Having a newborn baby in the house can be a challenge. They should in theory sleep a lot. Up to 6 months old, they need about 18 hours of the good stuff a day, but the reality might be quite the opposite. Or it might seem that while they do sleep 18 hours, it’s only ever for 2 hours at a time, especially overnight when you need to get your recuperative shut-eye in!
So you’ve no doubt been doing all your research, listening to friends and family who have been there, done that and got the battle wounds of sleep deprivation to prove it! Your Mother-in-Law is insisting that you should just put your baby down, shut the door and go do your ironing.
That’s how she did it! You, on the other hand, are thinking that maybe one of those white noise machines that your cousin Elizabeth has might do the trick? Her child is always sound asleep every time you pop in for a coffee.
However, you’ve been reading some stuff online about the safe levels of decibels they omit and are concerned about damaging your tiny tot’s delicate hearing while they are at such a critical developmental age. So we’re here to answer that all-important question, how loud should white noise be for baby?
Let us attempt to put your mind at ease so that you and baby can both sleep more soundly tonight.
First up, it is true, white noise machines do produce noise, and in some instances, that might be reaching what is advised as veering towards a dangerous level. So, of course, it pays to have the knowledge about what constitutes a safe level so that you can invest in something accordingly.
It’s an undeniable, actually scientifically proven fact, that white noise machines really can help your child to sleep more easily, deeply and for longer too. That no doubt all sounds like music to your ears, but what about your baby’s far more delicate ears?
Assuming that you do want to go ahead and invest in a white noise machine, how do you ensure that you operate it in a safe environment?
In a study published in Pediatrics in 2014, they reviewed 14 different white noise machines to look at the level of decibels that were output and concluded that all of them were omitting 50 decibels.
Just to put that into context, 50 decibels is currently considered to be the safe maximum for nurseries in hospitals, so they’re reaching the upper threshold of what is generally presently accepted as being safe.
There were some brands on the list that omitted over 85 decibels which isn’t recommended, so you clearly do need to check the finer details. Of course, the other option is to ensure that the unit is at a significant distance away from your baby’s crib as that too will lower the impact.
That’s just the one opinion though
Many other experts in the industry have different views on the subject, and a more accepted rule of thumb is that moderate sounds of around 65 decibels are still going to be perfectly safe for your baby and pretty much all of the white noise machines currently available will fall into that bracket.
That is the sound that a soft shower would omit. Perhaps what’s more important, is to ensure that your baby is sleeping in a comfortable and correct position and certainly a moderate amount of white noise will be beneficial rather than detrimental to your baby’s health and development.
Decibels, Distance and Dose
There is an unofficial rule of thumb that if you can still talk and be heard easily over the background sound, then it is not too loud.
The average conversation is considered to be 60 decibels so unless you have a booming voice, then your white noise machine isn’t likely to be any more damaging to your baby than your own voice will be. Which should be reassuring!
Be strategic about where you position your white noise machine in a baby’s room. One of the answers is just to think carefully about where you physically position the unit within the room.
Don’t be tempted to place it directly next to your child’s crib thinking that the closer it is the more effective it will be. It’s a better idea to position it on the opposite side of the room. Also, remember that babies have a tendency to grab at things, so it’s better all round to position anything away from their little and curious hands.
The other consideration isn’t just how loud; it’s how frequently they listen to white noise and by that we mean the “dose” that they are exposed to. A sound that is perfectly acceptable to listen to for 15 minutes will undoubtedly become more dangerous if listened to for 8 hours continuously so again, be sensible about the use of white noise machines.
Many of the devices available have pre-set timings of 15, 30 and 60 minutes so if you know that your child has trouble dropping off to sleep and just needs a little gentle lullaby for the first 15 minutes, go for a unit that has a setting to allow for that.
It’s not generally recommended for adults, let alone children, to be exposed to 85 decibels for more than eight hours so as always, common sense prevails. As with many things in life, moderation is quite often the name of the game.
The type of sound you play is also important
Lots of white noise machines come with a range of different sounds too, includinglow- and high-pitched noises. High pitched sounds will grab attention and perhaps stop a baby from crying, but low sounds create that droning and hypnotic, almost monotonous sound that is great for creating a profoundly calming and relaxing environment that will promote more peaceful sleep.
So choose your sound carefully, turn down the volume a notch just to be on the safe side, and make sure your machine is on the opposite side of the room. You should then all be in for a good night’s sleep.