by Nicky Ward, 22nd June 2020
White noise has become an essential in all my newborn sessions to settle my little clients during their shoots. Many parents are amazed at how it helps to create a settling environment for their baby & I have even had a dad order one during the shoot!
Your baby spent 9 months listening to the reassuring ‘white noise’ of your body – your rhythmic breathing, your flowing blood, your beating heart… Then. They are born into a world where we use hushed tones & quiet steps & this silent environment can leave your little one feeling anxious & isolated.
White noise fills this gap wonderfully for your little one:
White noise machines create that comfortable, womb-like environment that your newborn is so accustomed to & finds reassuring.
The walls of the womb & the waves of amniotic fluid around your baby filter out high-pitch sounds, creating a low rumble. So, when selecting your white noise, low pitch sleep sounds are best as they are monotonous & lull your baby off to sleep with an ‘hypnotic’ type of effect.
Using the right white noise will help your baby link sound with the pleasure of sleep & they will be able to fall asleep despite outside distractions.
White noise shouldn’t be played all day. It is best for your baby to learn to distinguish between normal household sounds & the calming sound of the white noise that he/she associates with sleep.
When your baby cries, their ‘calming reflex’ (triggered by imitations of soothing sensations of the womb) needs to be turned on & then kept engaged.
Without using a machine, this reflex is activated by introducing white noise as loud as the baby’s cry (I find a loud shhhh sound works well). As the baby begins to settle, gradually lower your volume as they relax into a state of sleep. This is how we create our own white noise – which is fine, but I think we would all agree that it becomes rather exhausting after some time. A white noise machine is a welcome assistant!
Many white noise machines turn off after 30 minutes which I find is not always quite enough. A machine that plays quietly in the background & gradually increases during bouts of crying is a great option.
Although I can’t recommend these brands as I have not personally tested all of them, they have some great features & reviews:
Sweet Dreamers, Ewan the Dream Sheep
Ewan is said to be the best-selling UK baby sleep aid, with many awards to its name.
Ewan’s soft pink night light glow mimics the womb environment to help comfort and soothe your little one. The downside of this version of Ewan is that it only plays for 20 minutes, which isn’t ideal if your baby takes a while to settle down.
Sweet Dreamers, Ewan the Dream Sheep – Deluxe with Cry Sensor
Slightly more expensive than the original version, but worth it (in my opinion) if your budget allows. The cry sensor is a great addition as it activates the white noise again automatically when your baby stirs during sleep.
Whisbear The Humming Bear with Cry Sensor
The Whisbear runs for 40 minutes, then gently fades out, but the Whisbear continues to listen to its surroundings, and as soon as it recognises a baby’s cry it switches back on automatically for an additional 20 minutes.
The Whisbear is unique in that it’s not just a sleep aid, but also encourages sensory & fine motor development with rustling elements, different textures of fabrics & contrasting colours.
Pneo Baby Shusher
The Baby Shusher soothes baby with rhythmic ‘shushing’ sounds. It was designed by parents who were desperate to get their baby to sleep – they found the rhythmic shushing worked but quickly realised that it was exhausting to keep ‘shushing’ her themselves. It has a volume control & two timing options (15 or 30 minutes), after which you would need to turn it back on again if your little one hasn’t yet fallen asleep.
Munchkin Shh Sleep Machine
Munchkin plays three different sounds; shushing, heartbeat & white noise. A built-in, soft nightlight mimics the light of the womb & this light can either glow solid or pulse. It has a built-in timer for 10, 20 & 30 minutes. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the above machines but at £16 (Amazon, May ’20) if you are working to a budget, it certainly is a good option.
Newborn, Maternity & Family Photographer based in Hampton, London