If you’re creating a baby registry, you may have a white noise machine on your list but have absolutely no idea why you want one (but spoiler alert: you want one!) So let’s dive into why white noise machines are helpful, how to use them, and other FAQs about them.
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Why I love white noise machines
White noise is extremely soothing to newborns. When your baby was in the womb, they were surrounded by the constant (and loud) noises our bodies make. The whooshing sound of the blood running through the placenta began to feel like home to them. (Think about the noises you hear during an ultrasound. Now imagine that amplified and surrounding your baby 24/7.
When babies are born into a world with varying types and volumes of sounds, the silence can be disconcerting and disorienting. Using a white noise machine gives your baby a familiar environment that is reminiscent of the womb and can be incredibly helpful in both soothing a fussy baby and helping them settle into sleep.
As your baby gets older, white noise machines are helpful in blocking out environmental sounds like dogs barking, neighbors leaving for work, your husband making his morning smoothie, or your older child running around. During your baby’s lightest stages of sleep (which happen during the early-morning hours and at daytime naps) a white noise machine can keep them snoozing if their body is not ready to be awake.
White noise machines are also a great sleep cue that you can bring along when you travel or are otherwise outside of your normal sleep environment. When it clicks on, your baby will know exactly what time it is!
How to use white noise machines
Many white noise machines on the market now come with an array of different sounds to choose from ranging from waves and rain to lullabies & jungle noises! The best sounds to play are deep, constant sounds with little to no variation. Straight up “white noise” or even “pink noise” is preferable. Any sounds that are too fluctuating can actually be too stimulating for the brain (not what we are going for during sleep periods) and unintentionally pull your baby out of a sleep cycle. Which leads me to my next point…
…your white noise machine must play constantly and not be on a timer during sleep periods. If your machine is set to shut off after a certain amount of time, that too can jar the body awake. I’ve had far too many families tell me that their little one wakes within 5-10 minutes of a power outage to call this a coincidence (so if you can have a battery backup option, do that!)
For most effective results, situate your white noise machine between your child’s crib/bed and the source of where most environmental or loud noises originate. This might be near their bedroom door, a window to the front yard, a shared wall with a sibling, or – if room sharing – between your bed and their crib!
How loud should white noise machines be?
Anecdotally speaking, I recommend turning your white noise machine up to about the volume of a shower. If you are in the bathroom while your partner is showering, you’ll need to speak up to hear them, but the noise isn’t hurting your ears.
From a technical standpoint, somewhere between 50-65 decibels is standard practice, and I have found a lot of success setting it around 60 dBs. (For reference, the decibel level of your womb is around 80 dBs.)
To determine what decibel your white noise machine is at, there are several apps (like Decibel X) you can download that will help you achieve the correct volume. Just place your phone in the crib where your baby’s head goes and turn up the sound machine until it reaches a decibel within the above range that also feels comfortable for you.
Will my baby become dependent on a white noise machine?
Most of us actually sleep better with some type of ambient noises (like fans or AC units) but that doesn’t mean we can’t sleep otherwise! Consider how you and I sleep with a pillow each night. We’d all prefer to sleep with a pillow, but if we had to, we could sleep without one. It might not be the best sleep of our lives, but we’d still sleep. White noise is similar, and at the end of the day, my goal (and I’m sure yours too) is to improve your baby’s sleep. If white noise is going to help with that, let’s set your baby up for success when we can by making their environment as conducive to sleep as possible!
If you are very concerned about dependency and want to wean your child off white noise, I recommend waiting until your little one is older than 3-4 years old and past most of the major sleep transitions & milestones. Just turn down the sound a little bit each night until it’s gone!
My favorite white noise machines
A white noise machine is an important part of your arsenal of helpful sleep tools. If you’re looking for other tools to help your baby sleep better, please reach out and I’d love to help!