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Though white noise machines and other infant sleep devices may be alluring, especially when you’re a new parent who hasn’t slept in weeks, they may not be safe for your little one’s ears. A new study suggests that sound devices meant to lull babies to sleep may in fact pose a danger. Why are infant sleep machines so popular? General household and life noises can negatively influence both the quality and quantity of your baby’s sleep, and sleep machines are touted as being able to cancel out regular environmental noises, using sounds such as birds singing, ocean waves, white noise, heartbeats and so on, thus allowing a baby to sleep more soundly. However, sleep machines, as shown by this research, aren’t that simple.

Researchers tested a number of different models widely available both in Canada and the United States and found that they produced noise that is too loud for babies. In fact, the researchers found that when sleep machines were played continuously as recommended on numerous websites and by parenting books, the baby would end up being exposed to sound pressure levels that actually exceed occupational noise limits. The researchers also point out that the loudest sleep machines they tested, “Would need to be played for only 2 hours before exceeding recommended occupational limits.” Considering many parents allow sleep machines to run all night, this is worrisome indeed. To sum up, sleep machines, even when used sparingly, may harm a child’s ears, which in turn can lead to possible hearing, speech or learning problems.  The new findings,  published in the journal Pediatrics, are so significant that they’re being featured by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who support the findings.

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Many parenting Internet sites, along with books, doctors and friends recommend sleep machines, but if they’re not safe, well, what’s a tired parent to do? Keep in mind that there have been tired babies and VERY tired parents since the beginning of time and most have managed decently for centuries without sleep machines, so you can too.

  • Sleep with your baby. You get sleep, your baby cozies up and gets sleep and trust me, everyone is WAY happier. Seriously, forget chores! You can sleep when junior sleeps and do chores later with the baby in a carrier.
  • Really have no time to sleep? Fake it like a champ! My son would copy my every move as an infant, so I’d trick him (nope, I didn’t feel bad either). I’d lay down, look at him and close my eyes and that kid would just copy me! Once he was out, I’d get up. Seriously, give it a try.
  • Make him comfortable. A wet, hungry, too hot or cold baby is not prepped for sleep.
  • Try swaddling your baby.
  • Give your wee babe a nice soothing massage.
  • Sing or talk quietly to your baby as he falls asleep.
  • Tire your baby out, but don’t overstimulate your baby right before sleep time.

If none of the above works and you really feel like you MUST try a sleep machine, the researchers on this study suggest you do the following:

  • Place sleep machines as far away from your baby as possible.
  • Set the volume as low as possible.
  • Limit the duration of use – they suggest turning the machine off as soon as your baby falls asleep.

+ Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels