As parents and caretakers, we want to create the most soothing sleep space for our babies – a calm, restful oasis. And, as counterintuitive as this may seem, creating that oasis includes creating more noise. Yes, it’s true – but not just any noise – white noise for babies.
Research and our own experiences show that white noise can work wonders at helping calm a baby before and during sleep. Here I’ll explain how white noise helps babies sleep, examine the pros and cons of white noise for babies, and shed light on other sounds that can make sleep time better for your little one – and you!
If you’re experiencing sleep challenges and looking to set up a sleep-nourishing environment for your baby, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. This incredible app will help you lay the foundation for a safe, effective sleep coaching journey. Once that’s accomplished, you can learn how to help your little one fall asleep independently and stay asleep longer – a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
What is White Noise?
White noise is defined as a consistent, steady noise that includes all frequencies played at equal levels – similar to the static from a television or the sound of a hair dryer.
What are the Pros of White Noise?
The biggest pro of white noise is that it covers or masks outside noises that can disrupt your baby’s sleep, such as another sibling, traffic, a barking dog or the doorbell.
Another pro: white noise machines provide a sense of security for babies by mimicking the sound of the womb.
Along those lines, some baby sound machines also have a heartbeat function that reminds them of your heartbeat – a rhythmic, loving sound that lulls them into peaceful sleep.
What are the Cons of White Noise Machines?
While white noise machines or general sound machines can work wonders to help cue your baby it’s time for sleep, soothe them to sleep and keep them asleep, there is one downside: babies can become reliant on white noise at sleep time – the good news is that even when travelling you can usually find a way to play white noise via an app or similar.
Do White Noise Machines Help Babies Sleep?
You may be thinking, can a sound machine really help my baby sleep, or is white noise good for babies? The answer is yes: studies have consistently shown that white noise can help babies fall asleep.
One study found that 80% of newborns fell asleep within 5 minutes of hearing white noise. And we know from our own experience that white noise creates a soothing, neutral environment for babies.
Why Do Babies Like White Noise?
Babies of course lack the words to tell us precisely why they respond so well to white noise, but here are the theories:
- White noise blocks outside noises like traffic, dogs, or other children. This creates a neutral, distraction-free sleep space for babies.
- White noise stimulates your baby’s self-soothing powers. All babies have the power to settle themselves; white noise helps them along – much like when you “Shhh” your baby.
- White noise mimics the constant tenor of the womb, which lulls babies into a peaceful, restful, mindset.
- White noise machines used consistently cue your baby that it’s time to sleep – an extension of the bedtime routine.
For more information on how to create a bedtime routine that works for your baby, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ to understand the ins and outs of what makes a great routine and out to set bedtime routines that prepare your baby to fall asleep independently.
How Loud Should My Baby’s White Noise Be?
Your baby’s ears are very sensitive so white noise machines should be set fairly low – never above 50 decibels. Anything louder may a) defeat the purpose of calming them to sleep and b) hurt their delicate ear drums.
Note: Even if a machine is “for babies,” some still go higher than is safe or recommended, so always double-check the volume before turning on your baby’s white noise machine.
How Close Should a Sound Machine Be to My Baby?
7 feet is the closest you want your sound machine to your baby.
How Do I Wean My Baby from The Sound Machine?
There isn’t any need to wean your baby from the sound machine, since this is sleep support that can be ‘on’ without your assistance, it’s perfectly ok for your baby to use a sound machine until well into their childhood years. In fact, many adults use sound machines to help them with sleep!
For more tips on sound machines, read Baby Sound Machines: Which Noise is Best for Baby Sleep?
Can I Use a Noise Machine All Day?
No – using white noise all day will make it less effective at night because your baby will be used to it. They will essentially “block out” the noise that’s supposed to block out noise.
Plus, you want to give your baby’s ears a break so that they can hear and learn all the sounds that make up modern life – including your voice!
Can I Play White Noise Through My Phone?
Yes, you can find a white noise app or track and play it through your phone, but keep in mind phone speakers are smaller and can distort sound, giving it a high-pitched “tinny” sound. This may distort the white noise and make it less effective.
For best results, we recommend buying a white noise machine specifically designed for babies. (It’s one of the items we include on our checklist.)
If you can’t afford or don’t want to buy a sound machine, you can also use a hair dryer on the cool setting, but only for short periods of time.
Are There Other “Sound Colors”?
Yes! While white noise is the and most popular and most well-known sound for baby sleep more recent research into “psychoacoustics” has discovered an entire rainbow of sounds and noises that can help your baby sleep better at night.
What is Pink Noise?
What is described as “pink noise” sounds like rustling leaves or a steady rain.
As with many of the more recently discovered sonic hues, there isn’t much research into whether pink noise helps babies sleep. However, some studies suggest pink noise helps adults achieve deeper sleep and, in some cases, has helped improve memory. There’s also evidence that pink noise can help reduce stress levels.
Bottom line: While we can’t say pink noise helps babies sleep, or increases their memory, if you find that pink noise helps your baby more than white noise, we say go for it!
What is Grey Noise?
One of the more mysterious and least researched sonic hues, grey noise is a mishmash of frequencies played at the same volume. Somewhat similar to white noise, it’s a steadier, less staticky sound.
Though there isn’t research into whether grey noise encourages stronger or deeper sleep in babies, it may be worth trying if the other colors don’t work on your little one.
What is Brown Noise?
Sometimes called red noise, brown noise sounds like rumbling thunder: it’s deeper and more bass-y than white noise. Personally, I prefer brown noise to white noise – and often recommend this for baby sleep!
As with pink noise, scientists and pediatricians are still compiling data on whether red or brown noise specifically works for babies, but I have seen incredible results in their own babies or babies they’ve worked with.
What is Blue Noise?
The preceding sonic hues have all been on the deeper side. Blue noise is different: higher in pitch, it’s often compared to “baby talk” – the way we adults often raise the octave of our voices when talking to babies.
As with the other sonic hues, there’s little or no research on blue noise’s efficacy in helping babies sleep, but if you find your baby responds better to higher-pitched sound than deeper, blue noise may be a good tool.
What is Purple Noise?
Purple noise – aka: violet noise – is also a higher pitched. Some say it’s like the sound of a faucet – that squeaky sound of water being pushed through the pipes.
As a higher pitched sound, violet/purple noise may not be best for helping your baby sleep – again, there’s little research here – but research on adults does show that violet noise can be used to treat tinnitus (ringing in the ear).
Do Sound Machines Work on Adults?
As a parent, you understand how difficult it can be to get good rest, especially if your baby has been struggling with sleep. You’ll therefore be happy to hear that sound machines do work on adults, so feel free to use one to help yourself, because your sleep is about more than your well-being: well-rested parents are safer, more attentive, and more caring.
If you’re struggling with sleep deprivation know you’re not alone – more than 75% of parents want to improve their baby’s sleep. Get your customized sleep plan today by taking this free sleep assessment .
How Do I Help My Baby Sleep?
A white noise machine is just one of the tools you can use to help your baby sleep better. Other changes to your baby’s sleep environment can also help, including:
- Blackout Curtains: Your baby’s sleep is regulated by their circadian rhythm, which is itself regulated by light. Even a little bit of light can disrupt your baby’s sleep. I therefore recommend using blackout curtains to create the darkest room possible for your baby’s sleep space.
- Ideal Temperature: Babies – and adults – sleep best in rooms that are between 68-72°F. If possible, set your baby’s room to this temperature to help create the most sleep nourishing space possible.
- Read more: Our article How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night offers more tips on how to help your baby off to dream land.
And for more guidance on how to help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It has everything you need to sleep train your baby effectively and easily – from 1-click sleep tracking to customized sleep training methods .
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“Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels,” Pediatrics.
“Pink noise: effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation,” Journal of Theoretical Biology.
“Acoustic Enhancement of Sleep Slow Oscillations and Concomitant Memory Improvement in Older Adults,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
“White noise and sleep induction,” Archives of Disease in Childhood.
“Comparison between swinging and playing of white noise among colicky babies: A paired randomised controlled trial,” Journal of Clinical Nursing .
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.