Benefits of White Noise for Baby Sleep

White noise can be a powerful tool in helping your baby sleep well. Learn how to use it as a benefit without creating a sleep prop.

Baby sleeping peacefully with white background

Many moms wonder if it is okay for them to use white noise to help their baby sleep better.

They, of course, are concerned about creating a sleep prop and don’t know if white noise qualifies as one, and if using noise will create sleep problems at some point down the road.

We first started using white noise at our house when Brayden, our oldest child, was 3.5 and Kaitlyn was 1.5.

It was purely accidental.

We have dry winters with forced air furnaces and their skin was getting dry, so we put humidifiers in each bedroom.

This was about a decade ago, so humidifiers were typically noisy machines. I realized these humidifiers created some white noise for them, and I liked it!

We started keeping a humidifier in each child’s bedroom all year round just to keep the white noise going.

At some point, we purchased white noise machines since a humidifier was not needed year-round in the house.

What Is White Noise

White noise is a sound that can block out the other sounds going on. There can be natural white noise, like literal ocean waves. White noise can be nature, heartbeats, or static.

Many people compare white noise to what it was like for your baby to be in the womb. Newborns are new to the world, and white noise sounds can be familiar to what they experienced in the womb. This calms them and helps them sleep better.

White Noise Can Help Baby Sleep

White noise can help your infant fall asleep faster and stay asleep through sleep transitions.

White noise can help block out the sounds of the environment (like a busy city street, doorbells, or the neighbor’s barking dog). It can also block out the noises of the household, like siblings playing or adults doing chores.

I really, really, really, really wish I had thought to use white noise when Brayden was a baby.

We lived in a house that we were remodeling, and there were no finished bedrooms.

We all slept in the formal living room (yes, the whole family). We were basically living in a studio apartment. A humidifier next to his bed would have made it so I could move around more without waking him up.

At about 6 months old, we finally realized we could move him into the bathroom, which was big enough we could put a crib in it and still have plenty of room.

This made his night sleep much better, but white noise still would have been helpful since the bathroom was right off of the main living area.

When McKenna, my third child, was born, we went straight to the humidifier from the first day.

Having the humidifier in McKenna’s room was really great. The other two children were able to be kids all day without me stressing out over them being noisy during nap time.

I still taught them to be respectful of others while sleeping (something I wished some of my roommates in college would have learned!), and we had rules about inside and outside voices, but they could be normal kids in the house even while McKenna was asleep.

This wasn’t a problem when Kaitlyn was a baby because Brayden just isn’t a noisy person by nature. Plus, you get two kids together and you have a lot more noise than you do with just one child.

When Brinley, my fourth child, came along, we used a sound machine in her bedroom. The kids were again able to be normal children even while the baby was napping or down for the evening.

Is White Noise Safe

Many parents worry if white noise is safe or not.

As you choose your white noise machine, look for machines that sit at 50-70 decibels. That is a level that is safe to use all night long.

In the womb, baby sat at times over 90 decibels. 60-70 decibels should sound like a shower.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends white noise to be around 50 decibels.

Benefits of White Noise for Baby Sleep

Will White Noise Become a Sleep Prop

A sleep prop is something the child is dependent on for sleep. If something becomes a sleep prop, your little one will be incapable of sleeping without the sleep aid.

>>>Read: When Sleep Props are Okay and When to Avoid Them

So how did McKenna sleep as a baby when there wasn’t white noise available?

She still slept just as well!

We had power outages often when McKenna was a baby. We also did little family trips camping. When we visited grandparents, we don’t bring white noise with us usually (at Christmas, we took her humidifier to my parents because we were going to be eating right above the room she sleeps in…with a wood floor beneath our feet).

When she didn’t have the white noise, she still slept just as well. She could fall asleep without it. She could stay asleep without it.

If you want to avoid reliance on white noise, you can get a white noise device that will turn off at some point in the night.

White Noise Can Help Fussy Babies

White noise is great for sleep, but it also helps fussy babies to calm down and stop crying. That white noise can really soothe even the fussiest babies and is often recommended for babies who have colic.

As a side note, if your baby has colic or is super fussy, you will also want to use swaddling to help your little one calm down.

If you are using white noise for a fussing baby, you will need to match the decibels to the baby’s decibel level.

>>>Read: Helpful Tips to Survive the Colicky Newborn

What Are Potential Problems with White Noise

In addition to the concern over white noise becoming a sleep prop, there is the potential of a device used for white noise to be too loud for baby. Some people worry about damaging ears and about delaying speech development.

To help with potential problems, keep the white noise machine at least 7 feet away from your baby’s crib. Keep the volume as low as you can and still get the benefits of the machine.

Another important step to take is to turn off white noise when it is not time to sleep. If your baby is playing in her room between naps, turn the white noise off while she plays.

If you worry about your baby not sleeping well without the machine, I always say I would rather my baby sleep better the 90% of time we are home than the 10% of time we are away.

But we have found our children sleep just fine without the white noise when it isn’t available. They might not sleep as well as they do at home, but most people do not sleep as well while away from home in general, so I don’t know how much of that is a lack of sound machine and how much is just a natural response to being away from home.


What Can Be Used for White Noise

You can use lots of different things for white noise.

  • Humidifiers
  • Sound Machines
  • Tracks on Spotify or iTunes or other sites where you buy your mp3s. You can get free tracks here.
  • Tracks on YouTube
  • Box fans
  • Vacuum cleaner

Best Sound Machines

If you do a simple search on sound machines, you will find that there isn’t one that everyone loves. There are many that many people love.

We have really liked Dohm sound machines and have the more expensive Dohm sound machine and the less expensive Dohm sound machine. They are simple machines and very little can break internally.

As I write this, the overall best rated sound machine on Amazon with the most reviews is this one. It is quite adjustable and has a timer function, which is nice if you want to limit the amount of time the sound machine is on.

You might like the option to run on battery. This sound machine has a rechargeable battery and rates quite well on Amazon. We had one that ran on batteries in the past and we liked it for power outages or for traveling without electricity.

For travel, you might like a portable sound machine like this one. This could be used in the car, at the park, or at grandma’s house.

When To Stop Using White Noise

There is no hard and fast rule for when to stop using white noise for sleep. Some people like to stop sometime between the first and second birthday.

As I write this, Brayden is 17. He has not used white noise for many years. He decided he wanted to be able to sleep anytime anywhere no matter if white noise was available or not.

My three girls, however, typically still have white noise at night. They all can sleep without it when needed (power outage, camping, vacation, etc.). McKenna has even been known to lie down on the busy airport floor and snooze away.

When you feel it is time to stop using white noise, you can start by turning the noise lower and lower and then eventually take it away altogether.


This is ultimately the way I see it. Sleep is important. Using white noise allows the noise of family members to be drown out.

This allows the family to move around normally and the child can sleep well.

When you visit family–let’s face it, some of them are loud!–you can bring along white noise. Then you can relax and enjoy yourself rather than stress out about the noise going on.

In many cases, when you travel, you can take your white noise with you. There are even travel sound machines available.

There can be drawbacks to white noise, but overall, the benefits far outweigh any potential cons of using white noise. White noise is a great aid in helping your little one sleep well.

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The reason white noise can help your baby sleep better pinnable image

This post originally appeared on this blog in January 2010

29 thoughts on “Benefits of White Noise for Baby Sleep”

  1. Since my DD was about a week old and I moved her to her crib, we have used the bathroom "fart fan" since she is across the hall from it 🙂 She goes w/o it at her sitter's house and does fine, but I always feel more comfortable when its on at our house. I've always enjoyed white noise while sleeping, also, so its a perk for me AND the baby! 🙂

  2. I wish I would have known about white noise when my oldest was a baby. We have used it with our newest, who is 4 months old and it's been a life saver! Her bassinet had music, nature sounds and white noise on it. It was great to lull her to sleep or even worked to calm her when she was fussy.We discovered the 5 S's through, "Happiest Baby on the Block", one of them being shushing, or white noise. There have been a few time when nothing was working to calm her down when she was fussing. One time I walked into the bathroom and turned on the blow dryer and it was instant calm and she fell asleep. Another time in the car, she got extremely fussy and we weren't quite to our destination yet, so we found static noise on the radio and she went right back to sleep! She is now out of the bassinet, but we haven't gotten a white noise machine or anything else like that, but I really like your idea of the humidifiers. We have wood heat, so we need the moisture anyway.

  3. We like to use an air purifier for white noise in our little girl's room. She can sleep without it, but it sure does make me feel more at ease when my two year old goes squealing down the hallway during nap time!

  4. I just got back from a 10-day trip to Texas with my 7 month old daughter for a family wedding. My daughter sleeps with white noise and has since 6 weeks old.(It has made such a difference in her sleeping and staying asleep since we started using it.) My family is LOUD!!! My daughter slept in a bedroom in the back of the house with her white noise and never woke because of the noise while we were on the trip. Lifesaver!

  5. Our white noise is the only thing that helped us get through the 45 minute intruder!! My daughter's room is in the front of the house near the street. I close the curtains for naps but she still had trouble with transitions around the 45 min mark. As soon as I started using white, noise she napped like a champ and still does. I bring it every where – even friends' houses when we are at a party and she will go to sleep anywhere. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.We use the SleepMate from Amazon. I think you can get it from as well.

  6. I couldn't agree more. When my son was first born I was really anti noise machine, but it's a life saver. We travel with ours, but I feel like it brings a little bit of home into a new surrounding and it gives him comfort. He has no problem falling to sleep without it though. We use the Homedics noise machine from walmart. It's $20.

  7. Sorry my question if off subject. My almost 10 week old seems to be in a vicious cycle of a growth spurt. It seems that we'll have a "growth spurt" period of lots of wakefulness, short naps, wanting to eat every 2 hours, etc. Then, we'll wonderfully settle into being woken to eat at the 3 hour mark, 2 hour naps, etc. What bothers me, though, is that this cycle has been continuous for weeks now. A few days of hunger, a few days of sleep, etc. My son was over 9 pounds at birth and is around 13 pounds now. He's gaining weight great, but I still question my milk supply. Do you think this continuous cycle is due to the fact that I just won't produce enough to satisfy him because of his size? He's still waking once at night to eat as well. Any thoughts?

  8. thank you for posting this….i've had a hard time with white noise. our house is so loud and we have to use fans or humidifiers while the kids sleep. i'm always concerned that they will become addicted. thank you for the peace of mind!

  9. I discovered WN with my DD when she was about 6mo. It has been a life saver! I was always paranoid about noise and constantly stressed when there was extra noise in the house e.g. visitors etc and wouldn't do anything while my DD slept for fear of waking her. I use a CD player with a static noise track on repeat. Alternatively I use a fan. I don't use it all the time but particularly during the day when there's neighbourhood noise or I want to make a bit of noise doing household chores.Recently we took it away on hols with us and it was my sanity! DD was carted around in her portacot a lot but slept perfectly with her routine and the WN. For NY Eve we had fireworks 100mtrs from the house and she didn't even stir!Anyway, we haven't found it to be a sleep aid – rather an invaluable settling tool!

  10. I started using a small fan with my first son when he had trouble napping during the day. We live near Fort Knox and can hear the rumbling now and again. It worked like a charm! We now use a fan for both of our boys. I like the added bonus of a study that recently came out that states using a fan in an infant's room reduces their chances of SIDS by something like 60-70%! I have noticed that when we are away from home they can sleep just fine without the white noise as long as it's quiet, too. But it's really nice to have a fan along so you don't have to worry about noisy family 🙂

  11. I love our white noise machine. We live in a huge city in Asia, and it can be noisy! (Last month, they were drilling in the apartment below us.) We have a small travel-sized noise machine that we take with us wherever we go. I find it is especially helpful in dealing with jet lag, and it is also great when we travel and all need to sleep in the same hotel room. My daughter doesn't mind being without it (our power goes out alot), and one time I forgot the plug and she slept in the same room with us with no problems. Our second baby is due in May and I will definitely get one for her, too.

  12. We can't live without our loud fan in our daughter's room. We didn't start using it until she was well over 1 years old. Whenever we'd have people over in our tiny apartment and it would get noisy, my back became so tense and all I could think about was if she would wake up. And she often did. We moved but the problem remained. In fact, our daughter's room is right next to the bathroom. On normal days, she wakes up at 8 am. But on days when my husband took a shower before 8, she immediately woke up. We put a fan in her room to see if it would help. It was the answer! Now my husband and I can now take a shower, clean the bathroom, have loud people over and we know she won't wake up due to noise. Added bonus, when we go to visit friends and family, we often have to sleep in the same room as our very alert light sleeping toddler. With the fan on, we can sneak into the room without her waking up and noticing. We will definitely use white noise with all our other children!

  13. Unfortunately I live on a main street in NYC. We live down the street from a hospital so about 5-7 times per day an ambulance with full sirens blaring will come down the street. There are only two main streets between the Hudson River and Central Park, and one of them has the subway running under it. The other one gets ALL the traffic of the big 18 wheelers coming into the city. This same street also has a dip in it that the 18-wheelers don't anticipate, so they basically pop a wheely wo to speak when they drive over it. Guess what street I live on? Not even off of, but actually ON. I have used a ridiculously loud fan, and for a long time used a white noise machine on top of it, since my daughter was very, very young. Now I notice that it is a trigger for her. We could have been running around and playing in the house, giggling and tickling, but when we go in her room and I turn on the fan she quiets right down. Thank goodness for the modern times we live in 🙂

  14. I, too, agree that white noise is a huge live saver! When I was a new mom, I was against all that stuff (room darkening, noise, etc.). I was going to have the child who could sleep through anything, so I would often put her in a pack n' play downstairs to nap so she could get used to sleeping with house noise. Well, that theory quickly went out the window when she would never sleep longer than 30 minutes and I was exhausted!! I remember the very first time I hung something over her window and turned on a little fan…she slept for 1 1/2 hours! I was sold from that point on. She is now 2, and we still use it. I do have a question for everyone. I babysit at someone else's house 3 days a week, where I also bring my daughter and she takes naps there. I am constantly lugging her fan back and forth everyday, and I was wondering if anyone has found something smaller and portable for noise making. Something I could just leave in the car so I don't have to remember her fan from her room everyday?? Thank you all!

  15. We use a fan for our 8 month old when we know that the house might be loud during her nap or we want to make sure that she has a good nap. This ends up being approximately one nap per day. As a result, she has not become dependent on the fan. I would say that she sleeps well without it, but sleeps better with it.

  16. I started using a conair sound machine for my son (17 months) when he was about 2 weeks because he was a loud sleeper and I couldn't sleep through all his noises. We are now using it in both our sons rooms (we also have a 3 month old now). We travel with them, but there have been times when we forget to turn them on in their rooms and they have both slept fine with out them. I don't have a problem with it being soemthing they are dependent on because I used to always travel with a fan…

  17. We use a teddy bear we bought for around $18. It has rain, ocean waves, wind and heartbeat sounds. It has an adjustable timer, 25 or 45 minutes, and adjustable volume. I love it. The crib is in our room, and it doesn't bother either of us. Our son can sleep without it, though. It's relaxing, and actually helps me get to sleep faster also.

  18. I agree…We have used it with our two kids since birth not as a sleep prop but as a way to drown out other sounds…My 2 1/2 year old is very loud so my 4 month old has a sound machine for naps and bed time…They both can sleep without them but makes me feel better b/c I do not have to worry about making noise…

  19. Evelynn's Mom, lol. I know all too well about squealing toddlers during naptime. White noise helps you maintain patience with the little ones 🙂

  20. Trich7364Growth spurts happen every 3-4 weeks and can last as long as a week (or more). I also found my kids had a growth "day" where they ate more often a certain day of the week. For Kaitlyn, it was Thursdays. For McKenna, it was Fridays. I just knew they were going to eat more often on those days. I think it is pretty normal 🙂 It starts to mellow around 3 months, and just gets more and more calm as the months go by. Then they turn into toddlers and a whole new world opens up 🙂

  21. I am a big believer in White Noise….well we actually use Brown Noise. Did you know there are actually different colors of noise? I found this out while shopping for a White Noise track on iTunes. Brown is deeper sound than White. We feel it is less harsh and more tolerable. My husband says it sounds like we're in a space ship when we have it on in our rooms. We started using "noise" in our own room before our 1st daughter was born when I was pregnant and getting up every hour for the bathroom. It masked the creeking in the floor boards and helped my husband have more continuous sleep.PORTABLE WHITE NOISE – We use a track on iTunes that stays on a continuous repeat loop. We bought it for .99 cents and it's called "brown noise loop" from the "white noise loops for sleep" album. We put it on multiple iPods and keep one of those iPods in our DDs room on a speaker system there. Then when we travel I bring portable speakers and my own iPod and use it for her when we're staying over night at my moms or sister's house. This always works great since I always bring my iPod with me when I travel anyway. Another white noise method that worked the first 6 months was from the "Sleep Sheep" The noise maker in the stuffed animal can be removed and it's small enough I can just throw it in the diaper bag. I think the rain and ocean settings were our favorite.One last very inexpensive white noise option if you have a radio in your child's room is the Static Noise from the AM radio.

  22. Sheri, now that you mention that, I do remember hearing there are different colors of noise. Thanks for all of your added ideas!

  23. I started using a white noise machine when my son was 5 weeks old per friends' recommendations. It made a huge difference in the length/quality of his naps. His bedroom wall is shared with our master bathroom. I noticed that every time my husband or I showered, the baby would awake once the bathroom fan was turned off. That no longer happened once we started using the machine (we all like the rain noise best). My son is 13 weeks today. At 7 weeks, he went from sleeping in 4 hour segments to 6 hours at night, then at 8 weeks went to sleeping 8 continuous hours. Last week he began to seem very uninterested in his late evening feed, so last night I put him to sleep about 1.5 hours earlier than usual. He slept until his usual wake time, & slept well. Anytime he does wake at night, he falls back to sleep without needing us. I don't know if it's his disposition, BW, the white noise, his thumb, or what, but I'm quite happy with his ability to self soothe. I feel fortunate that he's 3 months old, & sleeping through the night in his own crib (has been from week 3). I know parents of 5 year-olds who do not have it so easy…


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