By Elizabeth Pantley
The right kind of background noise is a perfect sleep aid for most newborns because it is effective in a variety of ways. Whether your baby is an easy sleeper or a more challenged sleeper, white noise can be helpful to your little one in four different ways:
- The gentle, consistent sound can be very effective at soothing your baby to sleep.
From the beginning of time, adults have used the sounds of “Shhh Shhh” or similar utterances to help calm a baby. It’s an instinctual method that mimics mother’s heartbeat, and it works. When a baby hears these types of sounds it allows him to focus on those, and then he can center himself and relax or fall asleep.
- The sound can mask harsh noises that can startle your baby awake.
A steady hum of background noise can help to block out sharp sudden sounds. Typically, it’s not the noise itself that wakes your baby, but the sudden change in sound that jars your baby from sleep. White noise, played just loud enough (but not too loud), softens the edges of these sharp sounds.
You don’t want to have to always tiptoe around a sleeping baby, and the sounds of the house, like talking or soft footsteps, are actually soothing, as babies love to hear the sounds of the village as they sleep. However, sharp sounds like dishes clinking, a doorbell or phone ringing, dogs barking, or older siblings shouting can be intrusive sounds that wake your sleeping newborn. Having white noise playing can mask any of these baby-waking noises.
- White noise sounds can act as a bridge between sleep cycles.
Daytime in your house is typically noisier than nighttime, both inside your home and outside, containing many abrupt baby-waking noises. And nighttime can also contain sounds, such as car horns, dogs barking or a television playing in another room. White noise can cover many of those disruptive sounds that happen during naps or in the middle of the night. When your baby is having a brief awakening between sleep cycles and hears these noises, they can gain his attention and bring him fully awake. White noise can help your baby move seamlessly through sleep cycles (when hunger doesn’t interfere) so that your baby has a longer nap or fewer night wakings.
- A sound used frequently for sleep times creates a consistent cue.
When your baby hears this specific sound she knows it’s time to sleep. When you routinely use the sounds as soon as you notice signs of tiredness, your baby comes to recognize it as sleeping music. Add some warm milk and a cuddle to easily lull your baby to sleep.
Your baby will become accustomed to these sounds for falling asleep, so it becomes an easy-to-use sleep cue, at home or away. If you purchase a small white noise machine it is easy to travel with. In a pinch you can buy a white noise app on your phone or other device. This isn’t the best first choice because the small speakers can give the sounds a tinny edge, but when other options are not available this fits the bill. Check out the various apps and find one that provides a steady, relaxing sound.
White noise can be a magic answer for improved sleep for babies, children (and even adults!) You can leave it on for an entire nap and even all night long. These peaceful sounds are just one more piece in the puzzle that helps you to help your baby sleep better – gently, without any stress or crying at all.
Turn White Noise Off when Baby is Awake
White noise is conducive to sleep, but unhelpful during awake times. Turn the white noise off as soon as your baby is awake. This keeps the sound exclusive to sleep. In addition, your infant needs to hear the sounds of the world when she is awake and alert, and you don’t want to mask the sounds that teach her the things she needs to learn.
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns. (McGraw-Hill, 2016). firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series which helps Moms and Dads through all key stages of parenting. Visit her at nocrysolution.com