White light is made by mixing together all different colors of light. (A rainbow is caused by cracking white light back into all the individual hues). Similarly, white noise is a mix of all different pitches of sounds blended together.
White noise is a great tool to soothe fussing and boost sleep. But there are some common misunderstanding about how to use it. Some parents think:
My baby sleeps so well, she doesn’t need white noise.
Even for easy babies, white noise is a must. It makes good sleep even better. And it helps prevent the sleep disasters that may ruin your life between four and twelve months!
It is very common for an infant’s sleep to suddenly fall apart after the fourth trimester. That’s because: a) the calming reflex fades away, b) babies become super social and wake up when they hear little noises in the middle of the night, c) they are weaned off being swaddled, and 4) they are teething. All four factors lead to a surge in sleep problems . . . just when you thought you had it nailed.
Using the right white noise will help you sidestep these problems. Within weeks your little one will link the sounds with the pleasure of sleep. Oh yeah, I recognize that sound . . . Now I’ll have a nice little snooze. As she passes through infancy she’ll be able to sleep despite outside distractions, such as TVs and passing trucks, or inside distractions, such as teething pain, mild colds, slight hunger.
Note: Don’t use white noise all day long. Hearing the normal home sounds, for many hours a day, will help your child master the nuances of all the interesting sounds around her, such as speech, music and so forth.
All white noise sounds – wave, rain, nature sounds – work equally well.
People talk about white noise as if it’s just one thing. But there are actually two types of white noise–high pitch and low pitch–and they have totally opposite effects!
High-pitch white noise is harsh, hissy, whiney, and annoying–think sirens, alarms, beepers, screams. These sounds are great for getting your attention (and calming baby crying), but they’re terrible for sleep.
On the other hand, low-pitch sound is droning and hypnotic–think the monotonous rumble of a car and planes; rain on the roof; or listening to a boring lecture. That sound is terrible for getting attention, but it’s fantastic for lulling us to sleep.
Interestingly, womb sounds start out harsh and hissy, but the velvet walls of the womb and the sea of amniotic fluid around your baby filter out the high- pitch frequencies, leaving just a deep thunderous rumble.
Furthermore, continuous sounds, like hair dryers or rain on the roof, are much more effective than heartbeat, ocean waves, and nature noises.
Note: Parents intuitively use the right pitch to soothe their baby’s cries. They start by making a loud, hissy shhhh sound and then gradually lower the pitch and volume as their little one relaxes into sleep.
The sound must be played as quietly as possible.
When your baby cries, you have to: first, turn on the calming reflex, and second, keep it turned on.
To turn it on, use a strong hissy sound that’s as loud as the crying. Vacuum cleaners rumble at 75 dB and hair dryers roar at 90 dB. But your baby puts them all to shame! Her wails shoot out at 100 dB, or more! That’s like a power lawn mower sound blasting just inches from her own ear! No wonder quiet shushing rarely calms screaming; they’re so loud they can’t even hear us.
Once the outburst starts to settle, keep the calming reflex turned out by playing a rumbly sound, about the intensity of a gentle shower (65 to 70 dB). I particularly recommend using a smart sleeper that automatically boosts the noise during crying bouts and lowers it to a deep, rumbly sound as babies calm.