Before Little Man was born, my lovely sister gave us a gift of an Ollie the Owl. If you’re not familiar with the strigiforme in question, it’s marketed as a ‘light and sound sleep aid’ for babies. It plays lullabies, white noise, or the sound of a heartbeat or running water, to help babies get to sleep, and it has a ‘cry sensor’ that puts the noise back on if they wake up or stir.
When we first tried Ollie (now known in our household as Mr Owl… What can I say, we’re very formal people), we were amazed at how well Little Man went to sleep with the sound on, in particular the white noise sound. Now, he’s a bedtime and naptime regular! But why do babies love white noise? And does it really help them sleep? I love finding out about child and baby development, so I had to get on Google.
Why Do Babies Love White Noise?
White Noise = Womb Noise
The general consensus seems to be that white noise mimics the kind of noise that babies hear in the womb. The uterus is actually a surprisingly noisy place for baby. A study found noise levels of 72 – 88 decibels in the womb, which is classed as “loud” by the American Academy of Audiology, and equivalent to the noise produced by alarm clocks, traffic or vacuum cleaners.
A lot of noise is produced by the mother’s heart, intestines and circulatory system, and the foetus can also hear external sounds as well. One study has even suggested that our early exposure to our mother’s bodily noises may be the root cause of our attraction to the sound of waves at the beach, as well as our innate sense of rhythm.
So when baby comes into the world, things suddenly get a lot quieter. White noise machines help to mimic that background noise of the womb, and help them to feel soothed.