Common White Noise Mistakes for Baby Sleep to Avoid
To make white light you have to mix together all different colours of light. (A rainbow is caused by cracking white light back into all the individual hues). Similarly, white noise is a mix of all different pitches of sounds blended together. Woven together, these sounds work in harmony to soothe fussing babies and to boost sleep. But there are some common misunderstandings about how to use white noise to aid your baby’s sleep. Here, I set the record straight!
White Noise Mistake No. 1: Skipping white noise because Baby sleeps so well
White noise can make good sleep better…even for easy babies. Plus, white noise can help prevent sleep disasters that often derail baby sleep between 4-12 months. Yup, the dirty little secret of infant sleep is that it is common for sleep to suddenly fall apart after the fourth trimester. Sleep can literally flip back to the brain-numbing, every-2-hour-waking that you thought you left far behind in the 'old days,' right after birth. This happens because:
The calming reflex fades. The calming reflex, which is nature’s 'reset button' to quell crying and induce sleep, fades away, so the jiggly, loud shush of the 5 S’s that worked like a charm at 2 months may have lost its magic.
Babies become super social. And when they lightly wake during the night (as all kids and adults do) they want to see your smiling face and be cuddled in your arms.
Swaddling comes to an end. Weaning from being swaddled means your little one can startle awake more easily.
- Teething happens. Teething discomfort can be just throbbing enough to rouse your little bunny out of light sleep.
The good news? Using the right white noise often helps parents sidestep these issues. Within weeks of using white noise, your little one will link white noise sounds with the pleasure of sleep. Oh yeah, I recognise that sound...Now I will have a nice little snooze. Plus, as babies pass through infancy, the sound helps them sleep despite outside distractions, such as tellies and passing trucks, or inside distractions, such as teething, mild colds, and hunger.
Did you know? You are not supposed to use white noise all day long. Just keep it in your back pocket to aid sleeping or calm fussing. Hearing the normal hum of home for many hours a day helps children master the nuances of all the interesting sounds around them, such as speech, music, and so forth.
White Noise Mistake No. 2: Assuming all white noise—waves, rain, nature sounds—work equally well
People talk about white noise as if it is just one thing. But there are actually two types of white noise—high pitch and low pitch—and only one induces sleep! High-pitch white noise is harsh, hissy, whiney, and annoying—think sirens, alarms, beepers, screams. These sounds are great for getting your attention (and even calming baby crying), but they are terrible for sleep.
On the contrary, low-pitch sounds are droning and hypnotic—think the monotonous rumble of a car and planes, rain on the roof, or listening to a boring lecture. That sound is terrible for getting attention, but fantastic for lulling us to sleep. These are more like the sounds Baby heard in the womb…and the sound babies prefer! (When sound bounces off the velvet walls of the womb, they are filtered through the sea of amniotic fluid, which removes high pitch sounds, leaving just a deep thunderous rumble that babies love.)
While many white noise machines and apps advertise 20+ sounds, just a few correctly engineered sounds offer that magical womb-like shushing that works best to lull babies to dreamland. Loud, whining sounds—like a hair dryer, vacuum, or exhaust fan—are great at calming fussing, but more rumbly, droning sounds—like filtered rain on the roof—is much better at inducing sleep. On the other hand, music, heartbeat sounds, ocean waves, and nature noises…they are not so helpful for improving all-night sleep.
Our SNOO sounds are specially engineered to be perfect at soothing fussies and aiding sleep. And we put those super-effective sounds—plus a few more—into our popular little SNOObear. It is super cuddly on the outside and has award-winning SNOO sounds on the inside. (The white noise comes from a small, removable speaker box inside the bear.) It is perfect to use when on the go, changing nappies, doing a feed, making a Zoom call, taking a walk, catnapping at Grandma’s, and more!
Did you know? People talk about two 'cousins' of white noise sounds: pink noise and brown noise. Pink noise basically is a little deeper sounding than white noise and brown noise is even more rumbly with extra low pitch sound. White noise is still best for sleep!
White Noise Mistake No. 3: Playing white noise sounds for sleeping as quietly as possible
Surprise: Babies do not like to sleep in silence! Before they were born, all babies were serenaded by the constant rumbly sounds of the womb. And that is why a super quiet room can be unsettling for little ones…and not conducive to sleep. Instead of a hushed sleep space, babies crave rumbly white noise (and that is especially so when they are upset). White noise is like your baby’s audible teddy bear, comforting and signaling it is time for ZZZ’s.
To use your little one’s love of white noise to help calm crying, you will need to help them turn on their calming reflex. (Remember, that is nature’s 'reset button' to help calm crying and bring about sleep.) Second, you need to keep it turned on.
To turn it on, use a strong hissy sound that is as loud as your little one’s crying. You can do this by putting your mouth close to your baby’s ear and making a strong 'Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh' sound.
Once the outburst begins to settle, you can keep the calming reflex turned on by playing rumbly white noise sounds at roughly the intensity of a gentle shower (65 to 72 dB). That is where both SNOObear and SNOO can be helpful. For instance, if your baby wakes up crying while safely nestled in SNOO, the smart sleeper automatically boosts the white noise sounds to calm your little one… and then lowers the white noise to a deep, rumbly sound as babies calm.
Did you know? Parents intuitively use the right pitch to soothe their baby’s cries. They start by making a loud, hissy shhhh sound and then gradually lower their pitch and volume as their little one relaxes into sleep.)
White Noise Mistake No. 4: Not using the best white noise machine for babies.
Not all white noise machines are created equal. In fact, most white noise machines do not offer that low rumbly noise newborns need! And most white noise machines for babies are not responsive. Not only does SNOO automatically and continuously play white noise that gradually increases in response to your baby’s fussing, it is specially designed to mimic the low, rumbly noise babies love most.
And our SNOObear sounds play for 30 or 60 minutes, but this furry little helper continues to 'pay attention' to your baby for an added 3 hours…and 'wakes up' and plays more soothing sounds to help your little one settle back down if it 'hears' your toddler start fussing, again.
Did you know? Research shows that white noise significantly shortens crying time and boosts sleep for colicky babies.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.