hairdryer. Some of these sounds are considered “pink” noise, which, as we mentioned, doesn’t have as high of a frequency as white noise but is still effective for babies four months and older.
Keep in mind, however, that phones release non-ionizing radiation. To be safe, make sure you put your phone on airplane mode when you place it near your baby.
3) White Noise Fans
This is a go-to option for white noise, especially in the summer. The wide range of frequencies a fan makes creates a consistent sound that will lull your baby (and you) to sleep.
Tip: Air conditioners might seem like another great option, but the continuous “on and off” is ineffective.
4) Smart Bassinets
Many smart bassinets come with integrated sound features. You can select between different types of sounds, including white noise.
Some even rock your baby to sleep while they play or adjust the volume depending on how much your baby fusses. This could be a good fit if you’re looking for a bed for your newborn.
5) An Old Radio
If you have an old AM/FM radio laying around, dial it into a station that’s nothing but static. It might be old-school, but it’s white noise just the same.
Just like you, your baby will have a preference for what helps them get to sleep. Trial and error can help you weed out the white noise that doesn’t work and so you can land on the things that will result in a well-rested baby.
Benefits Of White Noise For Babies
White noise can be a great contributor to a restful night’s sleep for your little one. There’s even scientific evidence that it works.
One study found that 80% of newborns exposed to white noise dozed off within five minutes, while only 25% of those without the background noise fell asleep as quickly.
As we mentioned briefly above, white noise creates a safe and comforting sleep environment for your baby. Mimicking what they heard in the womb, the sound informs them that it’s time to go to sleep.
Using white noise for your baby provides a higher chance that they will sleep through the night as well because it masks any noise distractions, like the TV, older siblings, or the washing machine.
Sometimes, babies wake up and can find it difficult to fall asleep again. While white noise blocks any disruptive sounds, it also provides a soothing background for when they awaken, no matter where they are. White noise also turns on your baby’s calming reflex when they start crying.
White Noise And Colicky Babies
In another study, white noise increased sleep time and significantly decreased the duration of crying in colicky babies.
Playing white noise for your colicky little one may be a more effective, non-pharmacological way to help with crying and sleep duration than other techniques, like using a swing.
And since your baby can stay on their back while listening to white noise, it’s safer than having them sleep reclined in a swing.
Potential Cons Of Using White Noise
Of course, listening to white noise isn’t a foolproof method of getting your baby to sleep longer. As we mentioned, not all babies respond to it the same way. And there are some potential risks.
The recommended noise limit for infants is 50 decibels. White noise machines that go above this level could cause damage to your baby’s hearing or auditory developmental delays.
In addition, babies who have trouble hearing often experience speech delays. This could impact their language skills.
Of course, you want to avoid hurting your baby’s hearing. This may sound scary, but as long as you do your research and take all of the necessary precautions, it is perfectly safe to use white noise machines.
If you are still concerned, you can always talk to your doctor and discuss safe decibel levels for your baby.
To give yourself added comfort, keep the machine and its cords as far away from your baby as possible and keep the volume at 50 decibels.
On a separate note, as much as you’d like to use it, your baby may not even like white noise. Or they may like it so much that they won’t be able to sleep without it. This brings us to our next point: when to stop using white noise.
When To Stop Using White Noise
White noise can be a lifesaver to get your little one to sleep. It may even be the only technique that works. Even so, your baby still needs to learn how to self-soothe.
Being a good sleeper is a learned skill, so if your little one becomes dependent on white noise, it may be harder for them to learn how to self-soothe. Good sleep habits need to be implemented and learned.
Additionally, turn the white noise off during the day. Your baby needs to learn the sounds that are in their home, especially their caregiver’s voice. While there’s no one recommended age at which to stop using white noise for your little one, just know that it shouldn’t be used forever.
Wean Your Little One From White Noise
Always stick to your regular sleep schedule and routine when possible, even if you’re trying to stop using white noise with your baby. This makes it easier to cut off the white noise cold turkey should you choose to do so.
If you would rather wean your little one off white noise gradually, slowly turn the noise down and then off completely after they’re asleep. This usually takes around 20 minutes.
Repeat this process for all naps and nighttime for one to two weeks. Everything requires consistency, so if it takes longer, don’t fret. Your baby will be a sleep pro in no time.
What If Your Baby Won’t Sleep Without It?
Ideally, the weaning process goes smoothly, and before long, your baby will be sweetly sleeping without it. However, that’s not always the case. Consider how many adults still rely on noise to help them fall asleep.
- Leave the TV on
- Put an audiobook on a timer
- Turn on some music
- Run a fan all night
- Use a noise app
With some grownups dependent on white noise, should we be surprised that some kids prefer it as well?
Some people are just light sleepers, and these sounds can help them fall asleep more quickly. They’re also useful at keeping them asleep for longer.
If your baby fights sleep without the familiar noise, it could be a sign that they’re a light sleeper. This means small changes in their environment can keep them up or startle them awake.
While you can try to wean a light sleeper off noise, it could become a battle of the wills. And at the end of the day, sleep is more important than insisting your baby adjust to complete silence.
So don’t feel bad if you turn on the white noise machine again tonight. You aren’t a bad parent for letting your child use this as a sleep aid.
Of course, you will want to discuss your child’s sleep troubles with their doctor. They might have personalized suggestions for helping your little one fall asleep without noise.
Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep With White Noise?
Whew, that was a lot of information. And you might be looking for a cut-to-the-chase answer to a question that’s rolling around in your mind. Is white noise safe for babies?
Bottom line? Yes. When used appropriately, white noise is perfectly safe for your baby.
Here’s a quick review of what you need to know to protect their hearing:
- Keep the volume low. The recommended 50 decibels is considered a quiet sound. So think two-person conversation, not a high school cafeteria.
- Keep it back. Don’t put the white noise machine right next to your baby’s bed. Instead, scoot it back and give their little ears some space.
- Keep it from playing 24/7. Your baby needs to hear the sounds around them. Learning to identify everyday noises helps them developmentally. So shut the white noise off during the day. And if you can, put it on a timer at night so it’s not continuously running.
By keeping these three things in mind, you can confidently use white noise to help your baby sleep.
General Sleep Tips For Baby
White noise isn’t a fix-all solution when it comes to sleep. It’s a strategy to use in conjunction with other general sleep tips.
Here are a few you might find helpful.
Focus On Safety First
Your baby’s safety is your top priority. We’ve already discussed white noise safety, but you’ll also want to also make sure you follow the safe sleep guidelines.
- Place baby to sleep on their back
- Keep toys, blankets, and pillows out of their bed
- Ensure baby is on a firm mattress
- Avoid letting your baby sleep in a stroller, car seat, swing, or other items with a reclined position
- Use a sleep sack or a swaddle blanket to keep your baby warm enough
- Don’t let your baby overheat
- Avoid smoking around your baby
Choose The Right Bed
Your baby needs a firm, flat mattress. But that doesn’t mean their bed can’t be comfortable.
To keep them safe and cozy, choose a Newton Baby Crib Mattress. This 100% breathable mattress features a soft, quilted cover. Your baby will feel the difference.
Establish Bedtime Routines
Routines help babies learn what to expect. Establishing a bedtime routine teaches your baby that it’s almost time to relax and go to sleep.
Your routine can be anything that works for you — from a warm bath to reading books, to singing lullabies, or giving your baby a massage. Whatever you decide to include, keep it short so you don’t get burned out doing it night after night.
And remember to keep it calm. Your baby doesn’t need a lot of stimulation when it’s time to wind down.
Avoid Letting Your Baby Get Overtired
Sleep has a sweet spot. Put your baby to bed too early, and they won’t be ready to sleep. Put them to bed too late, and they’ll be overtired and not want to sleep.
Pay attention to your baby’s natural wake windows to avoid this dilemma. The older they get, the longer they’ll be able to stay up between naps.
Until then, put them to bed when they’re drowsy and showing signs of tiredness, such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, arching their back, or getting fussy. When you see these, put your baby to bed so they can get some much-needed rest.
Keep The Lights Low
Once it’s bedtime, try not to turn on any bright lights. These can disrupt your baby and startle them awake.
Instead, use gentle night lights or lamps to light your way. This helps create a soothing atmosphere so your baby can relax.
Remember They’re Individuals
As we mentioned earlier, all babies are unique. You’ll have to work with your baby to discover what helps them sleep. It might be different compared to what you like.
And that’s OK!
Quality Sleep For Your Baby
Getting babies to sleep isn’t always easy. Just remember that white noise is a tool, not a crutch. As long as you don’t use it forever and you use it correctly, white noise for baby is a safe and simple way to help little ones get the quality sleep they need.
With a little practice and the right tools at your disposal, both you and your little one can get the sleep you need. And Newton Baby is here to help you achieve that! Put your baby to bed on one of our Waterproof Crib Mattresses and then turn on some white noise.