Should You Be Using White Noise for Your Child?
Updated: Sep 18
It has been proven that white noise helps us fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. When a baby is in the womb all they hear are loud sounds that are as high as 80 decibels. That is as loud as most vacuums or garbage disposal systems. This is a big reason why white noise is so beneficial. It creates the same environment that they had while in the womb, so it can help calm down an infant quicker. There is a correct way to use white noise though.
What is The Proper Way to Use White Noise?
It is important to use true white noise that is non-looping. True white noise will sound similar to television static. It must be continuous in pitch and tone in order to be beneficial and be on throughout the night. White noise machines that shut off half way through the night typically will wake up the infant unnecessarily. Songs or sounds such as waves, rain, and lullabies can be more disrupting than helpful as there are breaks in the noise, which can actually wake up your infant. Most sound machines come with options such as lullabies, so just make sure you are only using the actual white noise setting. White noise also helps to cover up any outside loud noises so true white noise is also beneficial here. The point of white noise is to have an uninterrupted sound that the brain does not recognize as disruptive. This is why most white noise apps you can find on your phone or online do not work as well. They typically are not non-looping or continuous in tone and pitch.
Always place the white noise machine across the room from where they are sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you place the white noise machines at least 7 feet away from the crib. You want it right at 60-65 decibels, which is about as loud as a soft shower. As a frame of reference, typically you want it loud but not loud enough that you cannot have a conversation over it. You can even download apps on your phone to test the levels if you are unsure if it is too loud. Turn the machine on as the last part of your routine as they are laying down. Keep the white noise running all night until they are ready to get up for the morning. This will signal to them that it is time for sleeping only when it is on, especially in between sleep cycles when brief wakings occur. It is also important not to have it on at times when they are not asleep or they will no longer associate this sound with sleep. As long as it is true white noise it will not disrupt their sleep.
At What Age Should You Stop Using White Noise?
White noise is not just beneficial for infants. It is really beneficial for any age, even adults. You can easily find small portable ones so it’s easy to take with wherever you go for any age. However, if you would like to eventually stop using it, I would recommend doing so after 3-4 years of age. After 3-4 years all the regressions and big milestones will have passed and be less of an issue. You can turn the volume down a bit more each night to easily phase it out.
Will This Solve All Sleeping Issues?
The truth is just adding white noise will not solve all sleeping issues. Sleeping issues are one big puzzle and the sleeping environment is only one part of it. If there are aspects you are unhappy with for your child’s sleep, then other areas may need to be looked at, such as schedules and routines. This is where a consultant can add value. Adding in white noise to a routine is a great start though!