The Power of White Noise: Using Sound To Help Your Baby Sleep Better

Unlock the secrets of white noise for your little one’s sleep! Learn how sound can promote relaxation and improve baby sleep in this guide.

by Melissa Gilchrist, Founder of Baby Sleep Code

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Welcome to the world of white noise—a powerful tool that can make a significant difference in your baby’s sleep. As a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant, I’m thrilled to share with you the science-backed benefits and practical tips for incorporating white noise into your baby’s sleep routine. Let’s explore how this simple change can work wonders for your little one’s sleep. 

What Is White Noise?

Before we dive into the benefits, let’s understand what white noise actually is. White noise refers to a consistent sound that contains a mixture of different frequencies. It is similar to the gentle hum of a fan or the soothing sound of falling rain. This consistent and steady noise creates a comforting environment for babies to sleep in. 

The Science Behind White Noise: How It Soothes And Comforts Babies

After 9 months in the womb, the world can seem alarmingly quiet for a newborn baby. The soft, constant sound of white noise helps to mimic the sounds your baby heard in the womb, such as the beating of your heart, circulation of blood, and the sounds of the outside world. This can provide a reassuring and comforting feeling that can help soothe your baby and make them feel secure.

Numerous studies have shown that white noise can effectively calm and comfort babies. In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers found that white noise was more effective than lullabies (or no sound) in reducing crying and reducing pain during NICU procedures. So, when it comes to calming and settling your baby, white noise is truly a superhero.

Benefits Of Using White Noise For Baby Sleep

When used consistently, white noise serves as an excellent sleep association for babies, signaling that it’s time for sleep. Research has demonstrated that babies fall asleep faster and enjoy more restful sleep with the presence of white noise. A study examined 20 newborn babies ages 2 to 7 days old and found that white noise helped mothers settle their baby more successfully compared to no intervention. With 80% falling asleep within five minutes in response to white noise compared with only 25% who fell asleep spontaneously in the control group without white noise playing.  

Additionally, white noise helps mask or block out environmental noises like a dog barking, street noise, or noisy neighbours that may otherwise startle or wake your little one during sleep. Playing white noise for all sleep times also helps create a sound bridge between sleep cycles, as a baby drifts into a lighter sleep phase hearing that consistent soundtrack can help them drift back off into another sleep cycle. By creating a peaceful and uninterrupted sleep environment, white noise contributes to maintaining your baby’s nap schedule and ensuring they get the rest they need.

Choosing The Right White Noise Machine

When selecting a white noise machine you just want to choose one that has a quality speaker and ensure that it can play continuously for at least 12 hours. Many baby sleep products promote their white noise playing abilities but these only play for short periods before turning off which isn’t great for sleep. 

You can opt for a sound machine that only plays white noise or one that plays a range of options such as rain sounds, pink noise, or brown noise – all of these consistent sounds can have the same great benefits for sleep. 

What About Mobile Apps? 

While apps and audio tracks can be convenient, it’s crucial to play the sound through a high-quality speaker for optimal effectiveness. Playing white noise through an old phone speaker might not have the same impact in blocking out external sounds. Remember to switch your phone to airplane mode or activate the “do not disturb” feature to avoid any nap mishaps. I’ve heard countless stories from clients where their little one’s peaceful nap was abruptly interrupted by a phone beep from a new message.

Setting Up A White Noise Environment: Dos And Don’ts

Creating a conducive white noise environment involves a few key considerations. Any consistent white noise sound that your baby finds soothing is suitable—experiment with different options to find what works best for them. However, avoid playing music, as it has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns.

Position the sound machine strategically between your baby’s cot and the potential sources of external or disruptive noises. If you have siblings sharing a room it can be helpful to position the sound machine in between their two sleep spaces to help create a sound barrier between them. 

White Noise Safety Guidelines For Your Baby

It’s important to prioritize the safety and comfort of your baby when using white noise machines. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conducted a study to assess the safety of 14 white noise machines specifically designed for infants. Surprisingly, the study revealed that all of the machines, when set to their maximum output, exceeded the recommended noise levels established by hospitals.

In response to these findings, the AAP developed its own guidelines regarding the appropriate use of white noise machines in relation to a child’s sleep environment. According to the AAP, it is recommended to place white noise machines at least 7 feet (200 centimeters) away from the baby’s sleep area. Additionally, the volume should be set lower than the maximum level, typically not exceeding 50 decibels. To put this into perspective, 50 decibels is comparable to the sound produced by a soft running shower or rainfall. 

These safety recommendations from the AAP aim to ensure that the use of white noise machines remains beneficial and harmless for babies. 

Make sure to follow your sound machine’s own manufacturers safety warnings and directions for use also.

Incorporating White Noise Into Your Baby’s Sleep Routine

Now comes the fun part—incorporating white noise seamlessly into your baby’s sleep routine. Begin by introducing white noise during your baby’s wind-down routine, playing it softly for a few minutes before sleep. This gentle introduction sets the stage for what’s to come.

As you progress, make white noise an essential part of your baby’s sleep ritual. Consistently play it during all sleep times, including naps and nighttime slumber. By establishing this consistent association, your little one will gradually recognize that the soothing sounds signal it’s time to drift off into dreamland.

Does your child attend daycare? Consider providing a white noise machine to recreate the familiar sleep environment they’re accustomed to at home. This can help them feel more at ease and settle into sleep effortlessly, even in a different setting. And for those on-the-go moments, don’t forget the power of portable players! Whether you’re in the car or strolling through the park, the soothing sounds of white noise can create a peaceful nap space for your little traveler.

When Is The right Time To Bid farewell to white Noise? 

Well, the good news is that there’s no need to rush into turning it off! Many parents have found that using white noise can be beneficial for their children’s sleep well into toddler years, many adults enjoy sleeping with white noise as well. So, if it’s working well for your child feel free to continue using it without any concerns.

And when you are ready to wean your child off white noise, rest assured that the process is straightforward. You can gradually decrease the volume of the white noise over a week or two. By doing so, you’ll allow your little one to adjust to the sound levels until it eventually fades away.

When used consistently white noise can be your secret weapon for a great night’s rest—for both you and your little one. But it might not be the saving grace for all. If you have any questions or need personalized guidance for your baby’s sleep journey, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to support you and help your little one experience the quality sleep they deserve.

Happy Sleeping!

Author Bio: 

Written by Melissa Gilchrist, an internationally certified infant sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep Code. Baby Sleep Code offers virtual one-on-one sleep consulting packages and downloadable educational resources like their Newborn Sleep Guide. Their services are 5-star reviewed and have often been described as “Life Changing.” 


Döra Ö, Büyük ET. Effect of White Noise and Lullabies on Pain and Vital Signs in Invasive Interventions Applied to Premature Babies. Pain Manag Nurs. 2021 Dec;22(6):724-729. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2021.05.005. Epub 2021 Jun 28. PMID: 34210600.

Spencer JA, Moran DJ, Lee A, Talbert D. White noise and sleep induction. Arch Dis Child. 1990 Jan;65(1):135-7. doi: 10.1136/adc.65.1.135. PMID: 2405784; PMCID: PMC1792397.

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