Is White Noise Bad For Babies?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborn babies should get 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day. This sleep is essential for their psychological and physical development. 

Unfortunately, one of the hardest parts of taking care of a newborn is getting them to fall asleep and stay asleep. What should you do if you can’t get your newborn to fall asleep? Should you play it white noise? Is white noise bad for babies?

Read on to learn all about white noise and babies! 

Related: Where Should My Newborn Baby Sleep? 

What is White Noise, and Why do Some People Play it For Their Babies? 

White noise is a kind of noise produced by combining sounds of different frequencies. If you were to take all of the imaginable tones that a human could hear and combine them, you’d get white noise. 

The reason it’s called “white” noise is because of the way white light works. White light is light that’s made up of all of the colors of light (aka, frequencies) combined. A prism, also known as a rainbow, separates white light into separate components so you can see each color at once. 

White noise works in a similar manner, as it’s a combination of all of the different sound frequencies. Because it consists of all of the frequencies, it can mask other sounds, which is why many people find it helpful when sleeping. 

If your baby sleeps lightly, white noise can mask voices, footsteps, traffic, and other sounds. A groundbreaking study conducted in 1990 showed that white noise can benefit newborns. Of the forty newborns studied, 80 percent fell asleep within only five minutes of listening to white noise. 

Can White Noise Damage a Baby’s Hearing?

While white noise may seem like a miracle for exhausted parents of newborns, many are concerned about the potential hearing damage to babies. 

The only way white noise can be bad for your baby is if it’s too loud. Babies have very sensitive ears, and sounds that are loud can quickly lead to hearing damage. This could lead to learning and development issues later in life. 

Related: Car Seats: Is it Safe for Your Baby to Sleep In?

How loud should white noise be when played for a baby?

To ensure your baby’s hearing isn’t damaged, you need to make sure you play the white noise at a reasonable volume. To keep your baby safe, place the white noise machine on the opposite side of the room and don’t play it any louder than 50 to 70 decibels

Also, stop playing the white noise once the baby falls asleep. 

What are the Pros of White Noise for Babies?

Here are some of the top benefits of a white noise machine: 

White noise may promote sleep

One of the biggest benefits of white noise is that it may aid in your baby’s sleep. If your baby has a tendency of falling asleep outside of their regular naptime or bedtime when it’s noisy, they may benefit from a white noise machine. This is because your baby may be used to some level of sound, so white noise could help.

White noise can mask household noises

White noise machines are also excellent if you have many children in the household or pets. Keeping your home 100 percent quiet so as not to disturb your baby’s sleep is nearly impossible, which is why a white noise machine may be helpful. 

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What are the Cons of White Noise for Babies?

While many parents find that white noise machines help their babies sleep, it’s important to keep in mind that white noise machines have some downsides. These include:

Potential Developmental Problems

As we mentioned, if the white noise machine’s volume is too loud and your baby suffers from hearing damage, they may have developmental issues later on. 

This is why it’s so essential to make sure the volume isn’t too loud and the machine is far away from the crib. 

Some babies don’t like white noise

Just because you like white noise doesn’t mean your baby does. While your baby may not love white noise when you first introduce it to them, if you’ve tried using a white noise machine several times to no avail, it may be time to look into something else. 

Also, while it’s very normal for your baby to struggle with sleep, keep in mind that lack of sleep may be a sign of another health issue. So, make sure to speak to your doctor and keep up with your baby’s regular checkups to ensure everything is okay. 

Babies may become reliant on white noise to sleep

Another downside to white noise machines is that babies can become reliant on them. This could be problematic if your baby needs to sleep and a white noise machine isn’t available to them. For example, this may be an issue when visiting a relative’s house, going on vacation, or spending time at daycare. 

It can especially be an issue for your baby in daycare, as they won’t have a private room to sleep in. 

Related: When to Transition Your Baby from a Crib to a Toddler Bed

The Bottom Line: Should You Play White Noise for Your Baby?

Whether you choose to play white noise for your baby is entirely up to you. Many babies sleep without white noise machines and are perfectly fine. However, you may find that your baby adapts well to a white noise machine. 

Also, keep in mind that all babies experience sleep issues, so if a white machine noise doesn’t work for your baby, don’t feel discouraged, as there are plenty of other things you can do to help your baby get better sleep. 

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