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If you walked into our eldest’s room when she was a baby, it probably sounded like a scene from the movie Poltergeist. You know, the classic part where Carol Ann wakes up to the strobe effect and white noise of an old-school TV channel?
Why did we create a horror movie-esque sleeping environment for our precious daughter, you ask?
Because it worked!
Before we had kids, I’d heard whispers about the legendary reliability of white noise benefits for babies. I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to drink the Kool-Aid, though.
That is until our little girl developed a nasty milk allergy and colic, which kept us praying for peaceful naps and bedtime routines that didn’t involve continual bouts of screaming and crying (for both her and us).
In a desperate attempt to try SOMETHING, I downloaded a white noise app.
Suddenly, the fussing stopped.
Her little body relaxed as she focused on the sounds, wondering what this new, fancy noise could be. A miracle occurred before our eyes–she drifted off to sleep without any non-stop bouncing, shushing, rocking, or crying from her parents.
We crept out of her room and wondered why we’d waited so long to try.
If you’re debating using white noise for your little one, give it a go. Whether you try static, a fan, or a classic sound machine, adding noise to your little one’s sleep space can make a difference in the sleep quality and quantity of everyone in your household–not just the baby!
Read on to learn all about white noise benefits and which products and apps work the best to ensure your little one gets the sleep they need.
What is White Noise, and Why Does it Work?
The term “white noise” sounds more exotic and scientific than it actually is. Essentially, we’re talking about static and background noise. The air conditioner’s hum, the whir of your ceiling fan, and the static of a bad radio station are all examples.
For a more technical definition, however, white noise is equal measures of noise within the sound spectrum, both lower and higher frequencies.
You might wonder why babies would “enjoy” listening to something like this compared to other relaxation noise options, like rainfall and ocean waves.
This part is simple: white noise reminds babies of being inside your belly.
While we can’t hear what happens inside our bodies from the outside, it might surprise you how loud it can seem to a little one nestled in your womb. The “real world” is much quieter than what they’re used to; it’s pretty noisy in our uteruses, so having the kind of static noise that they are used to in utero can be really helpful for calming baby.
White Noise vs. Pink Noise vs. Brown Noise – What’s the Difference?
Now that we’ve established what white noise is, allow me to introduce you to the concept of the other colors of noise.
Yes, that’s right, more than white noise exists.
While we use “white noise” as a blanket term, you can break down sound types into smaller categories. There’s a broad range of options, from red noise to black noise, but the most common types, especially for babies, are white, pink, and brown.
So, what’s the difference?
Let’s look at an article from Science Focus for more information:
“While white noise contains all the frequencies mashed together equally, brown and pink noise put more energy into the lower frequencies, the result being a bassier sound.”
According to this article, many people find brown noise the most soothing. Here are some examples of each, though:
- White Noise: TV Static, Vacuum Cleaners, Air Conditioners, Fans
- Pink Noise: Heartbeats, Falling Rain, Ocean Waves
- Brown Noise: Bathroom Showers, Thunderstorms, Heavy Rain
White Noise Benefits You Need to Know About
So, have I convinced you to start using white noise for your kiddos yet? If you need some more reasons to do it, why not consider these benefits of white noise:
1. Helps Newborns Fall Asleep Faster
Telling you that white noise might help your baby sleep better is vague. You’re probably wondering just how it will improve their nighttime routine.
Well, for starters, white noise is proven to help infants fall asleep faster. During a 1990 study, evidence showed that 80% of participants who listened to the white noise sound during bedtime fell asleep within 5 minutes of being laid down.
Research also shows that listening to background noise frequently decreases the amount of fussing babies do before going to sleep.
2. Helps Your Little One Sleep Longer
Most babies fall asleep faster when white noise is playing, and many often stay asleep longer. While most studies have been conducted on adults and young adults, research does indicate that pink noise impacts brain waves and helps support longer sleep. So, whether you’re hoping to get your little one to nap a little longer or sleep a little later, it might be worth a try.
3. Blocks Out Other Noises
We had such good luck with white noise for our oldest that we decided to try it again when our youngest was born.
Mainly because we thought it would help her sleep, but also to try and block out the chaos from our vivacious toddler who constantly produced an eclectic orchestra of noise. You see, not only is white noise calming for babies, but it also covers up any external noise that might normally startle them awake.
From pets to doorbells, one of my favorite white noise benefits is the distraction from other noises to ensure your infant can sleep better.
And it turns out, we were right in our suspicions. Not only have we experienced better sleep for our younger one, but research supports this, showing that white noise improves sleep in high-noise environments.
4. Works for Parents, Too!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved our noise machine as much as our daughters did. In fact, when it was time to transition out of our room and into their own, I had a hard time letting them take our sound device with them!
The physical and emotional load we take on during parenthood can be intense.
Getting enough sleep as new parents is essential. So, if listening to a little white noise can help us beat insomnia and fall into a deep sleep, why not?
Can White Noise Be Harmful to Infants?
Generally speaking, you won’t find many adverse effects to using white noise for babies. The biggest risk is probably your baby just not liking it. While it has high success rates, not every infant will love this miracle sound.
Some families might experience some white noise dependency. Our little one was pretty attached to her machine, and we had to slowly turn it down lower and lower over time to “wean her off of it.”
One thing to consider, however, is how high you’re playing the white noise.
While it’s typically not going to impact your baby’s hearing negatively, if it’s played at loud volumes, as with any other noise, it could cause damage. The Sleep Foundation suggests playing white noise at the same volume as a normal background conversation and no louder.
If you buy a white noise machine, try to pick a model that offers volume control for this reason. You can also put your device in the corner of the room, away from the baby, to protect their sensitive ears.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests placing a white noise device at least 7 feet away from your little one.
How Long Can You Use White Noise to Help Infants Sleep?
There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how long you should use white noise and sound machines for your baby; it comes down to what works best for your family.
Some families wait until their baby can sleep through the night, often by six months old. Other parents might use other milestones, such as when their infant transitions into their crib (instead of a bassinet), or they’ll wait until their first birthday.
Don’t feel hard-pressed to put away your kiddo’s sound machine if you’re not ready; there’s no harm in continuing to use it as long as it’s at a safe volume and at least 7 feet away!
White Noise for Babies: The Most Popular Sound Machine Products on the Market
Whether assembling a baby registry checklist or building a collection of new mama postpartum essentials, a sound machine is an excellent addition. If you want to reap the white noise benefits for babies mentioned above, check out the following products:
The Homedics white noise machine on Amazon is the product we used for both of our girls. We loved it because it’s affordable, provides excellent sound quality, and has an easy-to-use dial for volume control. Plus, its compact size makes it great for travel; this product accompanied us on many overnight stays during our early days of parenthood!
With more than 59,000 reviews on Amazon, it’s evident that we’re not the only ones who think this is a fantastic choice if you’re on the hunt for a sound machine.
This small device comes with several different white noise options, and it also features soothing lights that serve as a relaxation tool and nightlight during those late-night feeds and diaper changes.
I love how versatile this product is. It has 32 volume levels, three different timers, and adjustable brightness.
You can even create memory settings to ensure you have that perfect blend of ambient lighting and sound every night during bedtime.
Whether you’re out for a stroll or driving in the car, there might come a time when you wish you could bring your white noise with you on the go.
The Fourair portable device allows you to do just that. It has a convenient lanyard to tie to a stroller or car seat.
This way, you’ll get all the benefits of white noise any time, any place.
I know a few mamas who swore by this baby sleep shusher device when their kiddos were small. Instead of traditional white noise, it plays a gentle “shushing” sound in a real person’s voice.
Some reviewers complain that the device battery doesn’t last long and is not very loud–definitely things to consider before ordering.
If you want the Rolls Royce of baby sound machines, look no further than the Hatch!
This multi-use product has earned a reputation for high-quality sound within the parenting community. In addition to its white noise capabilities, it’s also a nightlight, alarm clock, and sleep trainer. You can even control it with apps on your smartphone!
Now, if only it could change diapers!
So, what’s the catch? Well, this device isn’t cheap. It runs between $70 and $130 on Amazon.
If you’re shopping for a budget-friendly white noise machine for infants, this might not be it, but if you’re at the end of your rope and want something that many people swear by, why not give it a try?
What Are the Top-Rated White Noise for Babies Apps?
Not everyone wants to buy a device they’ll have to find a place to store. If that’s you, a cell phone white noise app might be a preferred option. There are several excellent programs to pick from, but some of the most popular include:
- Sound Sleeper White Noise
- Baby Sleep Sounds+
- White Noise Baby
- White Noise Lite
- Sound Machine
White Noise Might Not Always Work, but It’s Worth a Try
The memory of trying to get our baby to sleep is literally ingrained in my memory. I’ll never forget the frustration of working so hard to help her relax, to no avail.
For us, the benefits of white noise were a game changer.
Not every baby will like background noise and sound machines when they’re trying to sleep. You might find that if you turn on a white noise app on your phone, their screaming gets louder and more persistent. In that case, you’ll have to devise another solution to help them rest.
Here’s the thing, though; it’s not hard to try using white noise. The worst-case scenario is simply that it won’t work, and you’re no worse than when you started.
So, if you’ve got bleary eyes from lack of sleep and not enough coffee to keep you going, turn on some white noise and see what happens; it can’t hurt, right?
Have you ever experienced white noise benefits for your baby? What were your favorite white noise machines or apps?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.