My 2-year-old son Wyatt has so many wonderful gifts. He’s amazing with words, he’s awesome with music and you should see this guy do a puzzle. (I have often joked that if there was a Bobby Fischer of puzzles, it would be Wyatt.) But unfortunately, being a solid sleeper has never been one of them.
After many sleep deprived days and nights on both our ends, I recalled I had a baby shower gift tucked in the back of his closet: a sound machine. I yanked that bad boy out and plugged it in. The sound setting was white noise, but to me, it sounded like angels singing as my little baby drifted into a restful sleep.
Why might your child need a sound machine?
According to Dr. Leyla Akanli, MD, Pediatric Sleep Medicine Specialist at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, IN, my son was a pretty good candidate for a child who could benefit from a sound machine. “Any normal infant, specifically through the first six months of life, can have sleep awakenings or sleep arousals every 20 minutes or so,” says Dr. Akanli. “Some children can easily go back to sleep without an actual awakening, and some, what is labeled as “light sleepers,” may have a hard time if there is anything going on in the environment that is disturbing them.”
Disruptions such as older children, small living parameters, shared bedrooms and loud conditions outside can all have an impact on a child’s sleep. “In those types of circumstances, some children can benefit from a white noise machine,” says Dr. Akanli.
Beyond getting babies to go to sleep and stay asleep, sound machines can also be beneficial to our littles one during stressful times such as teething or when they are being weaned from something like being swaddled or rocked.
What are the pros and cons of having a sound machine?
While a white noise machine may sound like a dream come true to exhausted parents, Dr. Akanli cautions that there are pros and cons to consider when introducing a sound machine to your home. “In the 1990s, there was an article published in Archives of Disease In Childhood that found that utilizing a white noise machine can help children fall asleep faster, and stay asleep," says Dr. Akanli.
That said, we need to make sure all that soothing and calming is kept at a reasonable and recommended volume. “There was a study in 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics which looked into the commercial white noise machines of that time,” says Dr. Akanli. The study found that of the 14 machines that were tested, all exceeded the recommended 50 decibel requirement. “There was a concern that these machines could cause hearing impairment [and] development disabilities such as language and speech problems, which is a result of the hearing issues,” warns Dr. Akanli.
When introducing a sound machine, be sure your device adheres to the recommended sound levels, and that it’s at least seven feet from your child’s crib, Dr. Akanli advised.
What features should I look for when shopping for a sound machine?
Sound machines of today include a plethora of tones and adorable features, but when it comes to lulling and keeping your baby asleep, fancy and exotic sounds may not be necessary. “In utero is a very noisy environment,” says Dr. Akanli. “Some of that noise is filtered through the uterus walls and the amniotic fluid, and what the child hears is more of a thunderous rumble,” adds Dr. Akanli.
Finding a similar sound that reminds your child of their time on the inside versus chirping birds or ocean waves may help in capturing that soothing and calming effect that parents are looking for. Dr. Akanli also suggests utilizing sound machines primarily overnight and allow children to self-soothe during their daytime naps.
While some children may zen out by the sweet sweet sounds of their sound machine, for others, it might not be their jam. “Not all children need a sound machine,” says Dr. Akanli. “In fact, for some children, they might not even like it, and it may have a negative impact on sleep.”
Much with everything that goes along with parenting, introducing a sound machine is a roll of the dice. Either way, if you're looking to test the boundaries of sleep and sound, here are some great machines to get them snoozing.
Top-rated sound machines for children
This sound machine got a lot of love from the moms in my circle. Designed for the modern nursery, this sound machine can be controlled remotely from your smartphone. Adjust the volume or nightlight brightness from the comfort of your couch. For parents with older kids, you can even set an alarm so your child knows when it’s okay to get up or — more importantly — how much longer they can stay in bed.
This is one of the sound machines in my arsenal. Easy to use and easy to transport, this sound machine features six soothing sounds and can run continuously or be set at 15-, 30- or 60-minute intervals.
If your baby is finicky to sounds, this machine will give them a bunch of options to choose from. This unit features 10 electric fan sounds and 10 white noise sounds.
Easy to use and afford, this machine features six soothing sounds that keep the unwanted noise out and the sleepy sounds in.
This precious little machine featuring an adorable fox, a gentle melody and a peaceful light show. It goes just as well in mom’s room as it does in baby’s.
Beloved since 1962, this sound machine is a classic unit. This machine features two restful fan-based settings, which bring the comforting sounds of rushing air minus the disruptive feeling of actual moving air.
Another smart choice that connects to your smartphone, this pretty and peaceful machine can play anything from a sweet lullaby to nature sounds to white noise. If your child needs the comfort of a nightlight or would just enjoy a starry or animal-filled light projection, this machine has you covered.
Bring the sounds of sleep with your baby wherever you go with this portable and attachable unit. Great for home use or on-the-go, this machine will play your little one a melody or an ambient sound with just the push of a button. As an added bonus, the monkey’s cheeks double as a nightlight.
This precious wall unit doesn’t just do the job — it establishes a routine. This machine helps your child settle into a sleep routine all the way from newborn to age 8. Babies come for the white noise, while the 6-year old-sticks around for the fun and friendly bedtime routine reminders. This unit can also be managed via smartphone.
This subtle, soothing sound machine says, “Yes, I look like a unicorn, but I don’t have to flaunt it.” Featuring six sleep sounds, it's as compact as it is cute.
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