When your baby is fast asleep in her crib, you may be tempted to keep the room as quiet as possible. However, a little sound, provided it is the right kind of sound, can actually help her fall and stay asleep.
Theorize on this: The warm environment of your womb was not exactly silent for your unborn child. He evolved to the point where he regularly takes in your heartbeat, your voice, and any ambient noise. Some infants have trouble adjusting to a completely silent nursery, which is why baby sound machines are a common registry choice.
What is white noise?
Sounds of varying frequencies are mixed together at a constant volume to create white noise, which may sound like a crackling or whooshing noise or like a mechanical or electrical hum. If you or your baby are having trouble sleeping due to outside noises like traffic or sirens, white noise can help.
How do baby sound machines work?
Sound machines are useful for putting and keeping babies to sleep because of the constant, repetitive white noise they emit. The sound will also help mask any other disturbances in the home that could wake the baby. “The idea is that they put out soothing sounds that drown out other background noises in the home,” explains Dr. Kramer.
In order to help baby relax as his eyes close, some baby sound machines also project calming images onto the ceiling or walls, such as animals or stars.
Types of baby sound machines
There are several varieties of audio equipment available, and they all have their uses. It all comes down to what you need and how you plan to use the machine (at home or on the go) when deciding which one is best.
- All-Purpose White Noise Machines: Whether in an adult or child’s bedroom, or any other area where ambient noise must be masked, these standard white noise machines are ideal. They have features like a timer and adjustable volume and sound, but nothing designed with children in mind (like a heartbeat sound, projector lights or a cute design).
- Portable music players designed for infants and toddlers: These serve the same purpose as adult white noise machines but are designed with children in mind. These devices may project soothing lights onto your baby’s wall or ceiling, or play sounds designed to resemble those heard in the womb. Some may have adaptable features that can be used as your child gets older, such as a nightlight or a light that changes colors in the morning to signal to a toddler or preschooler that it’s time to get up.
- Sound generators with smart technology can be controlled wirelessly via a connected mobile device. They can be helpful if you want to adjust the machine’s sound or volume settings without disturbing your sleeping child.
- These battery-operated noise machines can be used anywhere, including in the car or stroller, to help your baby nod off.
What to look for in a baby sound machine
Various options exist for the output of sound from machines. Some play gentle songs or nature sounds, while others emit simple white noise. All of these things are intended to put baby to sleep peacefully. You should make sure to look for the following features:
- A fine pick.
- The device will turn off on its own after a certain amount of time.
- Music keeps playing nonstop.
- Lighting for use at night.
- The volume can be altered.
- Energy source: battery or wall plug-in.
- Optional smartphone sync functionality.
Where to place a baby sound machine in the nursery
Baby sleep aids like a sound machine can be helpful, but you should avoid using them if there is any risk of hearing loss from prolonged exposure. Dr. Kramer warns against the potential harm that improper use of sound machines can have on children’s hearing and, by extension, their ability to communicate. Some baby sound machines can be as loud as 85 decibels when placed a foot away from infants, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2014. This is loud enough to cause temporary hearing loss.
Baby’s crib should be at least 7 feet away from the sound machine, and the volume should be turned down to no more than 50 decibels, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Use a free app like the CDC’s NIOSH Sound Level Meter to check your decibel level and make sure it’s below 50.
Also, make sure the machine is out of your child’s reach and the cords are hidden.
How we made our picks for the best baby sound machines
We’ve compiled the best sound machines for babies with a variety of features to suit the needs of every family based on the recommendations of What To Expect community members, the research of our editors, and the feedback of our medical experts.
Best Baby Sound Machine
Yoga Sleep Dohm Classic Natural Sound Machine
Pros: Conveniently small for transport, with a variety of audio outputs and the flexibility to operate on either electricity or batteries
Cons: A noticeable loop of the noise, which, according to some users, is quite distracting
The reasons why we adore it
There are a total of six different relaxing sounds available on this white noise machine, from the standard fare of heartbeat and ocean waves to more unique offerings like summer night and babbling brook. The AC adapter is removable, so you can use it with batteries (you’ll need four AAs), and the compact, lightweight design means you can take it wherever you go. This compact device also features an adjustable volume and a programmable timer.
Energy source: either an electrical outlet and a power brick or a handful of AA batteries
Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine
Pros: Use your phone as a remote, and your caregivers can do the same with the app.
Cons: App required, but its data collection and usage practices have raised concerns.
The reasons why we adore it
The Hatch Rest is a huge hit with parents, earning over 20,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Envision this: In the event that your infant wakes up in the wee hours of the morning, you can use your smartphone to activate one of the eleven calming sounds that come with this device. The app-operated device also lets you customize the color of the night light by selecting from ten different color schemes or using a color wheel. If you give your caregivers access to the app, they can adjust the preferences as well.
Some parents, however, have complained that using the app is a hassle. While the Hatch Nest Plus has some nice upgrades, such as a clock and Wi-Fi connectivity, most parents in the WTE community opt for the original, less expensive model.
Supply: wall plug
HoMedics MyBaby SoundSpa On-the-Go Sound Machine
Pros: It’s cheap, compact, and easy to attach to a stroller or diaper bag.
Cons: Only runs on batteries
The reasons why we adore it
Whether you’re in the park, the mall, or the doctor’s office, this portable device can help your baby sleep through the noise with its four calming sounds. It can be attached to a stroller or diaper bag with the help of a handy clip, and its small size makes it simple to transport. There should be a spare set of the three AAA batteries, which power the device, in your bag just in case. Please keep in mind that you should never fasten this gadget (or any other) to your infant’s crib. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against attaching anything to a crib because of the risk of suffocation.
Batteries: 3 AAA
Amazon Echo Dot Smart Speaker With Alexa
Pros: Multi-use device, uses voice control
Cons: Some users may be concerned about privacy
The reasons why we adore it
Your Echo speaker can serve as a soothing white noise generator in addition to the many other functions it is capable of performing with the help of Amazon’s Alexa. (Which means you won’t have to buy as many gadgets.) You can have Alexa play a white noise sound you downloaded from Amazon (like Sleep Sounds: White Noise) for free. You can use the device to play audiobooks or stream music to help your child relax and fall asleep as he gets older. The newest model of this gadget is round, comes in colors suitable for a baby’s room (white and light blue) and has parental controls. However, data collection and recorded audio are two areas where users may have privacy concerns with these devices. (Amazon claims it has included some privacy safeguards in the Echo, such as a microphone off button to prevent it from listening.)
Power: 15W power adapter and cord
Pros: Portable, lightweight, mimics your natural shushing sound
Cons: Requires batteries
The reasons why we adore it
When your baby is being particularly loud in public, the Baby Shusher is the tool to use.
The tiny device has a big calming effect because of the rhythmic shushing noise it makes, which was created by a real person to mimic the natural calming technique used by many parents. It uses only two standard AA batteries, making it portable enough to stow away in a diaper bag for weekend getaways. The included wrist strap makes it convenient to transport from one location to another. Some parents, however, have reported that their devices stopped working after only a short time.
Power: 2 AA batteries (included)
Big Red Rooster 6 Sound White Noise Machine
Pros: Inexpensive, offers all of the basic functions
Cons: No lights or projections, buttons don’t have lights so may be hard to see in the dark
the reasons why we adore it
This basic multi-purpose sleep machine has all the capabilities of more expensive models, but costs much less. You have the option of leaving the six sounds on all night or turning them off after 15, 30, or 60 minutes. It can either be plugged in or powered by three AAA batteries. Even if you’re sleepy, you can use the touch buttons without any trouble.
Power: AC adapter or 3 AAA batteries (batteries not included)
Hatch Rest Sound Machine
The Rest is a popular product among parents because it combines a nightlight, a sound machine, and a time-to-rise feature, all of which can be operated from your smartphone or tablet. The Hatch Baby Rest app allows you to set a schedule for when the Rest turns on and off, and to control the device remotely. The 11 soothing sounds and songs have been praised by parents for their high quality and convenience. Older kids appreciate the time-to-rise light because it teaches them to wait until a set time each morning before getting up.
The Hatch Rest+ costs $30 more than the regular Rest and adds a built-in audio baby monitor, clock, backup battery, and Wi-Fi connectivity to the original Rest’s features.
Parents often report
“The Hatch Rest is fantastic. Definitely a good investment. It’s super convenient that you can either turn it on with a tap or through an app on your phone. We’ve all found that the machine’s soothing sounds put us to sleep at night. If we decide to move our baby into his own room, I may have to buy a second one because I just can’t bear to part with it.”
- All the essentials for a good night’s sleep: a lamp, some white noise, and an alarm clock.
- Connects to the Hatch Baby Rest mobile app.
- Measures 6.25 inches square.
Yogasleep Dohm Classic
The Dohm has been around since 1962, making it the OG of white-noise machines that has put many a baby (and parent) to sleep. It has been widely reported that the Dohm is the most effective device for blocking out ambient noises that might otherwise startle a sleeping infant. An internal fan generates the white noise by making a reassuring rushing sound but not actually releasing any air. With volume and tone controls, you can choose between two different speeds.
This device is a simple white-noise generator suitable for people of all ages. It lacks the entertainment features common to other baby noise machines, such as a nightlight, a light show, or a selection of different noises and music to soothe your little one to sleep. This sound machine is sold under multiple names, including Marpac and Yogasleep.
“When our daughter was four weeks old, I got her a Dohm, and it completely changed our lives. Putting her down for naps and bedtime is less of a struggle, and she sleeps soundly. Also, it helps my husband and I get a more restful night’s sleep.”
- Adjustable tone and volume
- Continuous play
- 5.75 x 5.75 x 3.25 inches
Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System
The projector on this baby sound machine is the coolest part because it shows slowly rotating, colorful scenes of the sea, the rainforest, or the night sky to keep babies entertained. (The scene is chosen by removing and replacing cartridges.) This multifunctional device has a nightlight that changes colors and soothing sounds and lullabies. To find the ideal setting for your child, you can control the light, sounds, and projector separately.
Some guardians have complained about an obnoxious clicking sound coming from the projector.
“Since my daughter was 7 months old, we have used the Munchkin nighttime sound system every single night. It’s fantastic, and we love it. The ocean is her most favored setting.”
- Changeable visuals, lighting, audio, and sonicscapes.
- Clock and nonstop play options.
- Size: 6″ x 5″ x 6″
Skip Hop Moonlight & Melodies Nightlight Soother
This nightlight soother from Skip Hop serves multiple purposes, as it plays soothing sounds and doubles as a nightlight and a simple projector. The owl’s stomach lights up, and a lens on its head projects a night sky onto the wall or ceiling. Waves and a heartbeat are two of the eight soothing nature sounds and melodies available. Choose from 15, 30, or 60 minutes of playtime, or leave it on all night.
One complaint from some guardians is that the audio isn’t up to par.
“When it’s time for naps or bedtime, I turn on the Skip Hop sound machine and leave it on continuously. My toddler is now sleeping for 11 hours straight, thanks to this remedy. Amazing!”
- Adjustable light, sound, and music
- Timer or continuous play
- 5.5 x 4.5 x 6 inches
Marpac Hushh Portable White Noise Machine
Hushh is a compact and portable version of the well-known Dohm white noise generator. Small and light, Hushh offers a wide volume range and your choice of three soothing sounds: bright white noise, deep white noise, or gentle surf. The lithium ion battery it uses allows it to work for up to 10 hours before needing to be recharged. Clip it to your stroller, diaper bag, or crib with the Hushh’s included accessory. In addition to a child lock, there is a soft LED nightlight.
Some worried parents have reported that their Hushh stopped functioning after only a few months.
“The Hushh is a portable sound machine that can be charged using a standard phone charger and then used for hours on end. Our infant is extremely fussy, so this is a godsend for when we’re out and about.”
- Sound and volume can be customized.
- Music keeps playing nonstop.
- Diameter of 3.5 inches.
- You can charge the battery using the USB cable that comes with the device.
Fisher-Price Smart Connect Deluxe Soother
The Smart Connect Deluxe Soother, like the Hatch Rest, is a smart sound machine that can be operated and customized with a mobile device. While similar to the Rest in that it plays music and makes other noises, it stands out by including a light projector that can be used to simulate the night sky on a wall or ceiling. Parents appreciate being able to develop a unique bedtime routine to lull their infant to sleep, beginning with bright lights, stimulating music, and a large projection, and ending with gradually decreasing brightness and the addition of soothing background noise.
Some guardians have complained that the machine’s controls are too finicky. Others were dissatisfied because the projections don’t move around.
“The Fisher-Price Smart Connect is a hit with my two daughters. My almost 2.5-year-old still enjoys it, and it has helped calm and soothe her many times. In order to block out any outside sounds, I have it playing continuously throughout the night.”
- Nightlight, projection, music, and sound
- Works with the Smart Connect app
- 5.51 x 5.51 x 6.89 inches
Homedics MyBaby SoundSpa Lullaby
This compact, hassle-free music machine plays three traditional lullabies, three calming sounds, and projects three endearing scenes onto the wall. The machine can be set to run for 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes, or left to run indefinitely.
Changing the sound or turning it off is a tedious process that has been met with disapproval from parents. And the light projections are static, not moving.
“In our case, the Homedics sound machine has been fantastic. It’s simple to operate and has pleasant tones. I enjoy the rain and the ocean the most.”
- Adjustable projection, sound, and music
- Timer or continuous play
- 4.25 x 4.25 x 4.31 inches
- Plug in