By Dr. Jonathan Jassey
Babies cry…that’s human nature. That’s their way of communicating with us. Whether it’s an expression of discomfort, being hungry, needing to be changed, or a desire to be soothed, there are many normal reasons why a baby might cry. There are also many times when a baby will cry when there is NOT a problem.
Self-soothing is a very important developmental milestone for babies to reach. But not all babies reach this point for a while, and, as parents, we try many ways to soothe our children. Whether it’s swaddling, rocking, pacifier, thumb-sucking, or soft music, there are many ways to try to calm your crying infant.
Pediatricians may recommend sound machines for infants and young children as a tool to help promote sleep and relaxation. White noise or brown noise, in particular, can be helpful in drowning out other noises and creating a soothing environment for babies who are easily disturbed by sudden noises.
White noise and brown noise can have several benefits for babies, including:
1. Soothing effect: White noise and brown noise can help calm and soothe babies, especially those who are fussy or colicky. The constant sound can mimic the environment of the womb and create a sense of security and comfort for the baby.
2. Improved sleep: White noise and brown noise can also help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. The sound can mask other noises in the environment that may disturb the baby's sleep, such as traffic or barking dogs. By masking these sounds, the noise machine can create a quieter and more peaceful sleep environment for the baby.
3. Increased focus: For babies who are easily distracted, white noise and brown noise can help them focus on their surroundings. The constant sound can act as a buffer against sudden noises that might otherwise startle them.
4. Eased transition: White noise and brown noise can also be helpful in transitioning babies from one sleep cycle to the next. As babies move between light and deep sleep, white noise can help bridge the gap and prevent them from waking up fully.
5. Helps baby relax: The sound of a noise machine can have a relaxing effect on the baby, similar to the effect of lullabies or gentle music. This can help the baby feel calm and secure, which can promote healthy sleep habits.
It is generally safe to start using a sound machine for a baby from birth. In fact, many parents use sound machines in the hospital to help their newborns sleep. The consistent and soothing sound can mimic the environment of the womb and create a sense of comfort and security for the baby.
However, it's important to use the sound machine safely and appropriately. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Choose the right volume: Make sure the sound machine is set at a volume that is not too loud for the baby's sensitive ears. A volume of around 50-60 decibels is usually safe. You can use a sound level meter app on your phone to check the volume.
2. Place the sound machine at a safe distance: Make sure the sound machine is not placed too close to the baby's ears. A distance of at least 6-8 feet is recommended.
3. Avoid using it for extended periods of time: While sound machines can be helpful in promoting healthy sleep habits, it's important not to rely on them too heavily. Avoid leaving the sound machine on all night or for extended periods of time. Instead, use it as a tool to help the baby fall asleep and then turn it off once they are asleep.
4. Choose the right sound: Choose a sound that is soothing and consistent, such as brown noise or natural sounds. Avoid sounds that are too loud, too abrupt, or too stimulating, such as loud music or sound effects.
Overall, sound machines can be a useful tool for parents looking to soothe and calm their babies, as well as promote healthy sleep habits.
Dr. Jassey is an AAP Board-certified Pediatrician and founder of Concierge Pediatrics, the first practice of its kind on Long Island, NY. He is the co-author of The Newborn Sleep Book and has received the Patients' Choice Award for three consecutive years and the Compassionate Doctor Recognition Award.