In the first few weeks of motherhood, I quickly learned how little I knew about sleep. So, I did what any new mom does: I googled a million things about baby sleep, signed up for a sleep course, and asked all of my friends for their tips and must-have products.
The one product that was on everyone’s list: a sound machine.
These magical machines play white noise, and according to Dr. Harvey Karp of HappiestBaby.com, “it reminds your baby of his happy place: the womb.” It’s anything but quiet in the womb, and by playing white noise, it helps to ease baby’s transition to life on the outside.
While you could shush your baby all night long, that isn’t realistic for longer than a few minutes. Enter: sound machines. But can these machines be too loud and damage your baby’s hearing?
A 2014 study on sound machines suggests that some machines do, in fact, produce sounds that are at levels too loud for infants. The loud sounds could potentially damage an infant’s hearing, though this was not specifically tested in the study.
There are varying opinions about white noise levels and what is considered safe.
Dr. Harvey Karp recommends playing white noise for the duration of the night at a volume similar to a soft shower and the sound machine should be kept at least a foot away from the child’s head. He explains on the site HappiestBaby.com, “Loud sound for minutes (not hours) is super helpful for calming crying.” Once your baby has calmed down and has fallen asleep, you can then reduce the volume to around that “soft shower” level.
There is currently no research that suggests white noise is not a safe practice for infants. Use your judgment when using a sound machine. Many of the popular machines do go above recommended decibel levels. According to experts, you should not play the sound machines at these exceedingly loud volumes for an extended period of time and machines should not be placed directly next to your baby’s head.
Aside from those recommendations, using a sound machine is a highly recommended way to help your baby sleep.
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