Since birth our 4 month old sleeps with a fan in her room to drown out noises that make wake her. I'm a little concerned that I might be harming her long-term ability to sleep, but she is a good sleeper so I don't want to change anything that is working. Does anyone have any insight or experiences or references on the potential long-term affects?

asked 08 Oct '09, 03:54

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edited 14 Dec '09, 02:03

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Tammy ♦♦

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From a 1990 study on white noise and sleep induction:

We studied two groups of 20 neonates, between 2 and 7 days old, in a randomised trial. Sixteen (80%) fell asleep within five minutes in response to white noise compared with only five (25%) who fell asleep spontaneously in the control group. White noise may help mothers settle difficult babies.

Various other studies have found it helpful for ICU patients and students.

As far as dependency forming is concerned, remember that white noise is just noise across a broad spectrum and is found (with different profiles) in a variety of environments like cars, airports, beaches, waterfalls, shopping malls etc. As long as there is some variety you will probably not find any dependency forms.


answered 10 Oct '09, 15:43

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Rich Seller
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The white noise of a car instantly sends our 18m to sleep! And I'm certain our clock ticking in our room next to hers helps her sleep.

(08 Jan '10, 20:29) Lazlow

We definitely have played music every single night since our son was born. I think it continues to help him sleep better (that is just my opinion)! I have not heard of any side affects, but if you find any let me know! I am sure we can eventually fade the background noise!!


answered 08 Oct '09, 04:44

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Melissa 1
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We also play music at night. Haven't seen any side effects, He sleeps great through the dogs barking and many other noises during the day w/o the music.

(08 Oct '09, 11:01) Jay

Our baby's doctor said to go ahead and play it all night if it helps her to sleep. I just turn the noise down if I think it is too loud. I have never heard of any long term affects.


answered 08 Oct '09, 04:42

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I think that if your child is tired it will sleep. So far none of my children requried a white noise generator or music. They will go to sleep and I can run the vacuum cleaner next to them and they will stay asleep. I think that if you play with them they will go to they will get tired and go to sleep on thier own.


answered 08 Oct '09, 20:34

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We used various sources of white noise -- vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, radio static, etc. After some experimenting, computer-generated pink noise seemed to work best for us, with the hair dryer a close second.

During the first few months, we used it to help our son fall asleep when he was fussy or over-tired. It was like turning a switch -- he'd become sleepy almost immediately upon hearing the sound, and before 10 minutes (the length of the noise MP3) had passed, he'd be asleep. We didn't use it every night, and eventually when he began sleeping right through the night, we stopped using it entirely, and haven't needed it since.

On a related note, don't get taken in by some of the higher-priced noise-generators, or expensive noise CDs. Various types of noise (white, pink, red, brown) will sound the same regardless of their source. A free download from this site should work just as well as something from a $60 CD or a $200 machine.


answered 09 Oct '09, 03:37

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White noise is a concept that is well-explained in Dr. Harvey Karp's Happiest Baby On The Block (book that helped me through first 3 months with second daughter). Dr. Karp says that the noise is soothing to kids as it mimics the loud noises the baby hears in-utero.

I used an air purifier in the room with my second daughter (now five years old) and I can say that as a family, we were able to go about our business without tiptoeing around the house while she slept, thanks to the white noise that drowns out outside sounds.

The bad thing is that yes, your baby will have a hard time sleeping without this noise. That's OK though because you can buy portable "nature" sound-making machines (use Waterfall setting).

Bottom-line, we love it, it worked for us, and did no harm to daughter - she's just as happy and healthy as her older sister, for whom we did not use the white noise in the nursery.


answered 19 Oct '09, 02:17

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We were having some trouble with our kids falling asleep, so we watched this video by Harvey Karp called "The Happiest Baby on the Block":

The white noise and better swaddling techniques he had were pretty much miracles. They were like shutoff switches. Amazing, really. I can't recommend this enough.

Your question, though, is will they always need this. The answer is no. The last thing to go for our kids was the white noise (amongst all of the "S's" in Karp's video) and we stopped playing it after about 6 months with no side effects whatsoever. We even stopped cold turkey and they didn't seem to notice.

We used an old alarm clock tuned to a non-station, btw. Most people have one of these laying around and it worked perfectly.


answered 19 Oct '09, 07:18

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Anderson Imes
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I have no references but each of our children used a white noise generator for several years. The noise helped them to sleep through the walking around the upstairs, noise from the television, and other sudden bursts that occasionally crop up.

Since they have stopped having the generator, they have been decent sleepers who normally sleep about 11 hours a night. It's probably been two years since they last used them and I would highly recommend them. I can't point to any downsides in my experience.

[EDIT (10/12/2009): I just came across this 2003 study which seems relevant. Looking at the abstract and their subsequent research, I can't tell the level or duration of the white noise so it's hard to tell whether the results are transferable to newborns. I would suspect that it's not because most babies likely don't get exclusively white noise and most parents probably don't turn it up to problematic levels. Still, the advice in the WebMD article is good advice: keep talking to the child and keep the use to the minimum necessary.]


answered 08 Oct '09, 04:31

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edited 12 Oct '09, 18:46

personal experience is reference enough

(08 Oct '09, 23:41) Tammy ♦♦

We also went through a period where it really helped to have a fan on at night, mainly for the noise. It was a phase, it doesn't seem to have hurt his ability now to be a champion sleeper without it.


answered 08 Oct '09, 05:00

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I was told by nurse that white noise can be VERY effective for comforting a crying baby.

Her explanation was that when a baby is in the womb the most prominent sound they hear is the "woosh" of blood flowing through the placenta.

This "woosh" is about as loud to them as the noise of a vaccuum cleaner!

She also said that white noise generators and white noise CDs come in all sorts of different "flavors" but that vacuum cleaner white noise is similar to the sound frequency your baby heard constantly for 9 months.

I personally would like a second opinion on that simply because a baby's ears (obviously) aren't fully developed for 9 months... so perhaps she was just being overly vague or general... but I have to admit... her explanation did cause me to stop and think of things from a totally different angle.


answered 08 Oct '09, 06:14

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Asked: 08 Oct '09, 03:54

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Last updated: 07 Jan '10, 21:52