Why is white noise so important?
We know that the trick to helping children sleep better is to re-create the conditions that they experienced in the womb, and the womb is a noisy place. Baby is soothed by the sounds of mom's heart beating, her stomach growling, and muffled voices from the outside. And it is LOUD - slightly less loud than a lawnmower. Now imagine going from that constant deafening sound to utter silence. Not comforting for little babies!
White noise reduces stress in babies. Every day babies are inundated with new faces, new places, and more stimulation than they can handle. White noise creates a safe place for them by helping them to block out this stimulation.
White noise helps babies sleep better. It helps to block out the sounds from dogs barking, doorbells, older children, and whatever else is going on in the house while they are trying to sleep.
White noise needs to be LOUD. Not just quiet background noise, crank that baby up! You want it about as loud as if you were standing in the bathroom while someone was showering. It also needs to be boring - no classical music or twinkle twinkle on repeat. Radio static is perfect, and most white noise machines come with a 'white noise' option. Use that for young babies and as they get older, you can switch it to something a bit more pleasant (heartbeat sounds, ocean waves, etc.) Even a box fan works perfectly if you don't want to invest in a machine. Bonus: fans in baby's room has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Your child won't become 'addicted' to white noise. Just the same as they won't become 'addicted' to needing a dark room to sleep in. Sure, most adults would prefer to sleep in a dark room, or with a little white noise (a fan, the hum of a humidifier) but we aren't dependent on it.
Make sure the white noise is CONTINUOUS. It needs to play for the entire nap and bedtime. Avoid the popular products that have a timer - those will work against you as baby will wake up at that 45 minute mark and wonder where his music went.
This is my favorite machine that I recommend highly: