I hate white noise – always have. If you had told me a few years ago that I’d use it religiously, I would never have believed you. I still don’t love it but I can see the benefits, so I use it every single night and for every nap that my baby has. Below are the most common questions I get asked about white noise:
Why should I use it in the first place?
For newborns who are transitioning from the womb to our world it can be very, very quiet compared to the sounds they are used to in the womb. The placenta and your heart beat create constant noise in the womb so replicating this can help young babies to settle off to sleep and to stay asleep longer.
For older babies and children who are much more aware of their surroundings, white noise blocks out sounds around the house for naps and at bedtime. It will block out the sounds of your older children while younger ones go to bed but it also blocks out random noises that you have no control over like the neighbour’s dog, council workers out front, chirpy 4am morning birds, clanking pipes, possums in the roof etc etc. It also helps with your ‘escape’ from the room once they are asleep (or almost asleep), they won’t hear the creaking floorboard or the door creaking as you sneak out!
Do I have to play it all night long and for all naps?
Ideally, yes. So that it prevents your child being woken up by external noises throughout the night or early in the morning but by all means don’t take my word for it and experiment. If you put white noise on at bedtime then go in and turn it off when you’re going to bed and your child sleeps all night long and wakes at a normal time in the morning then of course, there’s no need. However, if there are noises happening at night that you’re not aware of, playing white noise all night long can really help.
Aren’t I just creating another sleep crutch if I use white noise?
Yes, but it’s a helpful one in the sense that it doesn’t take much on your part to provide white noise and it’s relatively easy to transport while travelling. It can also become a really helpful sleep association as once the white noise goes on, your child knows what’s happening next and can prepare themselves for sleep. It can also be very calming and relaxing and can help children wind down and relax more easily.
I’m not keen on white noise, can I use rain sounds or wave sounds instead?
Of course! Whatever you like. The main thing is that the sound is constant, calming, relaxing and is loud enough to block out external noises. I used wave noises with my newborn in the beginning, which was very relaxing and comforting but once she hit about 12 weeks the break in the waves meant her siblings shouts were heard so she’d wake up. She suffered from FOMO big time. Then I changed to deep white noise like a freight train and that took care of that problem!
Can I just play music or lullabies instead?
The ebb and flow of music can be really relaxing but when the track stops and there’s silence, it can be the point where your child wakes… every.. time. Some music can also be quite stimulating, whether it’s complex classic melodies or lyrics that your child actually listens to and follows along with. So if you do want music and not white noise, choose a relaxation track or track specifically designed for sleep like one from (Marconi Union) where there are no stops between tracks and where it goes for a good few hours or more (the link above goes for 10 hrs).
How loud should I play it and is it safe?
The recommended level by Dr Harvey Karp is around 65 to 70 dB (the vacuum cleaner is around 75dB and hair dryers are 90 dB). Most people play it too soft to be of any benefit so if you aren’t sure, download a free decibel measuring app (there are loads) and test the level coming from your machine. The white noise doesn’t need to be right by your baby’s head, 1-2 metres from the sleeping space is fine or across the room, the main thing is that is blocks out the external noises.
Why not use an app on my phone or iPad?
Of course you can and if you do I recommend Relax Melodies App and to put your device in flight mode. This reduces EMFs (electro magnetic fields) significantly which may interfere with your baby’s sleep (along with WIFI and Bluetooth). Some babies and children are super sensitive to electro-magnetic fields and WI-FI (some aren’t) so if you can minimise this that’s great. The sound quality from a phone/iPad app isn’t great unless you play it through a speaker, which may mean bluetooth/WIFI, so if you can eliminate this, that’s a big tick. More info here on EMF levels from Apple devices. https://macintoshhowto.com/hardware/emf.html
Which machine do you recommend?
I recommend the Marpac Hushh White Noise Machine (pictured) and no, I’m not paid for my recommendation. What do I like about it?
It’s lightweight and small (about palm size) so easily used for travel
It’s re-chargeable and played with a USB cable or with included rechargeable lithium battery
It has a small amber LED nightlight
It has a handy hanging hook so you can hang on a doorknob, cupboard handle, pram handle, car roof handle or anywhere else you can think of that you might need it
It has a range of sounds: bright white noise (static), deep white noise (train/rain), or gentle waves.
It’s about $80 new or $40 on ebay.
I’ve only found this machine available for purchase online so I’ve listed a couple of places below:
If you need help with your baby’s sleep or you are pregnant and want to equip yourself with knowledge and practical techniques before your bub arrives, check out our range of sleep workshops. Alternatively, I offer private one-on-one sleep support packages to work with you to resolve your sleep challenges. Find out more here
Carla Morgan, Maternity and Child Sleep Consultant, Childbirth Educator & Happiest Baby Educator.