Using white noise to help establish a successful sleep routine

By Magdalena Jonkisz, Whisbear – The Humming Bear

A mother’s womb is a very safe and stable environment. The temperature is just right, the food flows steadily and the baby is naturally swaddled. During the pregnancy as the senses start developing the baby starts to explore this safe environment, this exploration prepares the baby for the outside world.

The first sense to develop is touch, at three months of age a baby’s hands are sensitive to touch. Soon after taste and smell develop, the amniotic fluid of the womb has the flavours of the food the mother has recently eaten and at five months of age the baby can recognize these flavours. At this time the sense of hearing is also developed. At first the baby only hears the steady rhythms of mother’s body, the sound of blood flowing, the beating of the heart and the bubbling of the stomach. As hearing develops the baby can hear and recognise external sounds like the mothers voice. However the rhythms of the womb are a constant and relaxing sound for the baby. The sense of sight is last to develop and will need more developmental time outside the womb.

Then the big day comes and baby is born. Suddenly this safe environment is no more and the senses are all bombarded with new stimuli. How does the baby now know when to sleep? When will baby’s next meal be? This is where a routine can help. There are many advocates for setting routines for babies and their advice can vary, however most stress that setting a sleeping routine as early as possible is best. There are many trained professionals that can help you set a personalized daily routine. This will focus on sleeping and feeding times.

Babies love the certainty of a routine but how do we communicate this routine to our baby? We cannot explain the routine using words so we have to explain it using the senses babies have at that time. The concept of a routine is to train the baby’s body clock to expect certain events during certain times, and with this expectation to feel a sense of confidence in their new environment.

When it comes to sleep, swaddling works to calm a baby because it reminds the baby of the safety of mother’s womb. It is amazing the first time you swaddle your baby to see all that wriggling give way to calmness. Likewise putting a baby into its own cot in a darkened room also stimulates the senses into recognizing it is sleeping time.

White noise generated by a shushing device works in exactly the same way. It calms the baby, like swaddling, by reminding the baby of the rhythms of mother’s body. White noise also has the added benefit of drowning out external noises that can wake a baby. A device that can detect a baby’s cry and turn on in response is especially useful as it means you do not need to get up. When exposed to white noise an unsettled baby relaxes exactly the same way a wriggling baby becomes calm when swaddled. The more ways we can communicate to our baby that it is now time to sleep the quicker we can establish a sleeping routine.

Things to remember:

  • No routine is perfect, it is OK to change routines if one isn’t working just don’t give on the idea of a routine all together. A sleep routine can be very challenging to stick to when both baby and parents are sleep deprived, however a successful sleep routine for your baby is the best way to get sleep yourself
  • Don’t try and do it alone. Seek help; there are many trained professionals out there that can make a world of difference. One change to our daughters feeding routine suggested by our pediatrician meant that she went from waking every 3 hours at night to sleeping regularly for 9 hours. A very big step forward for our whole family
  • Get family and friends involved; getting someone to come and mind your baby even for a few hours in the day so that you can get some sleep can be a big help. You need energy to stick to your routine
  • Babies are little people trying their best to adjust to a very big change, be loving and forgiving. Being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world, a job made much easier when everyone is sleeping well.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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