If you look at the registry for the last baby shower you attended, chances are you’ll see a fancy sleep sound machine on the list.  It will likely have several sounds including, crickets, ocean waves, and a gentle heartbeat.  It may also play classical music and project starry images or seascape on the nursery ceiling.

As appealing as all of that may seem to parents who want to create a soothing environment for their little bundle of joy, it won’t help your little one slumber.  In fact, all the bells and whistles are likely to hinder sleep.  Most babies find lights and music  distracting, and often stimulating.  They may sometimes help your baby stop fussing, but that’s not the same as helping them fall asleep.

And sounds like the ocean or a heartbeat that have a recognizable rhythm or pattern have been shown to affect brain activity while sleeping. Part of the mind stays busy picking up that pattern instead of resting or doing what it normally does during sleep, making the sleep your baby is getting less restorative.  Finally, patterned sounds do not do as good of a job as plain white noise at muffling random loud sounds that may wake your baby.

So if you want to use white noise to help your baby or toddler sleep, always choose a plain, patternless sound like a fan or a machine which makes a simple “SHHHHHH” sound.  If you’re shopping for a new one, choose and inexpensive version which can use batteries as well as outlet power.  If you already own a fancy version then maybe you can listen to the ocean sounds for the next time you find yourself daydreaming about a beach vacation.

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