Even for easy babies, white noise machines are a must-have if you ask most parents. Leading sleep experts like Cara Dumaplin recommend that they not only be attached to the crib, but also to the car seat and stroller. Yogasleep is a leader in the space as is WavHello SoundBub, which is a white noise machine and Bluetooth enabled portable speaker and Baby Dream Machine, an all-in-one intelligent children’s sleep device. But here’s an interesting fact – though these machines are often referred to as “white noise machines,” they’re actually usually emitting pink noise!
What is the difference between white noise and pink noise?
“White noise has all the wavelengths audible to the human ear at an equal intensity, which creates a sound that is similar to static,” says Dana Obleman, the creator of Sleep Sense. “The sound is too harsh for some people and can become irritating. Pink noise is different from white noise in that some of the higher frequencies are muted and with brown noise the higher frequencies are even lower. The majority of people find pink noise to be more soothing to listen to and prefer it for sleeping.”
So while white noise gets all the glory, it’s actually pink noise that is the most beneficial to humans and is the most soothing sound of the frequency to the human ear. “Babies in particular are soothed by pink noise because the low ‘hum’ mimics the first sound in their development, the slow ‘whooshing’ of their mother’s womb,” says Molly Szkotak, the brand and community engagement manager at Yogasleep. “In utero, the infant is surrounded the embryonic fluid which creates a soothing enveloping sound similar to pink noise. There have even been scientific studies that have shown the benefits of pink noise and infants.”
She goes on to explain that pink noise is best for use at bedtime, nap-time or any time that you want to create a quiet, soothing environment for your child. “There really is no limit, but we typically recommend turning on your sound machine a few minutes before bedtime to ‘set the scene’ and signal that it’s time to wind down and get ready to sleep.”
Many parents worry that their babies will become dependent on the noise machines, but there really is no need to worry. Obleman just suggests occasionally giving your baby an opportunity to sleep without it, so that the baby will do fine in either situation. “My advice to parents is to use pink noise when necessary for blocking out other household sounds. If it’s unnecessary then leave it off, so your child has exposure to sleeping with and without the sound. You’ll want to make sure that it is no louder than 50 to 60 decibels and a few feet away from the baby’s head. The Baby Dream Machine is perfect for this, with pink noise at a safe volume.” In fact, while too much pink noise is not a thing, it can be too loud.
“For all users, we recommend placing our sound machines at least three feet away from the sleeper’s head,” says Szkotak. “This is mostly to allow the sound to fill the room for the best possible sound masking, but it also serves to ensure that the sound will not be too loud.”
What about brown noise?
According Szkotak brown noise can be compared to the rumble of strong winds or pounding surf and is not appropriate for infant sleep, however, it is often called the best “white noise” to help you concentrate and focus at the task at hand. “Add in the soft rhythm of mom’s heartbeat, and it’s a perfect scenario to soothe a baby to sleep. We actually have several sound machines for babies that have a ‘Womb Sounds’ option including the Nod, Soundscene, and Baby Soother.”