One of the most popular questions I get asked in my sleep workshops is whether or not white noise can cause sleep problems for babies at a later date. Many mums are concerned that by using white noise they are teaching their babies to sleep in an environment that is not “real life”, and that later on when they grow up they will come to depend on it. These parents that come along asking these questions are also often asking about taking away the dummy, or feeding to sleep, or whatever it is that their baby is waking for at night time too.
My answer is always the same – white noise is great, and unless it is causing an issue for you as a parent, it is definitely not a problem to use it with your baby! Out of all the sleep associations that parents are looking to stop, white noise would be right down at the bottom of my list to get rid of. In fact I would suggest that if you are travelling anywhere anytime soon or going to any new environments, it can actually help the transition to that new space.
Babies are used to white noise in the womb, and then are born and expected to sleep in a world of bright lights and different sounds which are a lot less dull than what they have been hearing inside their mummy! Having white noise for a newborn in those early days can really help them with settling to sleep, as well as lengthening their sleep cycles and helping them to join their sleep cycles together.
Most parents are often surprised when I go and introduce white noise to a small baby, commenting on how loud it sounds. The fact is, white noise of around 50-60 decibels (just above the level of a normal conversation to put it into perspective), will not cause any hearing damage to your baby (The Children’s Hearing Institutee), and most well known white noise baby soothers play white noise no louder then this as a rule of thumb (always worth checking though…just in case).
In my work as a sleep consultant, I often use white noises at night time in the following situations;
-when a small baby starts to stir, to try and help them fall back to sleep on their own without waking
-to push out night feeds – if baby is just waking from habit, sometimes white noise will send them back to sleep rather than needing to wake up and comfort feed
-to help a baby learn to settle themselves who otherwise has difficulty settling
-to recreate the environment of the womb for a particularly colicky baby who is having a tough time adjusting to life in the fourth trimester
White noise can become a problem for some parents is their baby starts waking for it, this often can happen when the four month sleep regression hits. A baby at this age will look for the same environment they fell asleep in, to move between cycles again. For this reason, you may want to look at getting rid of white noise before 12 weeks, or otherwise use a white noise toy that stays on at night time.
We are all familiar with the infamous sheep that every new mummy gets given at her baby shower being told that it is a life saver! He is great, and I spent a good proportion of my night nanny career using him to successfully push out night feeds, however his problem was always switching off after 20 minutes which could cause some noise sensitive babies to wake up after only half a sleep cycle. Cue MyHummy, the newest addition to the white noise family and one that I would whole heartedly recommend!
MyHummy toys switch on and last for 60 minutes, therefore seeing baby through their first sleep cycle and into the second. They are also very cleverly designed to come back on in a 12 hour period if the baby makes a noise or moves. No more running into the room and army crawling across the floor to switch the sheep on when baby stirs between cycles…they do it for you! I used MyHummy with my newborn from day dot, and he slept brilliantly in those early weeks. I felt comforted that the white noise was helping him and didn’t have to worry about switching my phone onto airplane mode and using a white noise app, which was always my other alternative to the white noise sheep, if waking after 20 minutes was becoming a problem.
MyHummy comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and the travel one is particularly ideal for sticking in your handbag (or rather your changing bag given handbags no longer exist as a mother)! You can adjust the volume too, which means that if you are looking to phase it out or need it to be that little bit louder whilst out and about, there are a range of different volumes you can have it on.
We love white noise – it has helped us through some of those trickier day and night naps. I shall definitely continue to recommend white noise to my clients, especially those with younger babies, or those having issues with their day time sleeping, and in particular the MyHummy toys which now take first place over my beloved dream sheep of the last many many years spend caring for all those hundreds of babies.