White noise to help your baby sleep

The world is a noisy place, especially for newborns and young babies who are still adjusting to their new world.

In the city or suburbs, there are sounds
that you can’t control such as passing traffic, sirens, lawnmowers and nosy neighbours. Even everyday household sounds (such as the whirr of the vacuum cleaner or the clanging of dishes) can disrupt and unsettle your baby.

While it’s important to get your baby used to all of these sounds eventually, if your baby is a light sleeper and struggles to sleep with outside noises, white noise may be the answer.

What is white noise?

White noise is defined as a steady, sustained or repeated sound that works to mask or eliminate unwanted sounds. White noise is a combination of sounds from a range of different frequencies that produces a holistic, consistent and unobtrusive noise. Because white noise is a combination of sound frequencies, the human brain has trouble picking out one sound over another. This means that any existing noises you were focused on (e.g. a neighbour chatting, a dog barking) become lost in a blur of sound.

Why does it help babies sleep?

The effect of white noise on a baby is very soothing. Because their brains cannot focus on one offensive sound, their brain instead focuses on a more constant pattern of noise. This steady repetition of sound will continue to calm a baby until they eventually fall asleep. In fact, it’s not just babies that benefit from the calming nature of white noise. Many mothers claim that the white noise used to soothe their babies, also soothes them and helps them drift off to sleep. Studies have shown that white noise played at around 50 decibels (as loud as a typical conversation) is the safest and most effective volume for babies.

How can you generate white noise?

There are many different types and sources of white noise. Some of it can be natural sound, such as the ebb and flow of waves or falling rain. Other times it is an electronically produced drone (e.g. the hum of a fan or humidifier). Online there are tonnes of free white noise MP3s that can be downloaded onto your phone or other smart devices. There are also many great apps that generate white noise especially for babies.

If you don’t want to use a smart device, there are huge ranges of white noise toys and machines specifically designed to calm and comfort babies. Many of them are shaped as cute animals, making them a welcome addition to your nursery.

When it comes to white noise, no two babies (or mothers) are the same. Test a few different sounds and see which works best to sooth both you and your bub. Have any of mammas out there experimented with white noise? Do you find it helps your bub sleep more soundly? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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