I remember the first time I tried explaining the concept of white noise to my parents. For them it just didn’t compute. Why anyone would “blast noise” at their grandchild was just beyond reason. (And for the record, NO, there was no “blasting” of noise… my mom can be a little dramatic at times.) It’s easy to understand their skepticism though… for generations we have been taught to walk on eggshells whenever we are in the presence of a newborn. Noise was the enemy. An enemy that caused us to memorize the location of every creaky floorboard in the house. So when this theory comes a long that says, “No, actually noise is the ally,” its understandable that our world can be a little rocked.
There are actually a few reasons why white noise is our friend. The main reason is that the womb is not the quiet, peaceful haven we’ve always imagined it to be… it’s LOUD in there. The whooshing of mom’s blood, the sounds of her digestive system, her heartbeat…your baby is right in the middle of all of that. Also, there’s the sound of mom’s voice, which actually sounds louder because the sound is traveling through the bones and fluids in her body rather than the air. Then there’s the rest of the sounds of the outside world that are making it in there too. It is estimated that the volume inside the womb is about 75 decibels, which is right around the same level as your lawn mower. (Some studies even suggest that it can actually get as loud as 100 decibels.) So much for that peaceful sanctuary.
Now factor in that babies start hearing things in the womb at 20 weeks. That means (if you have a full term baby), that prior to your baby being born, they will have spent 5 straight months exposed to continuous, LOUD noise. As far as the baby is concerned, noise is normal. Noise is all they know. Now think about how it must be after only knowing a world of noise, to suddenly find yourself in silence. I get anxious just thinking about it. Yeah, suddenly that concept of adding noise to the equation doesn’t sound so crazy.
The other reason why white noise is effective for baby sleep is it’s masking quality. Remember that creaky floorboard I mentioned earlier? Technically is not really the sound of the floorboard that is disrupting the baby’s sleep… it’s just the change in sound. If that floor board’s sound was a constant, and your baby went to sleep with that constant sound, it would probably sleep fine. If suddenly that constant floorboard creak stopped, it would be just as disruptive as the scenario in the quiet room. White noise, like the sounds we have in our Baby Sleep Sounds, and some in our Nature Sleep Sounds, brings that constant masking sound. It can drown out the farther away outside sounds, and it lessens the impact of the change in sounds around us. The creaky floorboard isn’t going to be nearly as noticeable in a room with white noise playing as it is in a silent room.
When you’re using white noise it’s important not to play the sounds too loud. Experts say that white noise shouldn’t be any louder than 50 decibels. And if you’re not sure how loud 50 decibels is, there’s an app for that… more like, a bunch of apps. Just search for “decibel meter” in the Apple or Android app stores and a ton of free ones will pop up. Also, keep the speakers away from the baby’s head, and never inside the crib with them. (I talk about this in greater detail in one of my previous posts, “How Loud is Too Loud”).
Hopefully this helps you understand why the wonderful world of white noise can be beneficial to your baby, and why babies like white noise so much. Remember… noise isn’t the enemy, and as far as your baby is concerned, noise is normal.