Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Music
Many parents find that playing music can help their baby sleep. However, while music and songs can be an important part of the bedtime routine, sometimes leaving a baby to sleep with music playing can actually help bad sleep habits develop and delay your baby learning to settle themselves.
Babies love noise – after all, while they were in the womb they heard everything that was going on around them – so it makes sense that having some noise in the background can make them feel comfortable and secure at bedtime.
Many parents use mobiles or light-sound machines at bedtime but these can actually have a detrimental effect as the combination of light, sound and movement can over stimulate your baby. Having a CD of lullabies playing in the background can create a more peaceful environment, but what happens when the CD stops? If baby has fallen asleep listening to music and wakes to a silent room, they can become distressed.
Another problem with music is that the tone, pitch and timbre (loudness) tends to change, which gives baby something interesting to listen to – and can actually keep them awake for longer. There are also often gaps between tracks, and if baby has just dozed off and there’s a break in the music they can wake up with a jolt.
What is White Noise? Can it Help put my baby to sleep?
A better option is to let your baby fall asleep to a background of white noise. Unlike music, which has distinct sounds, white noise is a constant buzz of random noise that extends across the sound frequency. Think back to your baby in the womb: although they can hear everything going on around them – your heart beating, the whoosh of your blood, the drone of the outside world – it’s all a bit fuzzy and because there are no individual sounds it’s relaxing for your baby’s brain, because there is nothing specific to concentrate on.
As well as simulating the sound of the womb, white noise can be really useful in helping your baby sleep because it blocks out other intrusions such as the telephone, the doorbell or older children playing . When played loud enough, white noise can drown out other noises so your baby won’t be disturbed by everything that’s going on in the house.
Depending on the source of white noise you use, you can leave it playing all night long, which can help your baby settle back to sleep if they wake in the night. One of the most effective forms of white noise is radio static; if you have an old radio to hand just leave it on, untuned, and the random noise will help your baby sleep. The hum of an electric fan or air purifier has the same effect and, again, can be left on all night.
Another form of white noise is natural sounds such as waves, rain and waterfalls and there are many CDs, phone apps and free downloads that you can use. The advantage of natural sounds is that you can vary the sound to avoid your baby becoming reliant on one particular form of white noise.