As your baby grows older, you may find yourself wondering when to stop using white noise. Is it harmful in any way? Will my baby become dependent on it?
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For sleep-deprived parents desperately trying to get their newborn to sleep, white noise can be a lifesaver. White noise is any type of sound that covers up other, unwanted sounds. It can be anything from a fan to an app on your phone to a sound machine. White noise can help babies sleep by providing a consistent, calming sound for them to focus on.
But then as your baby grows older, you may find yourself wondering when to stop using white noise. Is it harmful in any way? Will my baby become dependent on it?
Most experts agree that you don’t have to stop using white noise for your baby as they grow older as long as it isn’t too loud. In fact, using white noise is recommended for adults to improve the quality of their sleep! So there is no age you have to stop using white noise for your baby, it’s down to your personal preference. However, if for some reason, you would like to stop using it, it’s better to do it before the two-year-old mark and do it slowly as we explain in the last section of this post.
Personally, I don’t plan on stopping using white noise anytime soon. At two years old, my daughter doesn’t seem to need the white noise machine, but WE do! It’s become part of our bedtime routine and it helps immensely to dampen any startling noise from the street or our neighbors that might wake her up. It also means that we don’t have to tiptoe around the house once my daughter is in bed.
White Noise as A Healthy Sleep Cue
If you’re worried that your baby won’t be able to sleep without the white noise, you should know that babies lose the ability to fall asleep on the go as they get older. You may notice that at around 5 months old, your baby will start taking a longer time to doze off in the car or your arms. This is because their sleep cycles are maturing and they can’t just drift off anymore.
At a certain point, the curiosity of an older baby or toddler in their surroundings starts outweighing their desire to sleep no matter how tired they are. That’s when the power of white noise as a healthy sleep cue comes into play. It is really one of the best tools because you can use it on the go and it will make sleeping somewhere new easier for you and your baby.
White noise makes sleeping in new environments easier. If you’re traveling or moving to a new house, white noise can be your best friend. Turning on the white noise makes your baby immediately know that it’s bedtime and brings a familiar element into an unfamiliar place. It’s also a great way to drown out exterior noises like TV or a loud company that may otherwise wake them up. This is especially helpful if you live in an apartment and have noisy neighbors. Just make sure the white noise is not too loud.
White Noise as A Sleep Crutch?
One thing that makes parents nervous about using white noise is the idea that it will become a crutch for their baby’s sleep. But here’s the thing: unlike various other crutches that parents use (rocking, nursing, feeding before bedtime, etc. ), white noise is easily scalable and contributes to better sleep.
Rocking and nursing your baby to sleep may help them drift off now, but what happens when they wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep? If you’ve established a white noise habit, your child will most likely not even notice that the white noise has stopped once they’re sound asleep and even if they do, you can just switch it on again without having to get up!
We did forget our white noise machine once when my daughter was around ten months old at her nana’s house, but it just took her a bit longer to settle down and fall asleep. But she eventually went to sleep soundly as usual. A couple of power outages also taught us to have a backup solution for when we can’t use our main white noise machine. Now we have ones with battery backups that we can also easily pack for traveling.
How to Wean Your Baby Off White Noise?
Although white noise is perfectly safe for babies when used correctly, there may come a time when you want to wean your baby off it for some reason. Here are our top tips for doing so with the least disruption to your baby’s sleep:
Don’t Go Cold Turkey
As we said earlier, white noise has the great advantage of being easily scalable. So if you need to stop it start by making the white noise quieter over time. This will help your baby get used to sleeping without it. You can turn the machine down a notch every few days until there is nothing left but silence. If you notice your baby sleeping terribly, just bump it up again for a few days and try again.
Layer up Sleep Cues
If you’re worried that your baby will be lost without the white noise, try layering up other sleep cues before weaning your baby off white noise. That way, you’ll know that your baby will still have other familiar elements that signal that it’s bedtime other than white noise alone. These sleep cues include :
- reading a bedtime story
- singing a lullaby
- putting on pajamas or a sleep sack
- complete darkness at bedtime
- consistent bedtime
You can use these sleep cues in combination with each other or on their own, and you can experiment to see which works best for your baby.
Avoid Other Transitions
If you’re thinking of moving your baby to their own room or planning a long family trip, it probably isn’t the best time to wean them off white noise. If you can, try to avoid any other major sleep transitions while you’re in the process of weaning your baby off white noise. That way, you can be sure that any sleep disruptions are due to the change in white noise alone and not anything else. Keep in mind that the familiarity of white noise is actually one of its key benefits, so try to keep that in mind as you make the decision of when to wean your baby off it.
Of all the sleep cues you can implement in your baby’s bedtime routine, white noise is one of the most effective and most easily scalable. I personally wouldn’t mess with it if it’s working and helping baby get good sleep but it’s also one of the easiest sleep cues to wean your baby off if you need to. Just remember to go slowly, layer up other sleep cues, and avoid any other major sleep transitions while you’re in the process.
Do you use white noise for your baby’s sleep? Let us know in the comments below!
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