www.diapers.comHave you ever seen one of these infant sleep machines? Maybe you use one to help your baby fall asleep each night.  Perhaps your baby will sleep through the night if you keep the white noise playing all night.  A study published this week in Pediatrics attests to the popularity of these devices:

ISMs are intended to be placed near an infant’s crib or mounted directly on its side rail. These products have been popularized by parents and “baby sleep experts,” as evidenced by the large number of Web sites that proclaim their “benefits.” These Web sites encourage parents to operate the machine continuously while an infant sleeps3 and to play the sounds loudly, at a volume equal to or louder than an infant’s cry. Many Web sites put ISMs on the must-have list for any nursery. A number of different models are widely available both in Canada and the United States.


Reading the reviews from parents at Diapers.com makes them seem indispensable:

This thing is so great. We use the lullaby setting for the last feeding to let my twins know that it will soon be time to go to bed. Then we switch it to a white noise when we turn the lights out. They sleep so much better when it is on.


Here’s another:

Must have product. I’ve purchased various soothers for my son and I am so happy that I found this one. My son (now 4 months) likes some of the other soothers but they actually keep him awake! I wanted one to help put him to sleep. This soother plays some of the best sounding music of all the soothers I’ve tried and also offers a really nice selection of various white noises. The BEST feature IMHO is the fact that you can turn it on and it will play all night long if you want it to.


One more:

We have a smaller house and it’s loud with two other kids and neighbor kids running around. We use this for naps and bedtime to block it all out. She never sleeps without it and usually sleeps for 10 hours/night.


One reviewer who commented negatively about the product wished she could turn the volume louder.  Catherine Saint Louis says that could be a problem:

Researchers at the University of Toronto evaluated 14 popular sleep machines at maximum volume and found they produced between 68.8 to 92.9 decibels at 30 centimeters, about the distance one might be placed from an infant’s head. Three exceeded 85 decibels, the workplace safety limit for adults on an eight-hour shift for accumulated exposure as determined by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. One machine was so loud that two hours of use would exceed workplace noise limits.

At 100 centimeters, all the machines tested were louder than the 50-decibel limit averaged over an hour set for hospital nurseries in 1999 by an expert panel concerned with improving newborn sleep and their speech intelligibility.

“These machines are capable of delivering noise that we think is unsafe for full-grown adults in mines,” said Dr. Blake Papsin, the senior author of the paper and the chief otolaryngologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. Dr. Papsin got the idea for this study after a parent brought a portable white noise machine to the hospital that sounded as roaring as a carwash.

Michelle Healy reviews the study’s recommendations for the safe use of infant sleep machines:

[T]he study says manufacturers should be required to limit maximum output levels; print warnings about noise-induced hearing loss on the machine’s packaging; and include a mandatory timer on machines marketed primarily for infants that would make them automatically shut off after a predetermined period of time.

Families can more safely use the machines if they place them as far away as possible from the infant and never in the crib or on a crib rail; play the the devices at a low volume; and operate them for a short duration of time.