White noise is by far my most favourite sleep association, that and a dark sleeping space! Creating a dark sleeping space is usually pretty straight forward, whack up some block out curtains and you’re good to go, but white noise can be confusing. How loud should I have it? What type of white noise should I use? How long should I keep the white noise playing? Will my child develop an association with the white noise?
Let me help you out. Firstly, yes your child will most likely develop some sort of association with the white noise and sleep, but not a bad habit. An association is something they associate with bedtime and falling asleep (and this is a good thing!!). If you turn the white noise on as part of your wind down routine before bed it will most likely prompt your bub to start preparing for sleep.
In regards to what type of white noise you should be using, I find that in terms of settling and comfort in a younger baby or newborn, that a womb like sound, heartbeat or shushing works best, as they still crave that sensation. White noise also acts as a buffer for outside noises (no more creeping around the house trying to not wake the baby!!) . I never recommend music as I find there is no consistency to the tone. White noise should be a consistent sound so the same sound is available during the entire sleep, not an inconsistent, upbeat, jazzy sound.
How long should you keep the white noise playing? As a sleep consultant I constantly have clients coming to me because their child catnaps and one of the first things I recommend is white noise. Often they will say that they already have white noise playing but it does nothing, this is most likely due to either the volume of the white noise or timing of the white noise.
White noise does need to be of a moderate but safe volume to be effective, we want it to be around 65 decibels or around the level of a soft running shower.
What has timing got to do with white noise not working you ask? Well, generally speaking a child usually requires the same association or assistance to resettle as they had, to initially settle, so we want to ensure bub has the same association they fell asleep with so that when they partially wake as they transition between sleep cycles (around 30-40 minutes) they will recognise the same sound they had heard when initially falling asleep and drift back to sleep (yay!) and not be encouraged to look for you to come and resettle. If the white noise was to turn off after 15 minutes or even 40 minutes there would be no sound playing when they transitioned into that light phase of sleep and most likely leave you with a baby that has just had a catnap as opposed to a nice consolidated nap – and that isn’t fun for anybody!!
My top tips for white noise as discussed above are:
1: Use a womb like or consistent sound
2: Have it set at around 65 decibels
3: Ensure the white noise is available for the entire duration of sleep.
A huge thank you to baby sleep consultant Kristy from The Sleep Teacher. Kristy is a mum of 3 gorgeous girls and is certified in child and infant sleep training. She knows all too well how debilitating sleep deprivation is, but also how easily it can be fixed.