The sound of the sea or calming acoustic music tend to be the go-to sounds for us adults when we want to relax, but when it comes to babies it’s actually white noise that gets them to sleep.
Yep, you needn’t worry about waking your little one by hoovering the living room carpet – this sort of background white noise is actually calming for your baby and resembles the kind of sounds that he would hear in the womb.
Playing white noise to your baby is part of the ‘fourth trimester’ school of thought, pioneered by Dr Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, who advises that parents treat themselves as a ‘walking uterus’ in the first three months after birth to help babies adjust to the outside world.
READ MORE: THE FOURTH TRIMESTER - COULD THIS PARENTING TECHNIQUE HELP YOUR BABY ADJUST TO THE WORLD?
WHAT IS IT?
Technically, white noise is a sound that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing in equal amounts. Real white noise sounds similar to TV or radio 'static', but constant background noises such as a washing maschine, vacuum cleaner, fan or running water also helps promote sleep in the same way.
WHY DOES IT CALM BABIES?
Contrary to what you might think, the outside world can actually be quite quiet for babies, especially at nighttime. After spending months in the enclosed, safe environment of the womb, they can become stressed and over-tired with the unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells, which often leads to crying and colic.
White noise is a familiar sound that keeps them calm and helps them drift off to sleep. Dr Karp explains in an article in The Huffington Post, that babies are used to the loud whoosh of blood rushing through the placenta – and it’s even noisier than a vacuum cleaner.
‘This sound switches on the calming reflex and helps infants drift into slumber. No wonder babies fall asleep when they hear a hair drier, take a car ride or go to a noisy party,’ he adds.
READ MORE: 5 BABY SLEEP MISTAKES NEW PARENTS MAKE (AND HOW TO FIX THEM)
HOW TO SOOTHE YOUR BABY WITH WHITE NOISE
Mimicking the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb, shushing is a long-known method of calming a distressed baby – especially combined with a gentle swinging movement.
White noise CD/smartphone app
There have been a number of studies into white noise and some have suggested excessive white noise can harm babies’ sensitive hearing, so it is advisable to do some research into how often to play it and at what volume. The good thing about a CD, as opposed to a white noise machine, is that you can bring it with you on the go and it’s perfect for car journeys.
The constant whooshing noise of a fan is also a good bet for background noise, aiding your baby’s sleep.