Reviewed by Nanit Lab's Dr. Natalie Barnett.
As a parent, you learn your own unique tricks to calming your baby. But when you’re on call 24/7, even the pros need a little help sometimes. White noise machines can provide that support through some major moments (aka long nights). Here’s how white noise helps calm, and where to find the best white noise machine for your child.
Why are white noise machines important for babies?
White noise machines can be a helpful tool for calming your baby as they adjust to their new environment. In the womb, your baby was used to constant background noise. White noise machines use a serene static to help mimic those sounds, similar to that “shhhh” sound you might instinctively make during fussy moments. This specific frequency can serve as an effective relaxation technique as it turns on your baby’s natural calming reflex.
White noise machines also provide the added benefit of drowning out external noise that can potentially disrupt your baby's sleep. They create a consistent auditory environment, masking sudden or loud noises such as traffic, house creaks, or other household activities, which helps to maintain your baby's peaceful sleep.
How do white noise machines work?
White noise machines use a mix of every frequency humans can hear to produce that calming background noise—and preventing any disruptive sudden sounds from waking your child. They usually include features that allow you to adjust the volume and sound speed. You may even be able to set your white noise machine on a timer through an app on your smartphone.
The benefits of using a white noise machine for baby
White noise can lend a hand to parents in a few scenarios. Here are some common examples of where white noise can help you and your baby the most.
- Cueing Bedtime and Establishing a Consistent Sleep Routine: A crucial part of nurturing good sleep habits in babies involves establishing a consistent sleep routine. Turning on white noise as part of the naptime or nighttime routine can act as a signal that it's time for sleep.
- Enhancing Sleep Quality and Duration: The consistent auditory environment provided by white noise can support better and longer sleep. This is particularly beneficial when traveling or during other times when certain aspects of your family's routine can't be maintained.
- Soothing During Fussy Moments: White noise can be an incredibly effective tool during your baby’s fussy moments. Given that it triggers your baby's natural calming reflex, playing white noise at a safe decibel level can help soothe and comfort them. Always remember to keep the volume at a level that is safe for your baby's delicate ears.
- Masking Environmental Noises: White noise helps to drown out any environmental or outside noises that could disturb your child's sleep. This can be especially useful if you live in a busy area or have other sources of noise in your home.
- Maintaining an Optimal Sleep Environment: By providing a consistent, soothing backdrop, white noise helps create a conducive sleep atmosphere regardless of your surroundings. Whether at home or on the go, the sound of white noise can help ensure your child feels safe, comfortable, and ready to sleep.
- Supporting Parents: White noise isn't just for babies; parents can benefit too. When you need to recharge, white noise can supplement your own soothing efforts, benefiting both parent and baby in the long run.
Top white noise machines for soothing your baby
If you’re shopping around for a white noise machine of your own, here are some of the top brands on the market today.
Nanit Sound and Light
The Nanit Sound and Light does just about everything except dry your baby’s tears. This sound machine and nightlight combination was designed to support you and your baby. From stress relief to sleep training, the Sound and Light can help establish routines with customizable settings and automated scheduling. And with its Cry Detection feature, you can get notifications when your baby truly needs you.
Top features include:
- Companion Nanit Sound and Light App with customizable controls, including the ability to save Favorite settings and create sound and light routines
- A rechargeable battery with up to 8 hours of life, perfect for short naps and on-the-go situations
- A nightlight with a range of customizable color choices, from a soft glow for nighttime feedings to the brightness of a camping light
- A dimmable digital clock to aid in establishing and maintaining routines
- Contextual sound cataloging to help you select the ideal soothing sound for each situation
- An "OK to rise" cue for toddlers, helping them learn when it's time to start the day
- Multiple control options, allowing you to operate the device either through the companion app or directly on the unit itself. The top button on the unit has been designed for easy use, providing a user-friendly experience.
- Unique Cry Detection feature that sends notifications when your baby truly needs you, setting it apart from other devices in the market
- An ever-evolving app, set to continue bringing you future innovations and feature launches
With this robust feature set, the Nanit Sound and Light stands as a valuable tool that does just about everything except dry your baby’s tears. It's designed to support you and your baby at every stage of your parenting journey.
Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine
The Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine includes both white noise and a nightlight with different color choices. All settings can be controlled through the companion app on your smartphone. Some features, such as the “Time to Rise” wake-up program, aren’t recommended before two years of age.
Top features include:
- Choice of sounds such as crickets, birds, or rain, as well as white noise
- Ability to customize night light colors
- Create settings for different sleep time routines such as naps and bedtime
Marpac Hushh Portable White Noise Machine
The Hushh Portable White Noise Machine is made by sleep accessory company Yogasleep. It includes three sound settings for bright white noise, deep white noise, and gentle surf. This white noise machine is meant to be primarily used on the go, rather than at home. It must be turned off and unplugged every 14 days.
Top features include:
- A child lock so only parents control the settings
- A soft amber LED night light
- A flexible clip, so you can travel with the machine as needed
Skip Hop Moonlight & Melodies Nightlight Soother
This white noise machine is available in different animal shapes, such as owls or elephants. In addition to sound and nightlight features, this device also includes a projector with stars and moons. The Moonlight & Melodies Nightlight Soother’s sound library includes four melodies and four nature sounds.
Top features include:
- Adjustable projector lens
- Night Light dimmer control
- Auto timer settings for 15, 30, or 60 minutes
How to choose the best white noise machine for your baby
If you’re a new parent, you’ve probably encountered quite a few different baby gadgets by now. Parenting in the tech age is a gift in many ways. But sifting through long lists of device features can sometimes make shopping for 21st-century baby gear extra work. Below is a breakdown of what to prioritize when shopping for a white noise machine.
- Safety features. Baby safety is the number one concern with any device. With white noise machines, volume control can protect little ones' ears. Be sure to always place the device within the recommended distance away to protect from potentially damaging sound levels and any cord hazards.
- Sound options. Some white noise machines can also function as soothing sound jukeboxes, with additional options for lullabies or calming animal sounds.
- Companion apps. A white noise machine that’s compatible with your smartphone opens up more robust setting choices.
- Light features. Nightlights can help babies with sleep routines, and customizable light options might even make bedtime fun.
- Portability. If you can pack up your white noise machine, that can make a car ride across town or a sleepover at grandma’s go a lot smoother.
Tips for using white noise machines to soothe your baby
Newborns are still learning how to self soothe. Parents can help them with techniques that turn on their innate calming response. And the sound therapy provided by a white noise machine just happens to be one of the things that can help lull an infant out of a tearful spiral. Here are a few ways your white noise machine can help relax a fussy baby.
- Maintain Consistent Ambient Sound: Keeping the white noise machine on consistently helps create a soothing and familiar auditory environment. This can make it easier for your baby to settle and may even help to redirect their attention, triggering their calming reflex.
- Comfort during a colic episode. Studies have shown that white noise can be an effective way to support a colicky baby.
- Make diaper changes easier. If you know your baby gets fussy during changing, white noise can keep them calm.
Tips for using white noise machines to help with baby's sleep
White noise can be effective when you’re trying to establish a regular sleep routine because it can give your baby a positive association with bedtime. Unlike other sleep aids, such as bottles or caregiver presence, white noise can stay the whole time to help your baby fall and stay asleep. And, we know that more sleep for baby means more sleep for the whole family! Here are a few tips for incorporating white noise into your baby’s sleep routine.
- Start to play white noise when it’s time to wind down. Place your white noise machine a safe distance from baby’s crib, and turn it on after you’ve gone through your bedtime routine. Once your baby gets used to the sound of static after you read them a story or sing them a lullaby, they’ll learn to associate it with drifting off to dreamland.
- Use at naptime, too. Consistent white noise use during all sleep times, not just night, can help with keeping your routines on track.
- Leave white noise on for the entire sleep duration. Playing white noise for your baby’s entire sleep, instead of just at the beginning, can increase overall sleep duration.
White noise can benefit the whole family
Every parent deserves support, and a white noise machine can be a helpful ally in the pursuit of rest. These machines serve to make bedtime routines smoother and provide comfort when your baby is unsettled. The benefits don't stop at the nursery door, though. Parents can use white noise too!
White noise machines, such as Nanit’s, can help create a calm, consistent environment that promotes quality sleep for everyone. So, while your baby enjoys the soothing sounds, don't forget that this tool can also be useful for adults. Whether you're looking to drown out distracting noises or establish a peaceful ambiance, white noise might just be the lullaby that helps the entire family achieve restful nights.
About Dr. Natalie Barnett: