Is White Noise Good for Babies

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December 12, 2021
4 min read

Updated on July 7, 2023

Have you ever noticed your baby falls asleep or sleeps more soundly as soon as the vacuum is going or fussy babies calm down straight away when you have the dryer running?

In this article we’ll discuss why babies LOVE white (background) noise and how it will become a very positive sleep association for your baby.

Why is white noise so soothing for babies & why does it help your baby sleep?

If we consider the concept of the 4th trimester; this helps us to understand where the most effective settling techniques are derived.

Different measures like swaddling, shushing, patting, rocking a newborn – to essentially return us to the feeling of being in the womb – are extremely effective.

If you think about what a baby is hearing when in the womb – it’s similar to listening to things when under water. This is the theory behind white noise as a settling technique.

  • As your baby grows,
  • it remains a positive association,
  • helps your baby fall asleep,
  • link their sleep cycles and
  • drowns out household and loud noises.

The best part – It is inexpensive, easy and portable.

What are the best white noise machines to use?

There are many free apps available that create these sounds;

A white noise device can come with a portable USB charged for sleeping on the run or travel
Plug in white noise machines are great for nurseries – many come with nightlights which are terrific for low lighting as you’re going to bed or soft lighting for toddlers as they grow (they won’t always love a pitch black room).

These apps and machines will often offer true white noise but also nature sounds such as rain, ocean sounds and more. Either option, white noise or nature sounds, are fine to use (see a breakdown of the different colour noises below).

Should I play white noise of all my baby’s sleeps?

White noise should be played for every sleep, for the entire duration of sleep, even overnight.
If you’re spending time away traveling or heading to grandma’s house for the weekend I absolutely recommend you take a white noise machine of some description to recreate you baby’s sleep space.

See my top tips for travel here

Given most parents share a room with their baby for the first 6 months it’s amazing how many parents tell me they now love white noise too and their sleep has benefited in terms of duration and ease of falling asleep.

What is a safe level to play white noise at?

Whichever type of white noise machine you chose or colour noise you select, it should be played at a medium level (around the volume level of a shower running) and when your baby is crying, it can be turned up so they can hear it over their cries, then turned down when calm and settled.

The maximum volume setting on the machine will most likely be too loud.

See my blog on protecting your baby’s hearing for a full run down to ensure you’re looking after your baby’s ears when using white noise:

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When do you need to stop using white noise?

It’s perfectly safe to continue to use white noise throughout childhood and adolescence, but if you do want to start weaning your toddler or child off, then simply turn it down bit by bit every night until they no longer need it.
It’s never too late to introduce white noise
White noise is great for helping babies sleep at any age and can be introduced at any time. If your baby is over 1 year old then I recommend first considering some nature sounds as it is an easier transition from having no noise at all.

One of the key times I see white noise being introduced is around the 4 months when your baby goes through some significant changes and sleep patterns become more adult like.

read dr golly article about 4 month sleep regression

Other colour noises

More recently, research has popped up regarding different forms of white noise, including pink, brown and black noises.

White noise sounds covers all audible frequencies of sound.
PINK noise is deeper, like having a bass rumble. Rain or a heartbeat are examples of pink noise, with a deeper feel to it.
BROWN noise moves deeper still, like the sound of a waterfall continually crashing, or a deep rumbling of thunder
BLACK noise is the exact opposite – an absence of sound, like one would hear in outer space. Some adults prefer absolute silence to sleep, but babies often find this quite disconcerting.

When it comes to a Sleeping baby of all the background noise colours and frequencies, only white noise has scientific data that supports it’s benefits.

Won’t my baby get addicted to white noise?

The short answer is YES…. but the long one is it doesn’t matter.

As discussed above it’s inexpensive, easy and portable. When it comes to the pros and cons of white noise for babies the pros certainly outweigh the cons.

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