Sound Machines: Which one is best for baby sleep?

Let’s face it, we’ll do anything to help our children sleep. You’ve probably heard the advice that sound machines can be hugely beneficial, but what about the different sounds – what do their names mean, and which one should you choose for your baby?

White, brown, and pink noise are the more common ones. These soothing sounds have become popular tools in helping infants drift into dreamland and stay there longer. Parents use noise for their baby’s sleep because they offer several benefits that can help soothe and comfort infants during their sleep, including:

  • Mimicking the womb environment, providing a sense of security and familiarity for babies.
  • Masking sudden and loud noises from the environment, such as household noise or street sounds.
  • Creating positive sleep associations, making it easier for them to relax and fall asleep when they hear the familiar noise.
  • To help babies transition between sleep cycles more smoothly, reducing the chances of waking up between cycles.
  • Soothing and calming effect of the gentle, continuous sound can promote a sense of relaxation and peace.
  • Facilitating quicker sleep onset when they are in a calm and relaxed state.
  • Used as part of a consistent sleep routine, signalling to your little one that it’s time to sleep.

In this blog post, we’re diving into the world of calming noises and uncovering the differences between white, brown, and pink noise to help you create a lovely sleep environment, along with some examples of each, plus some tips to finding the perfect one for your baby.

Sound Machines – White, brown, or pink noise: What’s best for baby sleep?

The names ‘white noise’, ‘brown noise’, and ‘pink noise’ come from their analogy to colours in the visible light spectrum. Based on their spectral characteristics, such as their intensity and frequency, these names help to distinguish them from one another.

What is white noise?

Just like how white light contains all colours, white noise covers all frequencies, creating a comforting, consistent sound for your baby.

It’s the go-to choice for many parents as it masks sudden noises, like barking dogs or door slams, and mimics the gentle sounds babies heard in the womb, bringing a sense of security to their sleep.

Here are some examples of white noise:

  • The sound of a fan or air conditioner running.
  • Radio static or TV static.
  • Shushing or “shhh” sounds made by parents to calm their baby.
  • White noise machines or apps that produce a constant hissing or static sound.

What is brown noise?

It’s similar to white noise but has more power in the lower frequencies, giving it a deeper, gentler sound. Brown noise offers a more soothing and relaxing experience for some babies, helping them drift into a peaceful slumber. The subtle sway of brown noise is like a lullaby, easing your little one into dreamland.

Some parents find that brown noise is less harsh and more pleasant to listen to over long periods than white noise.

Here are some examples of brown noise:

  • The gentle sound of a waterfall or a babbling brook.
  • Soft thunder or a distant rumble of thunder.
  • The low hum of a car engine or the rumble of a train passing in the distance.

What is pink noise? 

Pink noise is the happy middle ground between white and brown noise. With equal energy per octave, it’s smoother and softer than white noise, yet not as deep as brown noise. Pink noise provides a comforting background sound that feels gentle on your baby’s ears.

Research suggests that pink noise can promote deeper sleep and improved sleep quality for some infants.

Here are some examples of pink noise:

  • The sound of steady rain falling.
  • The rustling of leaves in a gentle breeze.
  • Waves crashing on the shore with a consistent rhythm.
  • A heartbeat sound, like the steady thumping of a mother’s heart heard in the womb.
  • Pink noise machines.

Finding the perfect match for your baby

Every baby is unique, and what works wonders for one might not have the same effect on another. So, how can you find the perfect noise match for your little one’s sleep routine? Here are 8 tips:

  1. Observe and experiment: Pay attention to your baby’s reactions to different noises. Notice how they respond and if any particular sound seems to calm them or help them sleep better.
  2. Start with pink noise: Pink noise is a great starting point, as it’s a soothing symphony between white and brown noise, so many babies find it comforting. If your baby enjoys it, you can stick with it. If not, don’t worry—try brown or white noise to see if they respond better to a different sound.
  3. Use it consistently: By playing your chosen noise during sleep times each day, your baby will come to associate the sound with sleep, making it easier for them to relax and fall asleep when they hear it.
  4. Use timers or continuous play: Some noise machines or apps offer timer settings, allowing you to set a specific duration for the sounds to play. Alternatively, you can choose continuous play if your baby sleeps longer or needs a more consistent sound throughout the night.
  5. Combine with other sleep strategies: While white, brown, and pink noise can be beneficial, consider combining them with other sleep strategies, such as a consistent bedtime routine, swaddling, or gentle rocking, to create a comprehensive and calming sleep environment for your baby.
  6. Be mindful of sleep safety: Always prioritise safe sleep practices. Ensure that the noise machine or device is placed at a safe distance from your baby’s sleep area and that cords or cables are securely out of reach.
  7. Ensure it isn’t too loud: Always ensure that the noise machine’s volume is at a safe level to avoid any potential harm to your baby’s hearing.
  8. Consult your paediatrician: If you have any concerns or questions about using noise machines for your baby’s sleep, don’t hesitate to talk to your paediatrician. They can offer guidance tailored to your baby’s specific needs.


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