For every parent, sleepless nights are the norm for the first year of their babies’ lives. In order to get at least some rest, they try to come up with creative solutions to make their infants sleep better. On that quest, many have turned to white noise, which has proven to be a quality and effective option.
But when is the right time to stop using white noise for your baby? Keep reading to learn all about the ins and outs of white noise and when it’s time to say goodbye to this sleep-time helper.
White Noise: An Overview
Often called broadband noise, white noise is defined as an unvarying combination of sounds with different frequencies. This type of noise includes all frequencies which the human ear can pick up on playing all at once with the same intensity.
How Can White Noise Help?
Since it can sound soothing, white noise may help humans of all ages fall asleep faster. In addition, turning on a white noise machine during the night can also help you stay asleep longer, allowing your body and mind to get enough rest.
In most cases, white noise is helpful because it successfully masks any other sounds that might disturb you as you sleep, from snoring to traffic noise. Moreover, your brain gets used to the noise quickly, and the mere routine of hearing it becomes calming after a while.
Why Is White Noise Especially Recommended for Babies?
According to research, babies hear a lot of noise while developing and growing in the uterus. Among others, they can hear their mother’s heartbeat, digestive movements, and certain blood vessels expanding and contracting. Moreover, they can also hear the mom’s other organs performing their daily functions.
Since these sounds all have varying frequencies but are of the same intensity, they resemble white noise. Thus, when you play this type of noise for your infant, they are reminded of the womb, which immediately soothes them.
Of course, this fact might not be true for all babies. Thus, it is still best to monitor your infant’s reactions closely as the white noise plays.
Early Signs You Should Stop Using White Noise for Your Baby
As with most things in life, white noise is not a universally successful remedy for sleepless nights. While it can help some get restful and continuous sleep, for others, it is a distraction and disturbance.
The best way to check if white noise works for someone — in this case, your baby — is to try it out. For example, you can try playing a white noise machine or a white noise video compilation from YouTube.
If the sounds are soothing your infant and you can see them relaxing and getting sleepy, keep playing it. But if you see that they are getting cranky and agitated, it’s best to stop.
In addition, it’s advisable to keep checking on your baby as they sleep with the white noise in the background. If you notice that they seem to be in discomfort or if they fuss while sleeping, the machine or video might be doing more harm than good.
On the other hand, if you notice that the noise has helped them sleep through the night (or at least longer than usual), you can call it a success. Either way, it’s essential to pay attention to your baby, their responses, and how they behave. That way, you’ll be able to do what’s best for them at any given moment.
Are You Using White Noise Correctly?
If administered carefully and following specific rules, white noise should be safe for babies, no matter how small they are. However, these rules really have to be followed to a tee or you need to stop playing white noise right away.
Firstly, it’s essential to keep the white noise machine at least 7 feet away from your baby’s cot at all times. In addition, you should never have the machine run at its loudest setting. Instead, choose a lower one that won’t be too loud.
The reason for these precautions lies in the fact that an infant’s ears are a lot more sensitive than those of adults. Thus, continuous loud noise can damage their hearing and lead to severe long-term consequences.
These recommendations come from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which tested various white noise machines to gauge their safety for babies. Since they found that all of the models included in the study exceeded recommended noise levels, they calculated the optimal distance needed for the machines to be equally safe and effective.
So, if you do use white noise to help your baby sleep, make sure it is never louder than a regular conversation or a shower running in the background (up to 45 decibels). By doing so, you will ensure your baby’s hearing remains unharmed.
Pick a Quality White Noise Machine
When searching for a white noise machine for your baby, it’s important to pay attention to a few key features.
Firstly, always look for models that have several volume levels. Three is the minimum you should choose, and there are machines that offer as many as five or six. By purchasing such a machine, you’ll make sure the noise is never too loud for your baby.
Next, it’s smart to get a model that can both play recordings and produce white noise on its own. That way, you can experiment and also play lullabies or nature sounds to your child.
And finally, you should splurge a little when shopping for your white noise machine. Although hefty prices don’t always equal the best quality, it’s still better to buy a good model with great reviews. Such machines usually cost a bit more, but they also last longer, which makes them an excellent long-term investment.
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When Do Most Parents Stop Using White Noise for Their Babies?
There are no explicit rules that say exactly when a parent should stop playing white noise for their baby. In other words, the decision varies from baby to baby and parent to parent.
Generally speaking, most parents tend to stop using white noise machines when their kids become toddlers. Thus, the optimal age is anywhere between 2 and 4 years old.
Of course, you can also stop earlier. That’s a good idea, especially if you notice that your child can fall and remain asleep even without the machine. In that case, you can start experimenting with noiseless sleep to see how they’ll react.
Can White Noise Become Addictive?
The vast majority of parents want to teach their kids to fall asleep on their own because they are scared of white noise becoming a sleep crutch for them. While kids can indeed get used to the noise, no research shows that it can actually become addictive.
However, since white noise machines are a relatively new invention, no one really knows if they have any long-term consequences. For example, some fear that they might slow down cognitive development or lead to auditory disorders.
Again, there is no evidence to prove these theories. But in case you feel worried anyway, you can stop using a white noise machine for your baby. In the sections that follow, I’ll show you how to do it safely and effectively by giving you some ground rules to follow.
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Without White Noise Again
First things first, it is essential to start weaning your baby off of white noise gradually. In other words, you shouldn’t just remove the machine at once and never use it again. Such a change might be too drastic for your child, making it harder for them to fall asleep.
Rather, start by letting the machine run for only a few hours instead of all night. Although your kid will probably notice the absence right away and might wake up a few times, they will soon adjust to it.
With time, let the noise play for shorter and shorter, until you can finally stop entirely. During this process, always pay attention to your child’s reactions. If necessary, soothe them in case the change causes any discomfort or fussiness.
Besides turning the machine off, it might also be a good idea to start slowly turning down the volume. Within a few weeks, you can go from your regular volume to complete silence. That way, the change probably won’t be too hard on your baby.
Either way, the graduality of the process is definitely the key to success. As long as you stay patient and let your child adjust to their new sleep routine at their own pace, you will have nothing to worry about.
White noise machines have proven to be life-savers for parents who can’t get their babies to sleep through the night. If you use them safely and make sure they’re not too loud, they can truly make a big difference and allow your whole household to get some much-needed rest.
As for getting your baby to sleep without the noise, it’s best to start when they are around 2 years old. Make sure you start weaning them off the machine slowly, allowing them to adjust and establish a new routine instead. Do so, and your kid will be able to sleep without the machine in only a month or so.