As the Fourth of July approaches, are you stressed about how to help your baby sleep through the noise? Here’s how to handle babies and fireworks.
Fireworks, just like Daylight Saving Time, are one of those things that I totally looked forward to until I became a parent.
I’ll never forget my first Fourth of July with my newborn daughter.
My husband is a licensed pyrotechnic operator so he spends the 4th preparing and setting off fireworks shows for crowds. It’s a side job he’s loved for years.
But that first summer with our daughter, I just wasn’t ready to take my 8-week old to his show.
We were finally starting to get into a good sleep schedule with our 2 month old and I didn’t feel like braving the crowds with my newborn.
I remember putting her to bed semi-successfully that night and having a little downtime afterwards.
But then like clockwork at 9:00 pm—cue the chaos! The noise of the fireworks made it sound like our house was in the middle of a war zone.
I started cursing my neighbors under my breath and prayed that the loud sounds wouldn’t wake up my baby.
Luckily, by some miracle, she slept through it all! Our dog was more work than my newborn that night.
If you’re getting ready to enjoy your first 4th of July with a baby, here are five tips to help you navigate fireworks and your baby’s sleep.
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Table of contents
- Are Babies Okay Around Fireworks?
- Are Fireworks Too Loud for Babies’ Ears?
- 5 Tips to Help Baby Sleep During Fireworks
- 1. Noise-reducing earmuffs are great for snoozing at the show.
- 2. Use a white noise sound machine to mask the booms.
- 3. Blackout stroller shades and curtains block out bright lights just as well as sunlight.
- 4. Try to avoid an overtired baby.
- 5. Prepare to offer extra nighttime comfort if your baby wakes up and needs you.
Are Babies Okay Around Fireworks?
Barbecues, lots of outdoor time, and tons of watermelon are just a few ways we like to celebrate the 4th of July as a family. But the quintessential activity of the holiday?
Like with all of the other “first” holidays, I’m sure you’re looking forward to including your newest family member in the festivities this 4th of July.
The tricky part is that fireworks—while exciting and nostalgic for many—can be potentially overwhelming or even scary for our tiniest family members.
Even though fireworks aren’t inherently dangerous for babies, we have to be intentional about keeping our little ones safe and avoiding overstimulation during these dazzling displays of patriotism.
There’s a way to include your baby in the festivities, while also keeping their best interests in mind.
Overstimulated Babies and Fireworks
The whole point behind a firework show is that they are loud and bright. Those are two sensations that can be sometimes overstimulating to babies.
Overstimulation occurs in babies when they are flooded with sensory input (sound, visuals, activities, and sensations) that they are not used to, or that there’s just too much of.
Signs of overstimulation can vary from baby to baby based on their temperament. However, there are some signs you can look out for.
Here are some common signs of overstimulation:
- Baby is extra fussy and difficult to soothe.
- Going stiff in their body and/or clenching their hands, which are signs of stress.
- Avoiding eye contact, turning their head away from you, or wiggling around as if to get out of your grasp.
- Spacing out or eyes that look glazed-over.
- Alternatively, baby might get unusually hyperactive and extra alert.
If your baby is showing these signs while experiencing a fireworks display or even crowds of people at the celebration for the first time, they could be feeling overstimulated. Consider relocating to a more calm and quiet place.
The difficult thing about an overstimulated baby is that they usually have a lot of trouble falling asleep.
So even if you’re keeping your baby up late to experience the fireworks (and it seems like they should be exhausted and ready for bed), they might still have trouble falling asleep.
To help soothe an overstimulated baby, bring them into a calm space, use gentle movements, and speak or sing to them in a soft voice. Swaddling is also a great way to calm their nervous system, if your baby is young enough to tolerate it.
Are Fireworks Too Loud for Babies’ Ears?
Our babies can’t actually tell us if fireworks are too stimulating or loud, so it’s up to parents to decide.
In particular, you’ll want to protect your baby’s hearing from fireworks and avoid long-term hearing damage.
Fireworks are booming, and can reach 150 to 175 decibels, depending on how close you are to the explosions.
Considering an average spoken conversation clocks in around 60 decibels, fireworks are very loud in comparison.
Upwards of 150 decibels is actually high enough to damage a grown adult’s hearing, so that means there’s a pretty high potential of harming your baby’s sensitive ears.
In fact, noise levels can start to damage hearing when they reach 85+ decibels, especially if someone is exposed to it over a prolonged period.
How Far Should Babies Be from Fireworks?
If you’re considering taking your little one to a fireworks show, you’ll want to make sure you’re a safe distance away from the explosions to minimize decibel exposure.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends that you stay a minimum of 500 feet away from the fireworks launch site.
But if you’re at an event with a large crowd, you likely won’t know exactly where the launch site is.
For most events, the crowd will be stationed between 300-1,000 feet away from the launch site. The bigger the firework shell is, the farther away the crowd should be.
To be safe, keep your baby at least 200 feet away from the front of the audience zone.
What Age Can Babies Listen to Fireworks?
There isn’t a specific age recommend by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for fireworks displays. However, it’s important to keep your baby’s safety in mind when you’re around fireworks.
Young babies are vulnerable to loud noises because they have more sensitive hearing than adults do. In fact, their small ear canals can actually amplify sounds, which means sounds can bother them more easily.
Additionally, remember that while you can get up and move yourself away from sounds that are too loud, babies can’t! They are at your mercy and it’s up to you to havea n escape plan and keep them safe from harmful decibels.
How to Protect Your Baby’s Hearing From Fireworks
The American Academy of Audiology provides general guidance for protecting infants’ hearing. We can use that guidance to take precautions for our babies when we know they will be near fireworks.
The two best things we can do for babies if they’re going to be around fireworks are to (1) limit the time of exposure to the noise, and (2) use ear protection.
In a nutshell, that means using noise-reducing headphones and making sure not to stay too long at the fireworks show.
When you know that your baby is going to be around unavoidably loud sounds like fireworks, it’s a great idea to use noise-reducing earmuffs/headphones.
5 Tips to Help Baby Sleep During Fireworks
Maybe you’ve decided to forego the celebratory firework display this year. That doesn’t necessarily mean your neighbors will make the same choice.
It can be a pretty helpless feeling to hear those first few bangs and pops an hour after you’ve successfully wrapped up your baby’s bedtime routine.
But don’t fret! The good news is there are things you can do protect your little one’s sleep from fireworks, or at least cut down on the disturbance.
If you know you’re going to be at the fireworks show past baby’s bedtime, that’s okay! Although sticking to your baby’s sleep schedule the majority of the time is important, of course there will be times when that’s just not possible.
Whether you brave a fireworks show with your baby in tow, or just want to keep them sleeping soundly at home while the firework displays go on all around you, here are some tips to make sure everyone gets their best sleep on Independence Day.
1. Noise-reducing earmuffs are great for snoozing at the show.
If you’re going to a firework show, it’s a good idea to bring your baby ear protection.
If your baby will tolerate it, pop on some of these little noise cancelling headphones on your baby’s ears. We used a pair like this for our daughter on airplanes and around live music, too!
These have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 31dB, which is a way to measure how well the device can reduce the amount of noise that reaches you ears.
The higher the NRR number, the more effective the hearing protection is at reducing noise.
If your baby can pull the headphones off too easily, try this headband with built-in noise reducing earmuffs instead.
It’s completely fine to allow a stroller nap (or even a contact nap) so that everyone can enjoy the fireworks show together. One night of not being at home and on track for bedtime every now and then is okay!
2. Use a white noise sound machine to mask the booms.
White noise is a great way to mask other unexpected or potentially disturbing sounds.
Even though a white noise machine might not completely hide the sound of fireworks, it’s a soothing and consistent enough sound that mimics the womb, and it might help your little one drift off.
At home in the nursery, I recommend using a white noise machine at baseline—not only during a 4th of July celebration. I love the YogaSleep classic Dohm machine.
3. Blackout stroller shades and curtains block out bright lights just as well as sunlight.
You’ve probably already got some items that help you block your baby from the sun’s rays when they’re trying to sleep. Well those things can double as firework flash blockers, too!
To keep your baby from getting overstimulated by the bright fireworks at a show, bring your favorite stroller sun shade along to block out the flashing lights.
4. Try to avoid an overtired baby.
If you’re out all day at a barbecue at a friend’s house, pay attention to your baby’s wake windows and prioritize daytime sleep, even when you’re not home if possible.
Try to sneak in a car seat nap in between celebrations or have your baby nap in their baby carrier while you’re chatting with friends.
Sleep begets sleep in those early months so the best way to help your baby sleep through fireworks at night is to make sure they aren’t going to bed overtired.
5. Prepare to offer extra nighttime comfort if your baby wakes up and needs you.
As annoying as it might be, there’s a chance you’ll be facing some unexpected nighttime wake-ups on the 4th.
Prepare yourself for the reality that some late night revelers may choose to set off fireworks in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve come to realize that none of those people must be parents of young babies!
Still, if your baby is woken up by the sound of fireworks during the night, don’t hesitate to comfort them and give them a little extra support to get back to sleep.
When you enter the nursery, try to keep things dark, and keep your movements and voice slow and soothing.
I recommend trying the Shush-Pat method first to see if that provides enough reassurance to your sleepy babe. But if you need to pick your baby up because they got startled by fourth of July fireworks, don’t hesitate to provide that comfort until they’re drowsy again.
Remember, one night of sleep disturbance won’t completely derail all of the work you’ve been doing to help your baby sleep consistently.
If your baby has good sleep, they may go down at their normal bedtime and not even wake up at all. Babies typically go into a deep sleep the first half of the night, so if you can get your little one down before the fireworks start, they may sleep through everything!
Hang in there, and enjoy celebrating with your family!
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