Updated: Sep 21, 2020
A #sleepprop is anything that a baby needs in order to fall asleep. Nursing, rocking, and a pacifier are all types of sleep props. Having sleep props can often create sleeping issues. They can cause frequent night wakings, short naps, and very lengthy bedtime charades, to name a few. If sleep props create sleeping problems, then how could I be recommending one?
There is one sleep prop that is very helpful, does not require the parent to be involved (like rocking, for example), and is easily broken if and when that is desired...dun dun da da...a sound machine. We use #whitenoise on a sound machine for every nap and bedtime with Gideon. A sound machine is amazing for many reasons:
1. It muffles out other sounds that could otherwise wake the baby up, like siblings, lawn mowers, creaking floors, or your husband blending a smoothie at 6:00 a.m. (Love you, babe!)
2. It doesn't require parent involvement, other than pushing the on button.
3. It can easily be taken to grandma's, on vacation, or anywhere else you need to go. If you forget to bring it, no problem! There are many free apps that play white noise or whatever sound you prefer.
4. A sound machine is a great sleep association, which is something that tells the baby it's time to sleep. Turning on the sound machine is part of Gideon's bedtime routine. It lets him know that the next thing coming is being placed into his crib and us leaving the room.
5. The dependency on a sound machine can be easily broken. Simply lower the volume one notch every night or two until it's no longer needed. On another note, breaking dependency of this prop isn't always necessary. There are many adults who use sound machines to help them sleep too. If you're trying to cover up creaky floors like we are, those aren't going to go away anytime soon, so we'll continue using it. As long as it isn't creating sleep issues, there's no reason to take it away if it helps.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you do decide to use a sound machine (and I highly recommend you do). The most important is that you don't want to put it right next to the baby's ears. Our sound machine is sitting on a bookshelf on the opposite wall from his crib. A baby's ear drums are delicate, and although it would take a really loud sound machine to hurt them, it's always better to err on the side of caution. There's no benefit to having it right next to them anyway; they will hear it no matter where it is in the room.
With that in mind, don't be afraid to give it some volume! As long as it isn't sitting right next to your baby's head, it can be on the louder end. Babies are used to loud sounds in the womb, so it'll be comforting to them to hear it loudly. You also want to make sure it is loud enough to drown out noises that could wake the baby. Anything between 65-80 decibels is safe and effective. You can download a free decibel-meter app to measure the range!
Another thing to know is that not all sound machines, or sounds they make, are the same. First of all, you want to use a static sound, like white or brown noise. Nature sounds, lullabies, or anything else like that will actually stimulate the brain. This is not what you want while sleeping.
In case you're wondering, this is the sound machine we use and are so glad we bought! We haven't had any issues with it, and it has even made quite a few travels with us. I especially love that it has a rechargeable battery, which I didn't even realize until I forgot to plug it in our first night of vacation. The thing still ran all night long! I usually leave it plugged in at home, but it's good to know that my baby can still sleep if our power goes out! It also doubles as a bluetooth speaker. (This is not an affiliate link, I'm simply showing the product we use. I do not receive anything for purchases of it.)
If you live on a busy street, have multiple children, or any other noises that commonly wake your baby up, you might want to consider using a sound machine. You may even want to buy an extra and put one in your room!
Update 9/2020: Gideon is now 2.5 and we still use the sound machine for every nap and nighttime. We've also added Phoebe to our family, and she uses one too. A few months ago, my husband and I ALSO started using white noise in our room and love it!
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant