Although most parents swaddle their babies these days, it amazes me how few use white noise. White noise works miracles with fussy babies and is an amazingly powerful cue to boost baby sleep. This special sound is as important as swaddling. It’s a key tool in the Happiest Baby sleep approach…and it’s simple to do!

The sound needed to turn on the calming reflex when a baby is crying is a rough, rumbly whoosh noise that’s as loud as his crying. You can provide this sound simply by putting your mouth close to your baby’s ear and making a strong “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”


Once your baby is calm, lower the level of your white noise to about the loudness of a shower (65-70 decibels) to keep the calming reflex on. 

And, to help your baby doze off easily and sleep soundly, white noise is a must. The best white noise for sleeping mimics the sound babies hear in the womb. 

As with swaddling, white noise should not be used 24 hours a day. You’ll want to play it to calm crying episodes and during naps and nighttime sleep (start the sound quietly in the background during your sleepy-time routine, to get your sweetie ready to glide into dreamland). 

After 3-4 months, the calming reflex will gradually disappear. But by then, your infant will be aware of the connection between white noise and the pleasure of sleep. “Oh yeah, I recognize that sound…now I’ll have nice sleep.” Many parents continue the white noise for years, but it’s simple to wean whenever you want. 

I prefer using CDs, mobile apps and MP3s of your baby’s beloved white noise rather than sound machines. A CD is easy to use in the car (to soothe crying) and helps your child maintain good sleep—and ignore disturbing odors and lights—while you’re on vacation or visiting Grandma and Grandpa. CDs and digital recordings also let you choose the exact sound and intensity that work best. 

Two cautions about smartphones: They release microwave radiation so you should always put yours on airplane mode when you place it near your baby. And telephone and computer speakers do not make the best sound for babies. They make a hissy/tinny noise, not the deep, rumbly sound that best mimics the womb.

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