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Just got the little one off to sleep but desperately need to hoover the front room? Need to do a laundry cycle ASAP?
Well, doing so might not be as bad as you think, as some babies find these sounds really relaxing.
Commonly known as 'white noise', having these sounds in the background might even help babies drift off for a few hours if they're struggling to settle down.
The sound of the sea or calming acoustic music tend to be the go-to sounds for adults when we want to relax, but when it comes to babies it’s actually white noise sounds that are more effective in creating a soothing environment, as it resembles the kind of sounds they heard in the womb.
What is white noise?
By definition, white noise is a sound that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing in equal amounts.
White noise sounds similar to TV or radio 'static', but constant background noises such as a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, fan or running water also help promote sleep in the same way.
Tips for using white noise:
How does white noise help your baby sleep?
Whether your baby is an easy sleeper or a more challenged sleeper, white noise can help her in several ways.
Firstly, the gentle, consistent sound can soothe her to sleep. You’re probably used to whispering 'shhh shhh' to help calm your baby, which is an instinctual sound that mimics a mother’s heartbeat, and it works.
When your baby hears this type of sound, she can focus on it, which helps her relax and – hopefully - sleep.
Contrary to what you might think, the outside world can actually be quite quiet for babies, especially at night time.
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.
When your little one was in your womb at 15 weeks of gestation, your baby was starting to hear.
The sounds she heard were muffled by amniotic fluid, but you can use noises that mimic that womb sound to soothe and comfort your baby at nap time, AKA white noise.
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 explains.
One study found that white noise helped 80% of babies fall asleep within five minutes so it’s really worth trying – with older babies and toddlers as well as newborns.
Read more: Try to help your baby sleep soundly for longer.
Types of white noise for baby sleep:
Shushing: 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 motion.
White noise app: Instead of running the hoover for hours on end (and facing a monstrous electricity bill!) download a white noise app which has hundreds of noises to choose from. We like White Noise Lite, which is free to download.
A fan: The constant whooshing noise of a fan is also a good bet for background noise, aiding your baby’s sleep.
There are pros and cons of using white noise for your baby - we investigate some of the good and bad things below:
Pros of white noise for babies:
- Babies can fall asleep faster
- Can be comforting for newborns
- Can block out background noise or noise of older siblings
Cons of white noise for babies:
- Some machines could exceed the recommended noise limit for babies
- Babies can become dependent on the white noise machine to sleep, so they could struggle to nod off without it in the future
- Not all babies like or respond well to white noise
Does white noise help your baby? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!
Now read on Mother&Baby:
10 tips to help your little ones get to sleep that *really* work
Reasons why your toddler may be waking in the night