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Is white noise bad for babies? It actually can be harmful

Babies and not sleeping go together like peanut butter and jelly, or like a zombie parent and a baby that won’t sleep. If your child just won’t go down without a fight you should try white noise. We aren’t talking about blasting your favorite music next to your fussy baby’s face. But there are benefits from introducing white noise to your baby’s bedtime routine. So, what is white noise exactly? And, perhaps more importantly, is white noise bad for babies? Here is some information on this background sound of life and whether it can help get your baby to fall asleep.

A sleeping baby.

What is white noise?

When you heard the term “white noise” you might have flashbacks to the sound of tv static from when you were a kid. As an adult, your favorite white noise is probably your ceiling fan. The technical definition for white noise is “the noise that has the same amplitude, or intensity, throughout the audible frequency range.” Basically, it’s the noise that blocks out other sounds.

Cons

Anything can be dangerous for a baby if not done or used properly. When it comes to white noise, it can be harmful to a baby in certain situations.

It can increase the risk of hearing issues

The most obvious is that the noise could damage the baby’s hearing. Their sensitive little eardrums can’t handle loud noises. If the noise is too loud or too close to their ear, over time the baby could lose some of their hearing.

It could delay speech development

If your baby experiences hearing loss, they are going to have a harder time learning and developing their language skills.

Babies can become dependent on the noise

Your baby can have too much of a good thing. If you automatically add the white noise every night, your little one could have a tough time falling asleep at all if they don’t have that noise. If you are ever somewhere where you can’t recreate that noise and your baby isn’t happy about it, no one will be happy about it.

A baby sleeping with a puppy sleeping behind them.

Pros

There are definitely benefits to using white noise.

It helps babies fall asleep

This one is the whole point of white noise. When a baby is a little restless and won’t fully go down, a little added noise can do the trick. It can help a baby fall asleep in as little as 5 minutes according to one study.

It can help them sleep through siblings

This one was a big one for us. Siblings don’t mean to wake up the baby, but they do. White noise in the background softens the noises of siblings.

Is there a volume the noise should be at?

There is absolutely a level that you shouldn’t go above. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended level is 50 decibels and at least 7 feet away.

You also shouldn’t leave a white noise machine on all night. If you are using a machine, you should have it on until your baby falls asleep and then turn it off. This reduces the risk of any potential cons, even if you are following the proper level and distance guidelines.

Is there one type of white noise that works best?

Every baby is different and will have a favorite type of white noise. The fun part for you as parents is finding that special specific noise that lulls your little one to sleep. There are a ton of noise machines out there if you want to grab one. The Likii White noise Machine offers 36 noises, a timer, and adjustable sound levels.

You can always go the old-fashioned route and turn the ceiling fan on if you have one.

A yawning baby.

Myths about white noise

Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics states that there are some myths out there about white noise that you should know about.

It has to be on the quietest setting

You can set the noise to at least 50 decibels. Though you don’t want to go too high, for a crying baby you can crank it up to around 65 decibels and then turn it back down once they fall asleep. A vacuum hits 75 decibels, and how many of us have vacuumed near a sleeping baby? Exactly.

All babies love white noise

No. Some babies do not like it. It’s going to be a trial and error process to see if your baby likes white noise.

White noise is only for a certain age

Babies have sleep regression at different points during the first year. There is not a certain month where a baby will or will not need white noise. If it works, use it.

Does anyone really like the sounds of utter and complete silence? From the moment we were all conceived, we’ve always had some kind of noise around. Don’t you nap better when the tv is on or you have a window open and the sounds of the city help you drift off to sleep?

So is white noise bad for babies? No. As long as you are mindful of the volume, the distance from your baby’s ears, and the duration of the noise, your baby (and you) can benefit from using white noise.

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