The Magic in Sound Machines

One of the first items many new parents put on their baby registry is a sound machine. At least I did. And the only reason I did was because my nieces had a sound machine when they would sleep, so I figured I’d get one, too.

But aside from wanting one just because my nieces had one, I didn’t really understand the value in a sound machine until my daughter arrived. And then we used one all the time.

A sound machine is a great addition when creating the ideal sleep environment, and it’s one of the first tools I recommend parents get when they’re wanting to address challenges with their children’s sleep.

Let’s talk about the benefits of a sound machine below, and why I think you should invest in one today.

Sound Machines Work Wonders at Drowning Out Noise

Many parents know the feeling. You just got your child down to sleep after a rough evening, you walk out of the room, sit down, and BOOM. It happens.

The doorbell rings.

A car alarm goes off.

Your other child screams.

The dog starts barking.

The neighbor decides now is the perfect time to crank the radio at their backyard party.

Without fail, once that noise penetrates the walls of the room, your precious child’s eyes pop open and all of the hard work you put in just goes down the drain.

Maybe that’s a little extreme and doesn’t happen regularly, but I guarantee you, if your child is waking early in the morning or throughout the night, there is probably a noise that is causing them to wake. Test it out. Sit in your child’s room in silence and listen. Is it 100% quiet all the time? If not, any noise has the potential to wake your sleeping bug.

For this reason, sound machines are gold. They can create a buffer between your child and the commotion of the world outside of their room.

If you have other children or live in a noisy area, it’s perfectly okay to have two sound machines going while your child sleeps.

Now this may seem like a no-brainer. Duh, Katie. Of course sound machines drown out outside noise. Really, that’s the reason I also put a portable sound machine on my registry. I figured when we were in the car or going on walks, the sound machine could help drift my baby to sleep.

But until you have a sleeping child in your house, you really don’t understand the importance of creating an environment that is conducive to sleep. And the sound machine? That’s the first step.

Sound Machines Can Comfort Your Child

Even if they don’t put a sound machine on the registry, there’s a reason many parents still receive sound machines for baby showers.

Certain sounds can calm your child, especially when they’re a newborn. When your child is inside of the womb, it’s not a silent atmosphere. Aside from your heartbeat, they can hear all of your inner-workings – the swooshing of your blood, your lunch digesting, and of course, the work that you’re engaged in.

When they come into the world, silence can sometimes be an adjustment. Having a heartbeat noise going can be relaxing for your baby who is so used to hearing the constant beating of your heart.

In fact, when we were in the hospital after giving birth to my daughter, one of the first suggestions from our nurse was to find a heartbeat noise and play it on our phones…which my husband did, causing his phone battery to quickly drain (pro tip: be sure to pack chargers with long cables in your hospital bag).

Sound Machines Cue Your Baby That it’s Bedtime

Once you establish a routine, your child can begin to anticipate what comes next. There’s a reason your toddler may begin crying once you turn off the TV and say it’s bathtime – they know that after that, it’s bedtime and the playing will end.

This happens with small babies also. When they hear the sound machine, their bodies begin to anticipate sleep.

This is really no different than the external cues you have, whether that’s the smell of coffee in the morning to begin to wake you up or the drowsiness that sets in as soon as you finish your evening shower.

By creating a consistent environment, your child’s body will tune in to the cues that it’s time for bed and will begin settling in for the night.

What Sounds on the Machine are Best for Sleep?

Ultimately, the sounds that you play on the sound machine are up to you. As long as it’s consistent and not changing from day-to-day, the sounds can help your child sleep.

Heartbeats: A heartbeat is a great option for babies since they are used to that noise. Additionally, the thuds will help prevent any startling that could occur from other household noises.

Crickets/Waterfall/Nature Sounds: The swooshing of nature sounds can mimic the sounds your child is used to from the womb.

Lullabies: Lullabies are calming and can work well to settle a crying, upset child. The change in rhythm and volume that aren’t typical with nature sounds will help settle your child.

What the Research Says

Sound machines have been used for many years and have been a staple in many nurseries. However, just as with anything concerning your child, you always want to ensure you’re following recommended guidelines and following along with the research.

In April 2014, Pediatrics published findings from a study in Infant Sleep Machines and Hazardous Sound Pressure Levels. In the article, the researchers present the idea that sound machines too close to the baby or playing too loudly can impact children’s speech and language development, as well as negatively impact their hearing.

Additionally, the researchers claimed that since white noise has very little variety in intensity, prolonged usage of white noise could impact the frequency map of the brain.

The recommendations: Place the sound machine further away from your child’s bed and make sure it’s not louder than 50 dB – you can download a free decibel meter app on your phone and test the output of your machine.

With the variations of sounds available on machines, it’s easy to find one that has varying intensities — lullabies, rainfall, and nature noises.

There is no greater joy than bringing home your child from the hospital and placing them in their own crib. As you embark on your journey of parenthood, I hope to provide tips and solutions backed in research that will help make your experience a little less stressful so that you can place your focus where it should be – your child.

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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