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Are Sound Machines OK for Babies?

Are Sound Machines Okay for Babies?

The biggest thing that parents of newborns complain about is lack of sleep.  Your baby might be past the waking up to eat every few hours phase, but he may still have trouble falling and staying asleep throughout the night.

Most pediatricians recommend soothing activities before bed such as warm baths, rocking and baby massage to help newborns sleep through the night.  If these techniques don’t work parents may turn to alternatives like using a sound machine to soothe their colicky baby to sleep.

Are Sound Machines Okay for Babies?

Are Sound Machines OK for Babies?

Are sound machines safe for infants? Several studies suggest that sound machines may do more harm to your baby than good. Although, one study conducted in January of 1990 and published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood concluded that sound machines may help mothers settle difficult babies.  The scientists found that 80 percent fell asleep within five minutes while using the sound machine compared to only 25 percent in the controlled group (without the sound machine).

Using a Sound Machine Can Block Out Background Noise

If your baby is having trouble falling asleep due to noise from older siblings a sound machine might help. Sound machines produce white noise which can cover up household noise.  White noise is the sound you hear when all the audible frequencies of sound are played at the same time at the same volume. Some examples of white noise include, fans, hair dryers, or running water. Sound machines are soothing and may include a heartbeat setting mimicking the mother.

Other benefits of using sound machines to help your baby sleep include:

1. The sounds help reduce stress.

The stimuli babies get every day can be overwhelming.  They are exposed to bright lights, new faces, new sounds and sensations. Repetitive sound can make babies feel safe by shutting out background sounds.

2. Sound Machines Help Babies Sleep.

Background noise can prevent your baby from falling asleep. Things that are familiar can help infants nod off quicker.  You can incorporate the following into your nursery to help your baby sleep better:  dim the lights,  use a favorite blanket or a toy, pacifier, nursing and a sound machine. Repetitive sound causes them fall back asleep after waking that happens each 20-45 minutes during sleep time.

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3. Children Cry Less When Exposed to White Noise

The shushing sound that you use to quiet down a crying child is really background noise. It is like the whooshing clamor made by blood coursing through the veins around the uterus. Utilizing the shushing static clamor of radio can likewise quiet down infants to help them sleep.

4. Sound Machines Reduce the Risk of SIDS

One ongoing investigation demonstrates that a running fan in the room essentially brought down the danger of SIDS in children.  Fan circle the air well producing a repetitive sound. Using background noise from a sound machine will help your baby sleep lighter reducing the risk of SIDS.  If a sleeping individual isn’t getting enough oxygen it is important to be woken quickly.  Being slow to respond to this loss of oxygen makes babies at a higher risk of SIDS.

5. Background noise Helps You Sleep Better

Background noise can calm your infant to sleep and parents are also known to rest better with it. As children regularly wake up from sleep each night, parents can also have trouble getting back to sleep. Repetitive sounds help adults get to sleep faster as well.

6. Children can Wean Off of Sound Machines as They Grow

The best time to stop using a sound machine for your baby is after the first year.  By this time your child should have developed good sleep habits. You should be able to reduce the amount of time and frequency you use the sound machine. If your child sleeps through the night a sound machine may no longer be necessary.

Safety Tips for Using a Sound Machine to Help Your Baby Sleep

Many parenting websites and blogs encourage the use of sound machines to help babies sleep.  Even Dr. Harvey Karp author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” states that, “White noise is a great tool to soothe fussing and boost sleep.”  Parents must take precautions to make sure the noise level is safe for their baby.

In a study published in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the Academy of Pediatrics on January 21, 2014, the doctors measured the maximum sound level outputs of infant sound machines.  They concluded that many of these devices are capable of producing levels that may be damaging to infant hearing and may be detrimental to auditory development. Hospitals and nurseries recommend a noise level limit of 50 A-weighted dB.

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The doctors tested the the maximum noise levels of 65 sounds in 14 different infant sleep machines. They were placed in 3 different distances: 30 centimeters (to simulate placement on a crib rail), 100 centimeters (simulating placement near a crib), and 200 centimeters (to simulate placement across the room). All 14 machines exceeded 50 dBA, the current recommended noise limit for infants in hospital nurseries, and all but one exceeded the recommended noise limit even from 200 centimeters away. The findings also determined that regular exposure to white noise through an infant sleep machine on a nightly basis can affect hearing, speech, and language development.

Below are the safety tips the authors of the study suggest for parents who use infant sound machines.

  1. Place the sound machine as far away as possible from the infant and never in the crib rail.
  2. Play the sound machine at a low volume.
  3. Operate the sound machine for a short duration of time.

Healthy Moms Mag Recommended Sound Machines for Infant Sleep

Sound machines do help babies sleep better as long as parents use them safely and know when to ween their child off.  Here are a few sound machines that we endorse.  Some of them are simple, free and can be found in every household.  Others are high tech. We have also found an inexpensive small sound machine that may suit your needs better.

    1. Ceiling fans.  Most homes have ceiling fans installed in every bedroom.  They provide a nice cool breeze and a repetitive swooshing sound that is soothing to babies.  Make sure your fan has a decibel level of 50 or less.
    2. Alexa Sleep Sounds. If you have an Alexa enabled device this skill plays calming sound loops to help you fall asleep faster, sleep better, relax, meditate, or drown out distracting noises. By default, Sleep Sounds will play your selected sound until you say “Alexa, stop”, but you can set a custom timer while a sound is playing by saying “Alexa, stop in 3 hours” or any other time duration. Sleep sounds has 45 different sounds you can choose from.
    3. Baby Snooze App. Available for Apple devices only, this app is a sleep inducer created with totally authentic womb sounds, to help ease the transition from the calm & peaceful neonatal world to the relatively noisy, chaotic world outside the womb.
    4. The Galaxy Clock. This clock is more than just a sound machine.  It includes a relaxing star projector, seven calming nature and white noise sounds, high quality audio with volume control, alarm clock and temperature monitor.
    5. Infant Sleep Soothing Machine. Several different brands sell and market this device on Amazon. We counted six different companies marketing this product. After some research we also learned that anyone can purchase this soothing machine wholesale and customize it with their brand name.   An infant sleep soother is designed to help your baby fall asleep using different sounds.  You can adjust the volume and there is a built in 30 minute timer.  This sound machine includes six different sounds: lullaby, shush, fetal heartbeat, rain, white noise, ocean. It is compact and easy to use.  This sound machine also has a small cord with a hook so parents can fasten it to car seats, strollers or cribs. It also includes a port for USB charging which eliminates the need for replacement batteries. Fully charged baby shhh machine can last about 10 hours continuous playing.
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Sound Machines for Babies

Conclusion

Sound machines can help babies fall asleep quicker.  They reduce stress on both the infant and parents.  White noise blocks out background noise from other household members and activities.  After the first year it is recommended that parents stop using a sound machine for their baby.  Make sure you are using safety precautions to avoid hearing damage when using sound machines. Decibels higher than 50 is harmful for infants.  Keep your sound machine’s volume at a low setting or place it further away from where your baby is sleeping.  Baby soothing apps can also help your baby sleep better.

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Cascia Talbert

Cascia Talbert is a devout Catholic, mother of five children, health and fitness enthusiast and positive parenting supporter. She is also the founder of the award winning online health, fitness, parenting and Christian faith magazine for moms, the Healthy Moms Magazine. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, five children and one spoiled cat. Her hobbies include gardening, country music, running, and playing her flute. Check out her first book, "Taking Care of your Family's Health and Well-being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith," available anywhere books are sold.

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