Should I Use White Noise For Every Sleep?

by Laura Klein

I received a phone call on Monday from a lovely past customer, Jacinta, who wanted to ask whether a Baby Shusher or a White Noise Machine would be best for her 4 month old, Gracie, who was quite a good sleeper, but had previously responded well to a simple sound app on her phone.  

But first a bit of a back story......

Jacinta had already bought our Kippin Organic Cuddle Blankie in December and Gracie took to it immediately.  Jacinta really liked our tip on washing the new Kippin, then wearing it inside Mum's top for a few hours to absorb her smell.  It made the soft, organic fabric even more irresistable for Gracie.  

We then got onto the topic of 'sound machines'.  She had been using a sound app on her phone, but was worried about leaving the phone (and possible raditation) in with Gracie whilst she slept.  It was also inconvenient to have her phone in there - Mum's need a bit of down time with Insta while baby sleeps, right?

So we talked through the benefits and differences of each style of noise machine.....

The Baby Shusher is so unique in the sound it produces - a rhythmic, soothing, consistent shhhh, shhhhh, shhhh, with amazing range of volume, to calm even the loudest cries.  Did you know, it's actually the Inventor Dad's actual voice that has been recorded on the device.  He was a new Dad of twins back in 2013 in America, and was desperate for something to help soothe a crying spell, after all the other basic needs of feeding, burping, changing, swaddling and cuddles had been covered. The Baby Shusher is particularly useful for newborns to 6 months but is very successful for babies up to 12 months.  

The Homedics White Noise machines however, have a consistent soothing nature sound (my kids love the rain setting). I talked about how useful they are to use for every sleep session, both day and night, as it becomes a soothing cue for baby that it is sleeptime.  Watch the video here.

OK, so sound machines help children sleep, but should you use them everytime or occasionally?

Jacinta said she had used the white noise app on her phone sporadically, really only when Gracie was crying or couldn't settle.  She had never considered turning it on before the putting Gracie in her cot, for each sleep.  She only thought it would be helpful to get Gracie off to sleep, so sometimes turned the sound off half way through the sleep session.  She hadn't realised the benefits of keeping the calming, consistent noise on for the whole sleep session, whether day or night.  

This led to a discussion about proactive vs reactive parenting, when it comes to good sleep.  Sleep training expert, Kellie Campbell from Sleep Tight Sleep Consultations, advises parents to choose a proactive approach. This means no matter which time of day, and regardless of baby's mood (eg, crying or calm), the white noise should always be on for the duration of the sleep. It's consistent and calming, and babies and toddlers come to associate 'that noise' with sleeptime.  Children respond so well to audio cues, and white noise is one of the best. 

We talked about sleep cycles - how babies and children can cycle from REM sleep to deep sleep and back again every 45 mins to an hours.  During these transition phases, it's easy for a baby to startle themselves awake and be unable to drift into the next sleep phase.  But using independent sleep aids (that don't rely on a person to keep them going) is the perfect tool for easy sleep cycle transitions.  Baby stirs from one sleep phase, but is still drowsy.  They hear the low frequency, familiar, soothing white noise playing in their room, and they very quickly realise that means more sleep, and they drift into the next sleep cycle.

As a bonus, the white noise masks any outside distracting noise.

Jacinta had never considered the benefits of using white noise for the duration of every sleep cycle, as Gracie has always been a pretty good sleeper.  But we know that babies who would seemingly sleep through a cyclone as newborns, can become hyper alert to sudden, unexpected and loud outside noises - like traffic, horns, sirens, dogs barking, thunder, music, siblings playing in the house, doorbells. workmen in the street, garbage trucks, birds chirping.   

Initially, Jacinta was worried Gracie would become 'dependent' on this gadget.  Sleep consultant Kellie explains the difference between an dependent sleep aid (something that requires an adult to keep it going, eg, feeding or rocking or patting or shushing to sleep) as opposed to an independent sleep aid (a tool that any adult can put in place at the beginning of the sleep session that won't stop, switch off, fall out). An independent sleep aid (like a white noise machine) makes babysitting so much easier, as Grandma or friend can put baby to sleep, and the familiar sound in their nursery is the same. When going on holiday, or sleeping in a portacot or different room, the white noise brings comfort and familiarity to an otherwise foreign environment, and may help your little one sleep better.

After some consideration, Jacinta decided the Homedics White Noise machine was the easy, independent, consistent way to avoid sleep interruptions in the long term, so that was the device she purchased.

Research continues to show that babies and toddlers who have consistent sleep routines are smarter, happier and fitter and are well prepared for learning in later childhood. Chris Seton, paediatric sleep expert at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney says when consistent and predictable sleep routines are established early, it's beneficial for physical, emotional, and cognitive development, as children get a greater proportion of deep, restorative sleep, essential for brain development. It also means parents are getting more sleep, so they feel more able to face the daily demands of parenting.

We hope we can assist all Aussie parents with the right sleep gadget for their circumstances.  Feel free to call our office and talk with one of our staff, to help your baby, toddler or child sleep soundly day and night.