Babies love white noise. Let’s start with looking at it from baby’s perspective. They’ve just spent their entire life in the womb. And the womb is deafeningly loud. It is just slightly less loud than a lawnmower. Loud is normal to a baby. Life outside the womb is uncomfortably quiet. White noise sounds like “home” to a baby.
White noise reduces stress in babies.
What do babies get stressed about? Just about everything. They’re stressed when they’re overtired, they’re stressed because their world is more stimulating than they’re ready to handle, they’re overwhelmed with lights, faces, and excitement. White noise creates a safe space for them by blocking out that stimulation.
White noise helps babies sleep.
They fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. Babies have what are called “sleep arousals”, usually about every 20-45 minutes. Ever wonder why your baby only naps for 20 minutes at a time? Well it’s because when she hits her sleep arousal at the ~20 minute mark she is unable to fall back into deeper sleep and thus her nap is over. White noise helps babies gently navigate these arousals to get longer, more restorative naps. It also helps to block out the noise of life (older siblings, doorbells, garbage trucks, etc.) that can interfere with naps and night sleep.
White noise helps babies cry less.
Did you know that shushing is a sound that people universally understand and make with babies? Shushing is simply white noise that you make yourself. The key to using white noise (sushing or from a radio) to help calm a crying baby is that it needs to be LOUDER than the crying. Holding a screaming baby while shushing like a gentle librarian is useless. Your baby can’t hear the shushing over his own crying. You need to shush LOUDLY (sounds a bit ridiculous I know) so that the calming noise can penetrate above the crying. Also you may need to continue to shush for a while. Loud sustained shushing can be a challenge. If you’re starting to feel dizzy and/or see stars it’s time to outsource your shushing to an electric white noise device (radio, et al).
White noise reduces the risk of SIDS.
A relatively famous study (famous if you read a lot about baby sleep, so honestly you should be a little proud if you haven’t heard of it) showed that babies had a significant reduction in the risk of SIDS if they had a fan in their room. Nobody knows why the fan helps – it could be my moving the air around although many believe it has to do with the white noise the fan makes. We DO know that white noise reduces active sleep (which is the sleep state where SIDS
is most likely to occur).
White noise will help YOU sleep.
Parents notoriously wake up every time the baby grunts or gurgles (and babies are NOISY CREATURES). Newborn swings can also be quite noisy, especially when they’re banging away mere inches from your bed. White noise will help mask these small noises so you and your partner can sleep better.
White noise is easy to wean off of.
When your baby is older (generally after their 1st birthday) you can gradually start to decrease the volume of the white noise. If they continue to sleep well, you’re done. If they wake up more frequently than they used to turn the white noise back on.