Hands up if this sounds familiar…
Your fussy baby finally falls asleep for her afternoon nap and you sit down for a much needed moment to yourself only to hear the neighbour upstairs come home and start banging about in her heels. Just like that, Sleeping Beauty is wide awake and mad… NOT a good combination. Or maybe if you live in the city, you’re awoken at dawn by a wailing infant who has woken up early from that seriously loud motorbike cruising past her window.
Environmental noises are a fact of life that you can’t do much about… but there IS something you can do about your baby’s ability to sleep through the noise. In my experience, white noise machines can be a lifesaver when it comes to helping babies fall asleep — and stay asleep.
There are lots of options out there, but I like to use the Dohm machines (formerly called the Marpac SleepMate). This is a small, simple-to-use device that creates sound that blocks out a lot of these day-to-day noises that can startle and wake a child. The sound it makes is similar to rushing air, which can be soothing to a baby.
Although it might seem unnatural to create noise when you want your baby to go to sleep, remember: it wasn’t exactly soundproof in the womb! Your child is actually quite used to noise by the time he’s born because he’s been listening to you talk, your stomach gurgling, and the sound of the family and the TV and the car radio while in utero.
Believe it or not, complete quiet can actually be more confusing to a newborn than background noise. One of the biggest benefits of the white noise machine is that it helps babies fall back to sleep if they wake up. This means their nap times will last longer and they will be less likely to fully wake in the night.
The main concern parents have about trying this is usually about their child becoming “addicted” to white noise, and that’s a valid point. My experience is that there’s absolutely no need to worry about this. A white noise machine IS NOT being used as a “sleep prop” – like a soother or being rocked and sung to. It’s there to block out noises that you can’t control that might be waking your child.
When you’re ready to wean your child off the machine, simply turn the volume down a little every night until you’re not using the sound at all.