Why Do Babies Like White Noise?

Why Do Babies Like White Noise?

Discover why babies find white noise soothing and how it can improve their sleep. Learn about the benefits and safe usage of white noise machines

Why do babies find white noise so soothing?

For parents, ensuring baby (and therefore the whole family) gets a good night's sleep is a top priority. In the search for that mostly or even somewhat uninterrupted night of rest, most parents will try every possible trick and tool to keep their little one peacefully snoozing as long as possible. 

There’s one tool that you may have not tried and should definitely consider: white noise.

A modern sleep innovation, white noise is a calming non-lullaby that could soothe your baby at night. Why does white noise help babies sleep and how can you use white noise with your little one? In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of this special sound, from its helpfulness for parents to its best uses for infants specifically.

What is white noise?

Before diving into the benefits of white noise for babies, let's clarify what it actually is. What makes this particular sound so calming?

Think of white noise as the auditory equivalent of a blank canvas. This noise is a consistent sound that encompasses all audible frequencies, creating a soothing blanket of noise around 20 hertz (Hz). Many people may compare white noise to other noises like:

  • A soft “shhh”
  • Television static
  • Fans
  • Canister sprays
  • Vacuums on a low setting

White noise machines generate this soothing sound to create a consistent background noise for an ideal sleeping environment. 

Why does white noise help babies sleep? 

A simple “shhhh” seems almost too good to be true as a sleeping tool. In its essence, white noise is thought to be reminiscent of the womb. The calming, continuous noise is a welcome alternative to dead silence or disruptive sounds at night. 

There’s some concrete science behind this tranquil phenomenon. our little one’s brain cycles in and out of “deep sleep” and “light sleep” around every 20 minutes, which can lead to a significant number of mid-slumber wakeups. While white noise is not a cure-all solution, some studies show that it could significantly improve the quality and duration of sleep:

  • In a study with neonates (babies between 2 and 7 days old), white noise helped 80% of neonatal subjects fall asleep within 5 minutes.
  • In a Nanit Lab study, babies slept an average of 2 hours longer per night with white noise
  • In a study of one-year-old children, a continuous white noise level of 75 dB improved sleep quality parameters—such as the number of night wakings, nighttime child feedings and sleeping patterns, and duration of resistance going to sleep.
  • In a high-noise environment, white noise was shown to improve sleep quality significantly in adults. 

Should you use white noise with a baby?

Is white noise the sound of peace? The answer is a resounding (or a hushed) yes—but with some precautions. 

While white noise can be incredibly beneficial for most babies, it's essential to use it safely and judiciously. After all, your baby’s ears are delicate and developing organs. In fact, any sustained noise level above 50 dB, which is equal to moderate rainfall or dishwashers, can lead to damage in an infant’s ears. To keep your baby safe and slumber-ready around a white noise machine, follow these tips:

  • Volume control. Always keep your white noise machine at a safe volume. If possible, you should check the decibel levels of your machine’s settings (using a decibel meter or smart phone app) and choose any below 50 dB. The noise should be loud enough to mask other small noises, but not so loud that it becomes disruptive to your baby's hearing.
  • Duration. While you may occasionally use white noise machines outside of sleep, it’s best not to keep them running all day and night. If so, your child may start to confuse daytime and nighttime.
  • Placement. The placement of your white noise machine can determine if it’s dangerous or safe for your baby. Position the white noise machine at least 6.5 feet from your baby's crib to prevent it from being too close to their ears.
  • Machine quality. Not all white noise machines are created equal. It’s best to use white noise machines with baby-friendly settings (i.e., below 50 dB).

Nanit: your baby’s partner-in-sleep

Sleep is a precious commodity for parents. Luckily, white noise could unlock more restful nights and happier days for your family, as long as it’s used properly and meets quality standards.

With Nanit, you can help build the sleep-ready environment that your baby deserves. If you’re wondering, "Do babies need a night light?" the Nanit Sound + Light machine provides the perfect solution for bedtime routines. With 11 soothing sounds, it also includes a color-customizable night light, Cry Detection and Remote Connection features, plus a smartphone app for you to easily control all settings from any location.

Key takeaways 

  • White noise is a calming, consistent sound that resembles the auditory environment of the womb, making it soothing for babies.
  • White noise can help improve the quality and duration of a baby's sleep by providing a continuous background noise that masks other disruptive sounds.
  • When using white noise with a baby, it's important to do so safely by controlling the volume, limiting its duration, placing the machine at a safe distance from the crib, and choosing a quality white-noise machine with baby-friendly settings. Nanit offers the innovative Sound + Light device designed to meet these safety and sleep needs.


Mindbody Green. How To Use White Noise For Babies: 5 Things You Need To Know. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-use-white-noise-for-babies-things-you-need-to-know

NIH. White noise and sleep induction. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2405784/

Pediatrics. Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-abstract/133/4/677/32749/Infant-Sleep-Machines-and-Hazardous-Sound-Pressure?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Sleep Foundation. What Is White Noise? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/noise-and-sleep/white-noise

Taylor & Francis Online. Continuous White Noise to Reduce Resistance Going to Sleep and Night Wakings in Toddlers. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J019v27n02_01?journalCode=wcfb20

Nanit is dedicated to delivering high-quality, reliable content for our readers. Our Parent Confidently articles are crafted by experienced parenting contributors and are firmly rooted in data and research. To ensure the accuracy and relevance of the content, all articles undergo a rigorous review process by our team of parenting experts. Additionally, our wellness-related content receives further scrutiny from Nanit Lab, our think tank of scientists, engineers, physicians, academic experts, and thought leaders.

Our primary objective is to furnish readers with the most current, trustworthy, and actionable information concerning a host of parenting topics. We strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions by offering comprehensive and respected insights.

In pursuit of transparency and credibility, our articles incorporate credible third-party sources, peer-reviewed studies, and abstracts. These sources are directly linked within the text or provided at the bottom of the articles to grant readers easy access to the source material.


Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.