If you’re as old as I am (which isn’t really all THAT old!), you remember a little bit about what TV was like before cable. When you got to channel 3 (say to start your movie on your VCR before DVR or on-demand), it would get to the static channel and make that annoying sound. Little did I know, before I got older, that the annoying sound is called white noise and it can help your baby sleep. This article is to explain a little bit about how white noise can help you and your baby fall asleep and stay asleep. Be sure to get your free white noise MP3s to download, too.
Merriam Webster defines white noise as a “a heterogeneous mixture of sound waves extending over a wide frequency range.” In other words, it is a mixture of sounds that have high pitches and low pitches and everything in between. The combination of these sounds is what drowns out most of the other sounds, because when you are hearing all different frequency of sounds, your brain has trouble picking out one sound over another.
Some examples of white noise are the TV static as I described above, the vacuum, hair dryer, a fan, or humidifier. Some people also find the sounds of waves, rain, or thunderstorms soothing, too.
How Does White Noise Help You or Your Baby Sleep?
Well, it doesn’t. It actually doesn’t help you or your baby sleep per se, but drowning out other house noises can help you focus less on those other noises. White noise is also very similar to womb sounds such as your heart beating, blood flowing, mommy breathing, the muffling sound of mommy’s voice, etc. These womb-like sounds can be comforting to your baby, particularly newborns who have not yet gotten used to the outside world.
The constant repetitive sounds of white noise can also help you or your baby stay asleep, which can be the most challenging part. The constant whirring of white noise can give you the continuity of sound that soothes your baby to stay asleep or drowns out house noises such as people talking, doing the dishes, etc. This is especially helpful if your baby can’t get used to sleeping with noise, like mine.
Amazingly, I never knew I slept better with white noise until just within the last year! I was shocked as I am, ironically, not the best sleeper (which is why I’m so diligent about helping my boys be good sleepers). I am a light sleeper and I can’t always fall right back to sleep (which made co-sleeping that much harder when my son would nurse back to sleep every 1-2 hours until we taught him to fall asleep on his own). It all started one Winter when it gets so dry in the house from running the heat so much. I started running something like this Holmes humidifier and I realized it helps me sleep! It’s loud, but white noise loud, not so loud that it keeps me up (being the light sleeper that I am). I noticed that on nights that I can’t seem to shut my brain off, it helps me fall asleep faster, too. I have found that it helps me NOT wake up with every little noise the kids make, too. One night, a week or so ago, I had it off and I heard my son making noises in his sleep and before I knew it I was in there half asleep, realized he was still asleep, and I went right back to bed (and turned on my humidifier). My friend swears by the Marpac SleepMate and we have two DEX Products Sound Sleeper machines in our boys’ rooms (once we had the baby, they woke each other up exactly one time before I bought these! LOL).
Will you or your baby get “hooked” on white noise?
I do not believe my parents used white noise when I was a baby and my mom told me they let me cry it out (though she didn’t call it that exactly, but that was the gist). I never used one growing up, yet it helps me sleep, now. My boys don’t NEED it to sleep (we don’t take white noise machines on vacations and occasionally my husband forgets to turn one on or something). I can see how you can get SO used to having it that you “need” it to sleep, though. It sounds so quiet when I don’t use it, now. It’s yet another sleep association and you need to decide for yourself whether it is a positive or negative one for you and/or your baby. I, personally, have decided white noise is fine, since we don’t have to “redo” anything all night to keep sleep going.
White Noise Sources and Downloads
There are many sources of white noise from a fan to vacuum and, yes, there’s an app for that. Please feel free to download free white noise MP3s right here on the site and see if it can help you or your baby sleep.