As you care for your baby, helping her to get restful sleep may be one of your biggest challenges. Many babies sleep longer and more deeply while listening to white noise. If you’re desperate for better sleep habits for your little one, try using white noise in the background to create a more soothing sleep environment.
Sounds of the Womb
The womb is a noisy place for a baby, with the constant sound of breathing, digestive juices flowing, blood pumping, heart beating and Mother’s voice, according to pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of "The Happiest Baby on the Block." After birth, the sudden and dramatic change in environment, along with the decrease in noise level, can be disconcerting and upsetting to a newborn.
Noise for Comfort
The right mix of white noise can create a similar sound experience for a baby, which replicates the level of noise heard in the womb. With a mixture of high and low pitches that ebb and flow, a baby often feels comforted because the sound simulates the noises the baby remembers from before birth. With this comfort, it’s common for a baby to sleep between one and three hours longer, if you also swaddle the baby before sleep, advises Dr. Karp.
How White Noise Works
With white noise playing in the background while a baby sleeps, the baby feels calmer because of the similarity to noise of the womb. White noise is also effective because it blocks out outside sounds and household commotions that might otherwise disturb the baby and cause her to rouse from sleep. White noise can help a baby sleep through minor bodily sensations that might otherwise cause her to wake, such as teething or hunger. Babies often physically relax more when they hear white noise.
Different White Noise Sounds
A white noise machine usually has several settings you can choose for different variations of soothing sounds. The sound of waves crashing on the shore can be rhythmic and might also simulate breathing sounds, according to anthropologist Gwen Dewar, writing for the Parenting Science website. Additional sounds that might be effective include a heartbeat, rain, wind, running water and a waterfall.
You might wonder whether your baby could become dependent on white noise for sleep. When you use white noise every time your baby sleeps to facilitate deeper sleep, you are creating a "sleep association." A sleep association is simply a routine associated with sleep, such as snuggling in bed before lights-out or sleeping with a night-light. Although as your child grows, she may feel desire for the white noise, a lack of noise shouldn’t prevent her from sleeping.