How White Noise Can Help Your Baby Sleep
Although most parents swaddle their babies these days, it amazes me how few use white noise to boost their little one’s sleep. White noise works miracles with fussy babies and is an amazingly powerful cue for falling asleep…and sleeping longer. This special sound is as important as swaddling. In fact, a 40-baby study found that white noise helped 80% fall asleep in just 5 minutes! Another study found that white noise significantly decreases the duration of crying and increases sleepytime in colicky babies. Let me explain how it all works—and how white noise can work for you and your little one!
Why does white noise calm babies?
White noise is a key tool in the Happiest Baby sleep approach. It helps turn on your baby’s calming reflex, or their built-in 'reset button' to calm crying and bring on sleep. The best sound for calming fussing is a rough, slightly harsh noise that is as loud as your little one’s crying. You can provide this sound simply by putting your mouth close to your baby’s ear and making a strong “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” sound. But white noise is not just for calming crying. A more rumbly, low pitched sound promotes sleep as well. And since it is pretty tricky to 'Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh' in your child’s ear for all naps and nights, turning to a white noise machine is a good idea!
How does white noise help babies sleep?
White noise helps to create a comforting environment for your baby, like a cosy teddy bear of sound, letting your little one know when it is time for sleep. The reason white noise is so effective is because it mimics the sounds your baby heard in the womb. White noise lulled them to sleep then…and can lull them to sleep now. White noise also covers over outside distractions—like a noisy truck or a telly playing in the next room—and inside discomforts, like teething and mild hunger, further bolstering ZZZ’s.
To start using white noise, play the sound in the background during your baby’s sleepytime routine. Soon, this will signal to your sweetie that their glide into dreamland is just minutes away. And this will continue work even after baby’s calming reflex gradually disappears by 3 to 4 months. By then, your infant will have learned that white noise means that bedtime has come. So, every time you turn the white noise on, your precious bub will think, 'Oh yeah, I recognise that sound…now I will have nice sleep.' (It is all very Pavlovian!)
What is the best white noise for helping babies sleep?
While many white noise machines and apps feature 20+ sounds, only continuous, monotonous, and low-pitch sounds work to lull babies to sleep. (Inconsistent sounds, like waves or birds chirping simply do not work.) And the very best white noise sounds for your baby’s sleep mimic the loud rumbly sounds they heard for nine months in the womb. To make sure you are giving your little one the just-right sleep sounds, I recommend using our Happiest Baby SNOO sounds download, our award-winning SNOO bassinet, and/or a white noise device like SNOObear...where you can always find all the right sounds! Here are best baby sleep sounds that were specially engineered for SNOO:
- Rain: Peaceful and soothing for infants and parents
- Strong hair dryer: Calms fussy babies
- Fast and vigorous white noise: The best sound for the fussiest babies
Plus, two more in SNOObear:
- Train: A calming heartbeat-like rhythm
- Shush: Imitates exactly what experienced parents do to calm fussing
Can white noise played through the phone be effective?
Some parents play white noise on their smartphones, which can be okay if it is the right sounds, like the Happiest Baby SNOO sounds download. But it is important to remember that phones release microwave radiation, so you would need to make sure you put your phone on airplane mode when you place it near your baby. Another drawback: Telephone speakers make a more hissy or tinny noise…not the deep, rumbly sound that best mimics the womb…and best boosts sleep. When you need a portable white noise machine, I recommend SNOObear. I designed SNOObear to feature the same super-effective sounds babies love in SNOO, plus a few extras. What I love about SNOObear is that it is great to use when your baby is out of bed, to soothe fussing during nappy changes, feedings, trips outside in a stroller or sling, or during 'witching hour.' And for babies and toddlers, it is also a great helper during car rides and for on-the-go naps or when your little one is visiting grandparents, uncles and aunts, or any other caregiver, really.
Can you use white noise all day for babies?
As with swaddling, white noise is not meant to be used 24 hours a day. That is because you want to give your baby’s ears and brain a break for several hours—every day—to learn the normal sounds of your home and your voice. So, save the white noise for calming your baby’s fussies and to improve naps and nighttime sleep.
How loud should white noise be?
When your baby is upset, you will want to increase the volume of white noise to match your child’s crying, which can be 100 to 120 decibels! Then, once your baby has fallen asleep, slowly reduce the intensity to 60 to 70 decibels. At that level sound can be safely played all night. (By the way, SNOObear automatically turns off its white noise after 30 or 60 minutes, your choice.) For some perspective, studies show that the sound inside the womb can reach over 90 decibels, which is the intensity of a hair dryer, whereas 70 decibels sounds like a shower.
When should white noise for babies stop?
There is no need to turn off the white noise! For years, many parents continue using white noise with their children (and themselves) to boost sleep, and there is absolutely no harm in that. But no worries if you want to stop. It is super simple to wean from white noise whenever you want. Simply gradually lower the sound, bit by bit, over a week or two until it is finally off.
There is so much more to learn about white noise! Here are some of our most popular posts on this important sleep topic:
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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.