When my eight year old Ethan was a baby he would not sleep. Having been a nine hours a night girl before he arrived I became more and more desperate as the weeks went by, and I was ready to try anything!
I realised one day that the hair dryer was soothing him. I tried turning it on when I put him to bed that night and it worked a treat! Our weeks of sleeplessness was transformed with the push of a button and from that day forward I regularly put him to bed with the hairdryer blaring.
From there we experimented with other sources of white noise and found radio static also worked wonders. On nights when the hair dryer wouldn’t quite cut it, we’d sleep in the lounge with the radio static for company. I used white noise as a calming tool well into my little boy’s first year, and where ever we went, the hair dryer went with us. Ethan loved loud white noise and I was ready to sleep standing on my head so it was win, win. And now eight years on, he is a fantastic sleeper and pops off to the land of nod at 7pm sharp every night.
I was quite amused to read that Wayne Rooney has a thing for hairdryer noise too. He has admitted in his autobiography that he can’t get to sleep without the soothing rumble of a hairdryer, and he has apparently burnt out more hotel hairdryers than he cares to count!
When I first started working as a baby portrait photographer, the hair dryer was one of my secret weapons; When the baby got fractious, I’d whip it out and sooth them with it’s drone. It worked almost every time, but it was always a conversation killer as no one else could hear themselves think.
But this is why white noise works so well: Your newborn baby has been cocooned in a very loud, but otherwise sensory deprived space for nine long months and then they are born and all of a sudden they find themselves in the big wide world where they are bombarded with smell and light and relative quite. The constant repetitive swoosh and thump that they have always known is gone and it’s a bit of a shock for them! Loud white noise not only reminds them of their secure old home, but it creates a sound cocoon that excludes other strange noises or ‘quiets’ and reduces the newness.
These days white noise is a bit of a buzz word and we have cottoned on to it’s soothing properties, there are cuddly toys that create white noise, or CD’s that play white noise merged with a soothing melody. White noise has become an essential tool in all my newborn photo shoots and I have an app called sound sleeper on my phone now, the beauty of the phone is the noise is soothingly loud next to the baby, but for those of us further away, the sound is more of a shush and we can still have our conversation.
Creating White Noise
Someone should let Wayne know that he doesn’t just have to stick to hairdryers – there are other options out there too!
We all naturally create white noise when we sooth a baby and it’s a great short term strategy. White noise works best if it’s loud and constant though so save this for emergencies.
Download an app
There are plenty to choose from and a lot are free. Mine has a wide range of white noise options from waterfalls to hairdryers, I generally use the womb setting when I’m working. The down side of the app is that it only runs for 30 minutes at a time so the breaks could disturb your baby, and I wouldn’t like to recommend keeping your baby constantly next to a mobile phone either.
You Tube is full of white noise samples that run from 10 minutes up to 10 hours; rain, rain forests, lawn mowers, take your pick! Remember you’ll need to turn it up though.
The Trusty Hairdryer
The volume is perfect, but as Wayne Rooney has burnt countless out, I’d also save this option for an emergency. You also need to make sure the hairdryer has a cool setting or you could end up burning more than just the hairdryer.
Research has recently been conducted in America that has found placing a fan in a babies bedroom dramatically reduces the chance of sudden infant death syndrome. They think this is possibly because it keeps the air moving and prevents baby re-breathing their same breath. The fan also has the added benefit of creating a soothing white noise so it will be the perfect addition to your nursery.
This has to be my favourite white noise option, I realise now that I should have bought a little radio in those desperate days to pop in Ethan’s room. The beauty of the static is it plays until you choose to switch it off and you can decide the volume too. Don’t worry about your little one developing a life long addiction, when you think they are ready you can simply start weaning them off it by giving them a little less or making it a little quieter each day (someone should probably tell Wayne that too!).
Happy white noise making and bon voyage to the land of nod!
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