I teach The Happiest Baby on the Block techniques to calm newborns because it is based in science. The science of neurology and early development. But babies grow. The 5 S’s, used all together, really don’t work much past 12 weeks of age. Nobody is swaddling a 6-month old, or jiggling an 8-month old.
But you can use some of the principles of The Happiest Baby on the Block well past that 12-week mark to make life, and sleep, better for everyone. White noise is one of the S’s that is helpful for toddlers.
I wrote a popular post on white noise Are Babies Addicted to White Noise? Yes….and No and I haven’t seen any reason to change a word. White noise both triggers the brain to think “time to sleep” and alters the level of alertness in a young children so they can drop into sleep.
For toddlers, white noise has an even more important role: it muffles the sounds of family activity and scary household sounds. Toddlers want to stay up to hang out with their parents and siblings. They are old enough to understand that they go to sleep ALONE, that the party is over until morning. Toddlers that are exceptionally social find this the hardest. The other group that struggles is the children who are in daycare and only see their parents and siblings in the later afternoon and evenings. A few hours of meals and bath simply aren’t enough for them, but they are tired and cranky. Let the screaming begin….
Toddlers are also old enough to develop some fears. Noises that they cannot identify may scare them. Things like closing a squeaky door or running the dryer. As adults, we don’t find these noises alarming. Toddlers can and do get scared since their brains are able to conjure up fears from emerging imaginations. White noise can block them all.
But you have to use the right type of white noise, and at the right volume. Some toddlers need a stronger sound, not bubbling water in a brook. They need a hairdryer sound. Some need the heartbeat sound, but louder. Once a child is asleep, you can always switch to a lower, less intense sound. Dr. Karp’s white noise album on iTunes has a variety of sounds that can be put on in sequence, or on repeat, to deliver that “just right” level of sensory input.
Think you should use music with singing instead? Not for sleep. Just like us, toddlers pay attention to the lyrics. You might find lullabies that soothe, but they might be too stimulating to keep your toddler sleeping. We go through sleep cycles, and leaving music on during the light sleep stage could wake them rather than send them back to sleep.