January 6, 2022

Everything to Know About White Noise and Sound Machines

Babies, Newborns, Older Children

When it comes to baby products, the choices are endless! There are SO MANY products out there – some of which are great, some which you could easily do with or without, and some that just seem pointless. And the same goes for baby and toddler sleep products!

In this blog post, I want to share more about one of the sleep products I suggest all parents use with their littles ones…sound machines. We’ll be talking about:

  • Why sound machines are such a helpful tool when it comes to sleep
  • Which sound setting is best on a sound machine for babies and kids
  • How loud your sound machine should be
  • When you can stop using white noise for your little one’s sleep
  • The best sound machines for babies and kids

And more!

Why should parents use a sound machine in their baby’s nursery?

First, let’s talk about newborns. For those new babies who just spent nine months in their mother’s womb, the sound of white noise actually brings them comfort – it’s the same sound they’ve been hearing for the last nine months! That’s why making the “shhhh” noise, or turning the sound machine on, is a great way to calm a fussy baby (even when it’s not time to sleep!).

For older babies, toddlers, and school-aged children, white noise is no longer a comfort, but it’s a tool for us, as parents. We want to be able to run the dishwasher, watch TV, or talk on the phone while our kids are asleep and not worry about waking them, and sound machines help make that possible.

Now, if your toddler or older child has never used white noise, or you’ve already stopped using it, it’s not a must for them. I’ve even worked with some families whose child said they didn’t like it anymore. I’ve also known some older kids who prefer a box fan, or parents even put a box fan in the hallway so there’s still some sense of white noise, and that’s totally fine!

But if your child really doesn’t like white noise, that’s okay. It’s not usually a make it or break it; as kids get older, a sound machine is mostly a helpful tool for parents.

The Best Sound Setting to Use on a Sound Machine

When I suggest parents use sound machines, I’m not talking about any and all sounds on that thing…there are A LOT of sound options on a sound machine. When I say sound machine, I am talking white noise – consistent, white noise.

Not the heart beat sound or birds chirping. Even ocean waves or rain falling are sometimes too inconsistent. This also means I’m not suggesting music! Music can be fun to play when you’re winding down after dinner, or even during the bedtime routine, but when it comes to sleep, music should be off.

It’s important that our little ones’ sleep environments are the same when they fall asleep and when they wake up in the morning (i.e. just as dark and the same noise). Music, however, is not consistent. Songs often rise and fall in pitch and possibly volume, they switch tracks, and eventually stop altogether. Those inconsistencies could keep your child in a lighter sleep and/or cause them to startle out of sleep because their environment has somehow changed from when they first fell asleep.

How loud should white noise be for babies and toddlers?

I get this question A LOT!

The “easy” answer is you want the sound level to be about the same as if you were in the shower. When you’re in the shower, you can’t really hear what’s going on outside the bathroom. If someone shatters glass or drops a water bottle on the tile floor, you’ll probably hear something in the background. Or if your kids are trying to talk to you right outside the door, you’ll hear their little voices, just not super clearly.

White noise won’t completely block out any and all and sounds in your house (and it shouldn’t!), but it will block out quite a bit and it will muffle the rest.

A more straightforward answer to how loud your baby’s sound machine should be, however, is that white noise should be around 50 decibels – no louder. And the easiest way to measure the noise level of your sound machine is by using a decibel reader app.

There are several decibel reader apps that have a free trial period, so download one on your phone to find the right white noise volume level in your child’s room. Place your phone in your baby’s crib or on your child’s pillow and turn on the sound machine. If the decibel reader is reading under 50 DB, you can turn it up a bit! If it’s reading over 50 decibels, make sure you turn it down.

Is white noise dangerous for babies?

I have heard some people raise the concern that white noise might be dangerous for babies. Some studies have shown that consistent white noise measured at 85 decibels or more, and played for more than eight hours, could induce hearing loss. So make sure your baby’s sound machine is not playing above 50 decibels, as the current AAP guidelines states, and your little one is absolutely safe.

Will having a sound machine make your child rely on white noise in order to sleep?

Maybe! To be totally honest, there was one night last year when my daughter’s sound machine (she was three at the time) was somehow not fully plugged into the wall, so halfway through the night her sound machine turned off and she woke up in a panic – she went to bed with white noise and woke up without it (it felt like a different environment to her!).

We simply plugged it back in and she went right back to sleep, no problem.

So does she rely on white noise in order to sleep? She probably does, to an extent! But white noise is a great sleep prop for her to rely on. We simply switch it on before bed (she actually does) and turn it off in the morning. In her four years of life, I don’t think we’ve had many nights when we didn’t have the sound machine with us. But if we were to for some reason find ourselves without one for the night, she may have a tougher time falling asleep, or be more easily woken by us, but it’d be one off night…worth it for all of the other great nights!

When we’re at home, or even away, and are able to control our children’s sleeping environment, why not make it optimal so we can all get the best sleep possible?

When you can stop using white noise for your child’s sleep

Similar to using blackout curtains, parents often ask me when they can or should stop using a sound machine at nap time and bedtime.

Some older kids seem to come to a space when they “don’t like” the white noise anymore – they don’t want their sound machine anymore. While other kids continue sleeping well with one, so why change it? Most adults sleep better with some sort of white noise while they sleep, so no rush to stop using a sound machine.

Other Tips About Sound Machine Use

1. Play it all night and for your child’s whole nap

Like I mentioned before, we want your child to fall asleep and wake up to the same sleeping environment – just as dark and the same white noise. If your little one falls asleep with white noise on but then stirs in the night (like we all do!) and recognizes their environment is different when they first fell asleep, rather than simply drifting back into sleep, they could wake all the more, unsure of the change.

So keep the sound machine on all night long and through your little one’s entire nap!

2. Place the sound machine 3+ feet away from your baby’s crib and child’s pillow

For both noise levels and chord safety, make sure your child’s sound machine is at least three feet away from their crib or bed.

3. Have a sound machine that runs on battery handy!

For those off nights when the power goes out or for those long road trips where you’re counting on some car naps to happen, having a portable sound machine or a sound machine that has back up batteries is helpful for everyone’s sanity! See the best travel sound machines listed below for ideas.

The Best Sound Machines for Babies and Kids

The Dohm Natural Sound Machine

best sound machine

The Dohm is definitely my favorite sound machine for babies and kids!

Rather than being an “electronic” white noise (drives my husband and mom crazy!), the Dohm is a natural fan sound. You can adjust the volume by opening or closing the little vents and holes, and because it’s an actual fan, the volume can only get so loud.

HoMedics MyBaby White Noise Machine

homedics sound machine

Before we knew about the Dohm, we got the HoMedics white noise machine. And to be honest, I think it’s great! It is a more electronic white noise, so it drives my husband crazy when we’re traveling and room sharing with our girls, but I don’t mind it as much. And our girls don’t mind it!

My favorite thing about the HoMedics sound machine is that it also has batteries. So if the power were to go out, rather than the sound machine turning off, as well, the batteries would kick in. We’ve also taken it on road trips when we expect the girls to fall asleep at “bedtime” in the car, and the batteries make it possible.

LectroFan Classic

lectrofan sound machine

I have not personally used the LectroFan Classic, but I have heard of others enjoying it. It has several different fan sounds as well as white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. It can also be powered by a USB.

A note about the Hatch Rest as a sound machine…

The Hatch Rest is one of my favorite products when it comes to toddler and older kids’ sleep, and it does function as a sound machine! But to be totally honest, I don’t love the sound options on the Hatch, so we use a separate sound machine and use the Hatch as a toddler clock.

The Best Travel Sound Machines for Babies and Kids

Having a battery operated or chargeable sound machine is often helpful for naps on the go, or even to have as a back up in case the power goes out or something! Here are my favorites:

The Rohm Travel Sound Machine

best travel sound machine

Just like the Dohm, the Rohm Travel Sound Machine is a natural fan noise rather than an electronic noise, but this one is chargeable and great to take on the go. Whether you’re going for a walk in the stroller, wearing your baby in a carrier, or on a weekend trip, the Rohm is easy to bring along with you.

The Baby Shusher

baby shusher sound machine

I’ve never personally used the Baby Shusher, but I know people who love it!

Knowing that one of the 5 S’s is shushing and how calming a parents shhhhh can be to a baby, the Baby Shusher is helpful to have on hand for diaper changes, stroller rides, car rides, etc., when babies are having a tougher time. It is battery operated, and rather than the parents having to continuously shush, the Baby Shusher does it for you!

Conclusion

While there are many baby products, and even baby sleep products on the market, many of them can be skipped right over. A sound machine, however, is one product I recommend to every family I work with, as it helps the whole family rest a bit more soundly and confidently.

With Grace,

Lauren

Note that this blog contains some affiliate links, but the reviews are from my personal use. 

white noise