What Does White Noise Mean to Newborns?
The mother's heart is beating. Her blood is running through the vessels, the red blood cells are hitting the walls. The lungs are producing sounds – that’s how mom is breathing. The stomach is growling, the intestines are making noise – the mother is eating. Being in the womb, the baby does not know what silence is. The sounds of the mother's body, rhythmical and continuous, accompany the baby from the moment of its conception until the very birth.
But now the baby is born, and the parents mistakenly believe that for a good, healthy sleep of the baby there should be no unnecessary sounds in the house. Well, the baby is not used to silence, it scares the baby and causes it to wake up. That’s when white noise comes in and becomes helpful. What is white noise, how does it sound like and how does it help the newborns to fall asleep? Let’ find out!
What is White Noise to the Newborns?
White noise is a signal of even spectral density at any frequencies and the sputtered energy that equals infinity. Sounds sophisticated, right? In a simpler language, white noise is a hissing, monotonous sound that fills the entire sound field scanned by the ears of a person (or a baby) every second, reacting to the slightest irritant. It is like a noisy background which does not sound annoying, but it helps to filter out the sounds of someone’s walking around the room, the clinking of the fork against the plate and other insignificant, harsh sounds.
If you think that you have never encountered this phenomenon in your life, you are mistaken. The sound produced by a hair dryer, a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, an empty radio wave – all these are considered white noise. Even when the mother whispers “sh-sh-sh-sh” or “ch-ch-ch” to the baby, it is an imitation of the sounds that the baby had been listening in the womb for 9 months.
Benefits and Dangers
Many pediatricians and child psychologists believe that white noise is healthy for babies, especially up to the age of 3-4 months. This noise can:
• Soothe a crying baby
• Lull the baby that has problems falling asleep
• Prolong the baby’s sleep
• Make the baby’s sleep better
The fact is that the baby lives in this noise in its mother’s womb, getting used to the constant monotonous sound of the mother's body. Once the baby is born, for the first time it realizes that there are harsh, loud, quiet, barely audible sounds and silence. All this is new and unusual to the newborn, and his small brain clings to any sound, making it difficult for him to relax and fall asleep.
A special mechanism starts affecting the newborn while he is listening to white noise:
The noise of the water, for example, fills the entire sound field of the newborn's hearing, so, all other sounds become elusive – the brain is busy processing the acoustic information coming from white noise.
The sound is monotonous, the ear of the newborn gets used to it quickly, and the brain starts slowing down its activity.
The baby calms down – he feels “noisy” and comfortable, as if in the mother's womb.
The baby does not perceive harsh sounds and they do not interfere with the process of falling asleep. The newborn slowly plunges into the state of sleep.
The sound of white noise lulls the baby, and now it is fast asleep. A cooking pan that you dropped on the floor won't wake it up – the sound field is still filled.
In the transition from a deep to superficial stage of sleep the baby almost wakes up, the sound of the cup placed on the table may wake it up easily. But white noise protects the baby from it.
As a result:
• The baby falls asleep without throwing tantrums.
• The baby is sound asleep: it does not react to the noises at home or on the street.
• The baby sleeps longer, stages of sleep moving smoothly from one to another.
• However, like everything else in this world, white noise, according to some experts, has a number of harmful properties.
• Low-quality white noise and its improperly set volume might upset the baby.
• Constantly falling asleep to white noise becomes addictive: later on, the baby might not be able to fall asleep without it at all.
• For the same reason, the baby can wake up if you turn off the sound of sea waves or a mountain stream in the middle of the sleep.
It is not worth being worried – none of these theories, except, perhaps, the first one, has been scientifically substantiated. White noise is not only for children: they use it to correct the acoustics in newly constructed buildings, it is also used in some musical compositions. A person hears the noise of the water from the tap, the roar of the waterfall, the noise produced by household appliances – any variations of white noise – 24 hours a day, and nobody has gone crazy yet.
Moreover, infants over 4 months old are not so sensitive to the magic of white noise and quickly learn to fall asleep in silence.
Rules of Use
You can make white noise in the nursery yourself by streaming certain sounds via speakers. You can purchase special white noise generators for babies; the best devices are presented here
In order to avoid any damage to the baby while using white noise, it is important to adhere to the rules of use:
Place the source of noise at least one meter away from the baby – it will prevent any damage to its hearing abilities.
When the baby is crying very loudly, set the volume of white noise a bit louder than the cry of the baby – it should be heard through baby’s cry. Then, gradually turn down the volume.
The volume of white noise safe for the baby’s sleep and dreaming must not exceed 50 dB.
You can produce white noise with the help of a hairdryer, by opening the door to the room with a washing machine on. You can install a mini fountain in the baby’s room. The sound of babbling water is the best variation of white noise for a baby.
Experts do not recommend using audio recordings of white noise, which are available in various sources on the Internet. It is better to purchase a professional white noise generator – it guarantees safety for a newborn: his hearing and overall nervous system will be intact.
White noise easily soothes a newborn if he has issues when trying to fall asleep or he is acting up. But if the baby is teething, it becomes ill or has a fever – white noise won’t be of any help. In this case, you must eliminate the cause of discomfort first, preferably, by consulting a doctor.
Do not leave the sound of an ocean or a waterfall playing all night long – 1.5-2 hours after the baby falls sleep, turn off the sound generator.
White noise is a unique sound that occupies the entire sound field of the baby evenly. Many mothers successfully use it to make the baby fall asleep easily and for its sleep to be sound. Do not create an illusion – the baby will still sleep as long as it is supposed to. However, the sound of white noise will make his/her sleep sounder and deeper, allowing the baby and the parents to relax.
Does your child fall asleep effortlessly? Do you use white noise to put the baby to bed? Who recommended you this little “trick”? If you use white noise for a healthy sleep of your baby, share your experiences and impressions with us in the comments!