It may seem counterintuitive, but white noise can be really effective in supporting infants who are struggling to sleep. Think about it, though: babies spend c40wks listening to the inner workings of your gastro-intenstinal tract which must be like hanging out with a cement mixer. The world’s a very, very quiet place compared to that.
Dr Harvey Karp, author of the ‘Happiest Baby …’ programme of books, is a HUGE fan of white noise. ‘It amazes me,’ he says, ‘how few parents use white noise. White noise works miracles with fussy babies and is an amazingly powerful cue to boost baby sleep.’
WHAT KIND OF WHITE NOISE SHOULD I USE?
There are all kinds, ranging from pink to orange to brown and a whole rainbow inbetween, but the one you’re looking for is a rough, rumbly whooshy noise ‘that’s as loud as his crying,’ says Dr Karp. This will turn on the baby’s calming reflex. Once your baby has calmed, turn the white noise down a little. Dr Karp recommends keeping it at the volume of a shower to maintain the calming reflex, but you can lower it as they get older.
WHEN SHOULD I USE WHITE NOISE?
Only use white noise for sleep and fussiness.
HOW SHOULD I USE WHITE NOISE?
Make white noise part of their sleep routine by having it on quietly while you’re getting them ready for their nap or bed-time, turning it up as they’re ready to sleep.
That calming reflex will disappear by around three or four months, but the association between white noise and sleep will remain – and it’s a positive one that will help provide strong sleep cues as they get older.
You can use Apps or quality sleep machines set on continuous (gizmos and machines that only last twenty minutes or so are hopeless for this), but be wary of using your phone as the speakers give an inappropriate tinniness to the sound that doesn’t mimic that deep, rumbly womb sound. If you have to use your phone be aware of the microwaves it gives off and make sure that it’s set in Airplane mode.
WILL MY CHILD BECOME ADDICTED TO WHITE NOISE?
‘If by addicted, you mean that babies will love and expect to hear noise all night,’ says Dr Karp, ‘they’re actually already addicted to it from all the noise they heard before being born! But that’s actually a huge bonus for you because it means you can use this great tool to boost your baby’s sleep.’
WHAT ABOUT OLDER CHILDREN?
Dr Karp recommends you use white noise until at least your child’s first birthday – toddlers and older children can benefit too, especially during travel or periods of illness. But even then, if you’d like to wean them off, Dr Karp assures us it’s super easy: ‘just lower the volume little by little, over one or two weeks, and soon it will be history.’
Got any more questions about positive (or negative!) sleep associations? Want some support in getting your little one to sleep? Get in touch! I’d love to help.