In those first few days at home with your brand new baby, everything changes and revolves around this new little life.
When they go down for a nap, it is easy to feel like you need to turn off the TV and tiptoe round, talking in hushed voices for fear of waking them. In fact, the opposite is true – background noise helps them to sleep!
Consider the noise your baby heard while still in the womb. Their ears were filled with fluid, but they could still hear a muted version of all the noise from mum’s environment, not to mention the surprisingly loud whoosh-whoosh of mum’s heart pumping blood round the body. With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that your baby will actually sleep more soundly with background noise – what is familiar is comforting and relaxing!
What Type of Noise is Best?
You have probably heard of ‘white noise’. Technically the definition of this is sound with many frequencies of equal intensity. These frequencies blend together into an indistinct hum, with no single sound to focus on – think a vacuum cleaner or waves breaking onto a beach.
White noise also serves to mask sudden noises. With a sudden sound, it is not always the sound itself that wakes your baby, but the change from quiet to that sudden burst of sound. Using a gentle layer of background noise to mask any other noises in the environment can stop your baby waking suddenly.
Using the same familiar sound when your baby sleeps can also become a sleep cue, as they begin to develop into a routine. Your baby will learn that this sound means it is time to sleep, which can be especially helpful if you are away from home and their familiar environment.
Using the right type of white noise can be important. Pink noise is the term used for the type of white noise which is best for aiding baby sleep. It sounds fuller or deeper and tends to be more natural in origin – think a heartbeat or raindrops falling rather than a hairdryer or static on a radio, which have a higher pitch. All white noise can mask sounds, but pink noise has been found to be the most relaxing.
Working out what works for you
There are many ways you can introduce white noise to your environment. There are free white noise apps available and also popular toys like Ewan the Dream Sheep. It’s time for you to experiment to find out what works best for your little one. Which sound do they like? Does it work best if turned on all the time? Do you turn it off or just reduce the volume once they are asleep? Once you have found what works, stick with it and let it become part of your routine.
When I had my first child (in the days before phone apps!), I remember despairing as she hated being put down to sleep and would cry all the time. A friend suggested trying white noise, and I was pretty sceptical to say the least. But I was at the stage where I would try anything, so after her next feed I put my crying daughter down and reached for the hairdryer. I switched it on…..and the effect was almost instant! Within a second or two she had stopped crying, settled and gone to sleep! I really couldn’t believe it! That hairdryer became an integral part of our lives during the first few weeks of her life!
Some points to remember
White noise can be an amazing help in establishing your new baby’s sleep patterns, but please keep these points in mind:
- Keep the volume low. The current recommendation is a limit of 50 decibels, about the level of conversation in an office environment. When checking volume, put your head at same level as your baby, to hear what they will hear
- Whatever device you use, keep it away from your baby’s cot or moses basket and make sure there are no trailing wires which could be a hazard
- Only turn it on when your baby is ready to sleep. White noise won’t make your baby tired if they are not ready to sleep – look out for other sleep cues to maximise the effectiveness of using the white noise, and turn it off when baby wakes up.
- Choose a portable device so you can take it with you when you are away from home
Why do I love white noise?
I have personal experience of what a huge impact white noise can have on a baby’s sleep. I love it because:
- It is cheap or even free!
- It is familiar and naturally soothing to your baby
- Some babies can be really noisy sleepers! If you are sleeping in the same room it will help you sleep too as it will mask some of those little baby noises and stop you jerking awake at the tiniest sound or movements from your baby. And all those points about it being relaxing apply to you too!
- It becomes a part of your pre sleep routine and a powerful sleep cue.
- If you want to wean your baby off it for some reason you can do this easily and just gradually reduce the volume…although most babies will grow out of needing it as they start to rely on other sleep cues and ways to settle themselves back to sleep when they wake.
How does it work for you? I would love to hear your stories of how white noise has worked for you. Please share your experiences by commenting below.
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