When I was a new dad, I remember how important getting sleep was. Having your little one wake you up because they’ve been disturbed by normal house sounds is terrible! If you’re getting less sleep than you should be (and let’s face it, most new parents are), maybe it’s time you tried out a baby sound machine to help your little one sleep through the night.
With so many choices out there for baby sound machines it may be difficult to make up your mind on the right one to purchase. I will go into detail about the different kind of sound machines you can get (yes, there are different types of baby sound machines!). I’ll talk about how to compare them and outline the best ones available.
Always up to date Baby Sound Machine FAQ
This is the section where all your questions are answered. I will keep it updated as new information becomes available, or if anyone has any questions that may be of use to other people.
What is a sound machine?
A sound machine is a device that plays a series of sounds or white noise to help a baby to sleep. Sounds can include rain noise, womb /heartbeat noise, rainforest noise, city / street noise other various nature noises and many others. Here is a link to an example of white noise.
Sound machines can also be referred to as:
- Noise machine
- White noise machine
- Sound conditioner
- Noise generator
- Sound therapy machine
What is white noise?
White noise is a type of noise that is produced by combining 20,000 sounds of all different tones together. If you took all the tones the human ear can hear and mixed them together you would be listening to white noise.
The difference between a white noise machine and a sound machine
A baby white noise machine plays only the 20,000 tones that make up white noise. A sound machine plays all sorts of different sounds that were listed above.
Often the two terms are interchangeable as most sound machines include a white noise option.
Why are sound machines effective?
White noise is a mixture of 20,000 different tones it is often used to mask other sounds. This will help your baby tune out or just not hear any of the nighttime sounds the house makes – hopefully resulting in more sleep for you and your partner!
The constant and consistent sound a white noise produces in the room is soothing to baby because the womb is anything but quiet. Between the mother’s heartbeat, digestive tract and all the other peripheral noise of day to day life, it can be unsettling for a young baby to go to sleep in a very quiet room. Additionally their startle reflex (when baby’s throw their arms in the air) is very immature at this point in development and can be triggered by an unexpected noise in a quiet room. Masking these sounds with a sound machine will help baby sleep as long as they need to (which is never long enough, but it’s better than being jolted awake in the middle of their sleep time!).
The different types of baby sound machines
Who knew there were different TYPES of baby sound machines?! Next I go through some different types of sound machines for babies that are currently available on the market.
Plug in sound machine
A good choice as a permanent fixture in a nursery or bedroom.. Sound machines that plug into an outlet offer more options and you never need to worry about batteries running out halfway through the night (although on a 3 hour sleep schedule, it might not matter).
Portable Sound machine
Portable sound machines are great for outings to the park, grocery store or anywhere your little one might drop off. Having the soothing sounds your baby is use to available at all times is worth the cost of the batteries.
Stuffed animal baby sound machine
These stuffed animals have a sound machine encased inside them. Easily integrated into a playpen, stroller or anywhere your baby might drop off. Keeping consistent sleep routines is important for babies, and having a portable, familiar white noise machine will help your baby get to sleep and stay asleep, no matter where you are. We used the sleep-sheep!
Most stuffed animals have made the sound machine part removable, allowing you to wash the stuffed animal part easily.
What to look for when comparing sound machines
With so many similar sound machines on the market, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your baby. Below are some features to look for when choosing a sound machine.
How is the sound machine powered?
Sound machines can be plugged into the wall, take batteries and some new ones are even powered by USB cable. The battery powered sound machines have the added benefit of being totally portable, but they can get costly over time and the battery could give out at an inopportune time. Unfortunately most battery powered sound machine’s do not have the ability to charge while plugged in, so if you want to plug one in while in use you’ll need to purchase more than one product.
Does the sound machine come with a remote control
Some sound machines come with a remote control. I’ve used remote controls on my car stereo, so this seems like a perk that would seem unnecessary. But being able to turn the sound machine on while you sneak out of your baby’s room is absolutely priceless.
Does the sound machine come with a sleep timer?
Some sound machines come with a sleep timer. A sleep timer will automatically turn off the sound machine after a pre-determined amount of time.
Most battery powered sound machines have the sleep timer built in and prevent you from being able to leave the baby sound machine on all night. This is done to conserve batteries, but this feature should influence your purchase. We own a sleep sheep and a plugged in sound machine; one for naps and one permanently in my daughter’s room.
What sounds does the machine make?
Sound machines can generate a wide variety of sounds and melodies. Some commonly generated sounds include:
- Heartbeat- A beating Wub-Dub sound
- Nursery melody – A instrumental melody
- Animal sounds – Birds, whales etc.
- Ambient nature sounds- Waves, waterfalls, etc.
- White noise – A fuzzy static sound
Best sound machines for your baby
Now that you know how to compare sound machines, here is an overview of some of the sound machines available.
Best plugin white noise machine
Marpac Natural White Noise Machine
Styles:Black, Tan, White, Fog White
Amazon Price & Reviews
Marpac has thought this sound machine through. Inside is a fan that gives a constant “whoosh” sound. This can be adjusted with adjusting the vents on the outside of the machine. The bottom is padded to ensure no vibration or variation in the noise. With over 4,000 five star reviews on Amazon this is a very popular sound machine and would do well in a nursery or a student dorm.
Best stuffed animal sound machine
Styles: Sheep, Fox, Giraffe, Bunny and Monkey
Brand: Cloud b
Amazon Price & Reviews
The Cloud b Sleep Sheep has become almost a traditional baby shower gift. I knew about the sleep sheep before I saw the sleep sheep (you do a lot of reading when you’re preparing to be a dad). These are very popular and I was glad to have it in the hospital on the first night of my daughter’s life. The Sleep Sheep can also be purchased as a fox, giraffe, bunny and monkey as Cloud b has expanded their line.
Powered by two AA batteries (which are included in the packaging) the Sleep Sheep is capable of producing eight different sounds:
- Twinkle- Twinkle
- Rockabye Baby
- Classic Lullaby
- Whale song
- Tranquil Melody
The sleep sheep allows for easy washing as the sound machine part comes out and you can toss the stuffed animal skin into the washing machine. The sleep sheep attaches easily to cribs or anywhere you want to secure it through the built in Velcro strap.
Best portable sound machine
Styles: As pictured
This is a minimalist approach to a baby sound machine. It’s not cute, or cuddly. It only has 4 sounds, but for the price it does the job surprisingly well. The sound spa is easy to use. Volume adjustment is simple, and the sound machine will play continuously until turned off, perfect for babies that need continuous sound while sleeping. The SoundSpa also has a button which turns on a 10 min sleep timer if you want it to automatically turn off.
The sounds included are:
- White Noise
The SoundSpa is powered by 3 AAA batteries which are not included. This is likely due to how inexpensive this option is. This sound machine is 1/3 the price of all the others on this list.
Free alternatives to sound machines
White noise is fairly easy to create from items you may have around the house. If you want to try out a baby white noise machine before you purchase one here are a few ideas.
Use an old alarm clock radio
These days most people use their phones as an alarm clock (well, my wife and I do, anyway). So if you have an old alarm clock with a built in radio, you’ve already got a plug in sound machine. Just tune the radio to an empty frequency. This is pretty much what white noise is. Of course, if you’re looking for a heart beat sound, or the sound of rain, you’d be out of luck; but this should give you a good idea if a sound machine would work for your baby.
Use a fan
For a few years my wife and I used a fan as our only sound machine. The winter time was cold, but the whirr of our tall pedestal fan provided a suitable white noise solution for a while. We switched to a sound machine to have more control over the specific sound that came out, and because the fan started to vibrate in a weird way that made my wife fixate on it.
Make your own Sound machine
Again, you probably have old mp3 players laying around your house. Maybe even computer speakers, or an old ipod dock radio. If you do, you have most of what is needed to easily create a dedicated sound machine. It may not be the prettiest solution, but it’ll do the job and be much more versatile than even some sound machine’s on the list.
Sound machine for under $20 @ Instructables: This instructable even shows you how to create your own white noise right on your own computer. Fairly straight forward guide and good solid instructions.
Custom White Noise Machine: This project takes what the Marpac does and uses a .99 cent dollar store fan and a coffee can to accomplish the same type of sound. A little more complicated, but will give you a mechanical white noise machine that will last.