Is it Safe for Babies To Sleep With a White Noise Machine?Feb 16, 2023
I get so many questions about white noise and sound machines and whether I recommend them. My answer is, yes, I do recommend them! They can be an important component of creating a pro-sleep environment that helps your little one sleep better and longer over time.
Sound machines have been found to promote relaxation and help us stay asleep for longer stretches of time by blocking out noises that could potentially wake us. For infants, they are beneficial in providing a safe and comfortable environment as they mimic the sounds of the womb. This can help calm a newborn and often help them to stop crying.
However, it’s important to note that the noise from your sound machine is not meant to put your baby TO SLEEP. Instead, sound machines should be used for the sole purpose of blocking noise out of your baby’s room so your baby is less likely to have their sleep disrupted, helping them stay asleep longer (rather than needing the sound in order to fall asleep).
While I do love sound machines, did you know that there is a threshold for possible hearing loss for your baby’s white noise machine, especially when exposed long-term ? Although these machines are on the market to be used for babies, they can still be too loud for your little one’s ears, too close to their ears, and be on for too long.
This is why it is so important to ensure you’re using it safely, with your child’s delicate ears in mind (or even your own, too!). Here’s how to know if your sound machine is too loud, and what you can do to ensure you’re using it safely.
How to Safely Use a Sound Machine for Baby Sleep
Sound machines and white noise are great tools that can help your baby or toddler sleep well and for longer periods of time. However, the number one thing to remember when using a sound machine for baby sleep, is that the noise should be used to drown other noises out, rather than a tool that is used to put your baby to sleep. When used this way, I don’t consider them a sleep prop (meaning something your baby needs in order to be able to fall asleep) since your baby won’t rely on the noise itself for falling asleep!
This is something I’m asked about often (whether a dependency can be created and lead to the child not being about to sleep without it), and I want to touch on it briefly! My answer is that anyone will eventually go to sleep if they are tired enough. There will, of course, be times that white noise or darkness won’t be possible - and in those times, your child will likely still be able to sleep, but they may just take longer to fall asleep, not enter as deep of a sleep, or sleep only for a short time. So, the idea here is to create an environment that helps our children get longer, more restorative sleep as often as possible.
How loud should my baby's sound machine be?
When using a sound machine for overnight use, it’s especially important to make sure you are not exceeding the recommended decibels, to avoid hearing loss. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the decibels of your sound machine should remain between 50-55 dBa to remain within a healthy (and safe!) listening range for your baby.
The easiest way to test this, and ensure that you’re using a safe level of white noise, is to download a free app like “Decibel Meter” to test the dBa level from inside the crib or bassinet where your baby will be sleeping. I always recommend placing the white noise machine at the furthest point in the room from the baby (usually by a door, window, or wall). The reason for this is to give enough space for the decibel level to be in a safe range AND because you want to place the machine closest to the source of the most possible noise. Once you’ve placed your sound machine in the right spot for you, you can test the decibel meter to ensure it’s between 50-55 dBa. You can then play with the other volume settings on the machine if it’s too loud or not loud enough.
You may have heard of other baby sleep experts recommending putting the machine right under your baby’s crib, or even turning the volume up when your baby cries, but in my opinion (and the opinion of the AAP and most sound machine manufacturers), the best option is to put it as far away from your baby and close to the source of noise as possible.
If you are still worried about your baby waking from sounds, you can layer sound machines! Simply place an extra one right outside their door to block additional noise (one inside AND one outside). Or, if you’re not a huge fan of the sound of white noise being too close to your baby, you could put just one machine outside the door, rather than inside.
And, if you choose to not use a sound machine at all with your little one, that is okay! It is your choice to make and you know what is best for your baby.
When should I stop using a sound machine?
The last question I’m often asked in terms of sound machines is whether there is an age that they should no longer be used. Many toddler parents wonder about this, and it’s a great question! My answer is, no! There’s no specific age, time, or reason you must stop using a sound machine for sleep. Both of my kids (currently almost 4 and 7) still sleep with one, my husband and I do, and I even bring one with me when I travel for myself! As long as it’s being used safely according to the tips above (don’t place it directly next to the bed, ensure it’s around 50-55dBa, and don’t leave it on all day and night for non-stop exposure), when or if you phase it out is a personal choice.
Wondering what my all-time favorite sound machine is for baby and toddler sleep? Hands down it is the Yogasleep Dohm sound machine. It creates the perfect "brown noise" sound that is soothing and deep. Highly recommend it!
But, as long as they are not misused, sound machines can be a useful (and safe!) tool to help your little one stay asleep during nap time and nighttime by blocking out everyday life that continues outside of the nursery!
If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides or check out my 1-on-1 email support package for personalized troubleshooting guidance.
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
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