Published on Mommybites on July 9, 2014
As a mom of three, I have experienced the miracles of white noise firsthand. One particular 3:00 a.m. crying episode from my first baby ended abruptly once I revved up my hair dryer. As a pediatric sleep specialist, I recommend white noise for all sleep periods for four reasons:
1 Babies are accustomed to loud noises – really loud noises: the whooshing sounds they were exposed to in the womb are almost as loud as a lawn mower! In fact, the world they are brought into may be too quiet for comfort. White noise brings them back to that happy, cozy place where they spent their prenatal months.
2 White noise when used continuously (i.e. all night long) helps babies sleep longer and more deeply. When babies sleep longer, parents sleep better, and who doesn’t love the sound of that?
3 White noise can reduce stress. Though babies don’t experience the “I have a work deadline I just can’t make” kind of stress, babies do experience stress. Why? Because of the newness of everything, because of being overtired, because of overstimulation. Anything we can do to alleviate stressors in an overstimulating world helps. White noise provides one easy answer!
4 White noise is easy to implement. The best part is it can be free! If you have an Iphone you can download a free app like relax melodies and run it all night. A simple box fan works just as well. If you want to buy a machine, the Graco 2S00 Sound Machine gets good reviews from parents.
But when research claiming white noise might actually be harmful was recently published in the journal Pediatrics, alarm bells were sounded in parent circles. In the face of hundreds of scientifically sound studies to the contrary, how could this new research prove lulling noise is dangerous? Here’s my analysis:
In this study, the researchers conclude that playing a very loud noise close to a babies’ heads may damage their hearing. But this particular study actually does not prove anything of the kind. Instead, the results show that white noise is too loud when played on the highest settings or too close to a baby’s head. But that conclusion seems obvious.
On the loudest settings and when placed in the crib or next to the crib, some machines tested emitted noise greater than 85 decibels, significantly louder than the recommended 50 decibels typical of whirring fans or a shower.
Lowering the volume to the level of a shower and placing it at least 6.5 ft from the crib makes white noise machines both safe and effective.
My position remains that white noise helps — with the following caveats: machines should be placed at least 6 feet from the crib and should never be louder than about 50 decibels, or the sound of a running shower. So check the decibel levels of the white noise you select and always move your white noise machine out of the crib to the opposite side of the room. Then you too can settle in for a good night’s sleep!
Dr. Rebecca Kempton, M.D. is a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant, physician, and mother of 3 under the age of 8, based in Chicago. Using a variety of behavioral techniques, she customizes sleep solutions based on individual family goals and children’s temperaments and coaches families all over the world to a better night’s sleep. She is a staff blogger for the Huffington post on topics related to infant and toddler sleep. Dr. Kempton works with clients both nationally and globally by phone, Skype, and email and with home visits. Follow me on facebook and twitter for free sleep tips and please contact me for a free initial consult.
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