Can You Teach Your Baby to Sleep Through Noise?

Can You Teach Baby To Sleep Through Noise

There is lots of conventional wisdom out there that says parents should teach their babies to sleep through noise, from day one. We hear this sometimes from our consultation clients – friends and family members blame them (the parents) for their babies’ short naps and nighttime waking, saying that they (the parents) simply need to teach the baby to sleep through noise. Because then, the baby wouldn’t wake up so much!

Oh, if only it were that simple. 😉

How Noise Affects Baby Sleep

During the newborn stage, your baby will spend lots of time in deep sleep and will likely sleep through just about anything. This is nice for us parents – it makes it much easier to be on the go with our babies! As your baby grows, however, this will change.

Starting around 6 weeks, you may notice that your baby becomes more alert; he will start looking around and noticing his environment more. This can mean that he starts to wake at noises (like the dog barking, or the phone ringing) – it is simply because he is becoming more attuned to his environment.

Around 4 months, your baby’s sleep habits will change permanently, and he will start to cycle through light and deep sleep. During those periods of light sleep, he will be more likely to wake to noise.

Can You Teach Your Baby to Sleep Through Noise?

Here are the facts (at least, in our experience with families): you cannot train a baby to sleep through noise. Some babies are likely hard-wired to be less affected by noise, but others may be more inclined to wake at even small sounds. While there are steps you can take to help minimize the affect that noise has on your baby’s sleep, you cannot teach your baby to sleep through it.

We don’t have any hard evidence to back up our belief (it simply hasn’t been studied enough, yet), but we are pretty convinced that this is largely due to personality and temperament.

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through Noise

You probably won’t be able to create a “noise-free” environment for your baby. So, how can you help your baby sleep well when things get a little noisy?

One great option is to use white noise to your advantage. White noise is simply static noise (like the sound of a running vacuum cleaner, or a hair dryer) that helps to mask other background noise. White noise machines are excellent tools to use during nap time and at night (I have one in every bedroom in my house!), but you do not have to buy an entire machine. You can download white noise MP3’s, or white noise apps.

For more information about how white noise helps both you and your baby sleep, take a look at this article.

Does your baby sleep through noise, or does every sound wake him/her up? Ever tried a white noise machine, or a white noise app? Share your experience with us!

You may not be able to train your baby to sleep through noise, but you can help your baby learn how to sleep well. Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

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22 thoughts on “Can You Teach Your Baby to Sleep Through Noise?”

  1. My son will be 1 in 15 days. He sleeps with a whit noise machine playing. He sleeps better with noise rather than without it. When do you stop using them though is my question. My son has never been the best sleeper, he still wakes up sometimes. He is teething though.

  2. Sound machines and fans are great, we used them with every baby. Apps on wifi are not good though; the EMF messes with baby’s circadian rhythms.

    • @ Valerie – Interesting, your point about the EMF…I didn’t know that! I avoid using apps simply because I only have one smartphone and three kids in two different rooms – not enough of my phone to go around! 😉 We stick with basic white noise machines for my kiddos.

  3. @ Michelle — yay for cheap! This is a really, really good idea, and it’s one I’m going to file away for those times when I forget my kids’ noise machines!

    Thanks for commenting, Michelle 🙂

  4. We use a radio tuned to static for our daughter. She has had white noise playing while she sleeps since she was a newborn, and she is almost two now. At one point, I decided I should go buy a white noise machine, but she did not like the static setting – it just wasn’t the same as her radio. I ended up giving the white noise machine to a friend who had just had twins. Sometimes, cheaper options are the best!

  5. @ Helen — oh, yes, the ceiling fan! I’m a big fan of that one, too. Ours isn’t loud, but I’ve found that I sleep a little better when my ceiling fan is on, and there’s a slight breeze in the room. That plus my white noise machine knocks me right out! 😉

    Thanks for sharing, Helen!

    @ Sarah – I hear what you’re saying. It’s definitely not good to equate sound sleep with love and security. As you point out, plenty of babies and toddlers who are deeply loved by their parents, and who live in secure and safe environments, struggle with sleep. In fact, as Nicole points out, parents who are loving and attentive may unwittingly help create sleep associations and issues, since loving parents are quick to respond to their babies when they cry, and to do whatever it takes to soothe them.

    My guess is that, as a grandma, @Sylvia is looking back fondly at her experience with her 4 babies and is remembering the happy, sweet things as opposed to the hard things. There were surely times when mothering was hard for her, and when she felt overwhelmed and exhausted. But I agree, that it for those of us who are in the “mommy trenches”, and who are currently raising little ones, it can be discouraging to hear older women reminisce and remember only the rosy, wonderful things – makes us feel like we’re not doing things correctly, since we don’t always feel rosy and wonderful ourselves! 😉

    Glad to hear that you’re buying a package and are preparing to work on your baby’s sleep! Best of luck to you, Sarah; you sound like a wonderful mom. 🙂

    @ Kerry – I know what you mean! We live right next to railroad tracks, too, and the trains run around the clock here. I always find that when I sleep with my windows open, in the fall and spring, the railroad noise wakes me up for the first week or so. But then, I get used to it, and I hardly notice it at all. I think you’re right, about this being called ‘habituation’. Amazing how a person can get used to the sound of a train whistle blaring at 2 a.m., and sleep through it, but wake to small sounds like the door opening, or the floor creaking!

    Also – thanks for your kind feedback about the site. 🙂 So, so glad to know that the site has been an encouraging resource for you! We work hard to make this a safe place where moms and dads won’t feel judged for their parenting choices, because (as you point out), we know that parents who take the time to seek help regarding their babies’ and toddlers’ sleep issues are good parents who love their little ones. And really, as long as that’s at the heart of our parenting, everything else is just details. 😉

  6. It’s funny how some sounds can have an effect on babies and toddlers while others leave them completely unfazed. We live a block away from the train tracks, so my son has been exposed to the sound of a blaring train whistle since before birth. Sometimes, the sound of that whistle blast can wake me up from a dead sleep; when that happens, I always take a second to check on our son (I’m also from a long line of “just checking” moms and dads) and he’s always sleeping peacefully through the ruckus. I believe this is called “habituation,” meaning when you are exposed to a stimulus early on in life and with enough frequency, you won’t notice it as much, if at all. That may explain why the train always wakes me but not my son. That said, sometimes the slightest noise can disturb his slumber – keys jingling, a door squeak, a dog barking down the road, even the sound of the shower from across the hall. Perceptive and bright since the second he was delivered, my son if very in tune with his surroundings; thus he has benefitted from having the Sleep Sheep to mask other less ambient noise. That train thing still puzzles me though.
    Let me also just say that this site has been wonderful for me. We all know why we are here: to be the best parents and caretakers we can be. No parent that frequents this site would willingly choose something that is “wrong” for babies. We simply do, as parents have done for generations, what we can to with what we are given. No one is entirely right or wrong; everyone is accepted and supported, and support in any form is a wonderful thing. So thanks to Nicole and Emily and all the sleep consultants who make it their job to help families. And thanks to the parents, too, who know that their children are perfect and therefore strive to be more perfect in their eyes. Keep up the good work!

  7. I have just read all these comments and I’m in the process of buying the package and u feel I have to make a comment. Sylvia, while I agree with your philosophy that modern equipment does go to some lengths to mimic mother, allowing mum to ‘carry on’ with her own agenda, I imagine that I am like many other mums on here who has tried all manner of approaches to help their baby sleep. They, like me, are most likely exhausted, emotionally drained, heartbroken and guilty, by seeing how their precious, much adored child is suffering through lack of sleep. Whether you intended it or not, your post implies that a child who knows they are loved sleeps soundly. Firstly, let mesay my son knows he is loved. I respond to him imediately, as nature intended (as you say) i never let him cry, he is close to me at all times, and he breast feeds. He has a close bond to me and his father, not to any toys or comforters. Yet he still is a terrible sleeper, waking up to 15 times a night. Secondly, whether your intentions were honorable or not, suggesting to a devastated new mother that her child would sleep better if he felt more secure or more loved, is quite possibly the most insitive, cruel and condescending comment I have heard so far. How lucky for you that your 4 children slept well, but i dont believe for a second that you love tour children anymore than the rest of us. Furthermore, I personally know a family with 3 children, all raised and lived the same, where 2 slept well and 1 didn’t.

  8. (Sorry, posted too soon!)
    And at 20mo she doesn’t sleep through noise, just like her Mum and Grandma, who are both ‘get up and check the windows are closed, and the kids are all ok’ type people. And when she does wake up, she calls Mum if she wants her, or hugs her teddy and goes back to sleep. White noise as a cd or machine was not for her, but she does live the whir of a ceiling fan in summer!

  9. I just want to say, I’m a big fan of this site’s positive approach to helping parents.

    I’m not sure why a grandparent like Sylvia is sharing her memory lane take on bonding but rest assured that my DD KNOWS she is loved, and secure, safe and happy. And that she loves her teddy, because he can fly!

  10. @ Amy – thanks for chiming in, and sharing a bit about your experience! The fact that your daughter is able to sleep okay at daycare without a noise machine will no doubt be comforting to @Debora, who expressed some concern about the possibility that her son might become ‘hooked’ on the white noise. So thanks for sharing! 🙂

    @ Sylvia – thanks for sharing your point of view with us! We like to hear from moms from all walks of life, and from all parenting philosophies. While other moms might not take your approach, or might feel differently about some of these points, it’s nice that you can share your parenting philosophy in a way that’s kind and encouraging.

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