What’s the deal with using White Noise for Babies and their Sleep?
White noise is one of the aids often suggested to help those who are struggling with a baby who doesn’t like to settle. Some parents swear by it, others not so much. As always, every child is different and will respond in their own way. Here is what you need to know about using white noise for babies sleep.
What is white noise?
“White Noise” is a term used to describe a noise produced by combining all different frequencies of sound together and is often used to mask other environmental sounds. Sometimes the term is also used to describe a monotonous or repetitive sound also used to drown out other sounds.
How do we get white noise?
Some people will obtain a recording of “white noise” – whether that be a random selection of frequencies of sound (much like the old fuzzy static noise you might get when your radio or television wasn’t tuned in to a channel …… yes, pre-digital) or a recording of something like the sound of the womb. There are a number of apps and other devices on the market which can be purchased that produce white noise. Turning on a fan or washing machine can produce a similar sound effect. We even tend to instinctively produce a white noise sound effect when we start “shushing” a distressed baby.
How can white noise settle our babies?
The theory is that the white noise will cancel out or drown out abrupt environmental noises (like other small children, dishes clanging, traffic) and fill the silences. Also, as babies are accustomed to a constant rhythmic sound in the womb, the sound is believed to seem familiar and reassuring to your baby.
Other baby settling tips can be found here.
You are not alone! If you’re struggling with a baby who doesn’t want to settle at sleep time, the Baby Hints and Tips community is standing by to share their experiences and put your mind at ease. We asked our community about their experiences using white noise to settle their baby and here’s what they had to say.
Medical disclaimer: Tips provided need to be considered in conjunction with medical advice. For immediate concerns, please contact HealthDirect (Australia wide) ph 1800 022 222 to talk to a registered nurse 24hrs a day, and in emergencies call 000
Q: I’d like some suggestions on using white noise for babies to help them sleep. Any recommendations on what to buy/use? Also, is the noise supposed to be on all night and every nap time? Baby and I need some sleep!
- Put your baby in the room nearest the laundry and put your washing machine on. It worked for all of my kids and my nearly 14yo still uses it to help her sleep if she is having trouble. Bonus is, she puts the washing on herself now – Kyra
- White noise definitely helped my babies – Simone
- Radio on static all night and day. Works best if no timer as bub wakes when noise stops. Don’t waste money on white noise machines that turn off after 40mins – Tash
- If you want something cute you could buy Ewan the Dream Sheep. It plays white noise and a heart beat etc. We use it for naps, and through the night if bub is unsettled. It calms him down. This is something we just can’t live without – Olivia
- Download a white noise app to help baby sleep. We had an old phone we used with an app on it and played white noise all night. Sometimes we would turn it off during the night before we went to bed. Didn’t use it as much at nap time unless we were out – Amanda
- We use an app for the sound of rain. Use it for all day and night sleep on a low volume. We use the iPad – Leesa
- Use a Fan – Donna
- Baby shusher – Jenny
- Just downloaded the Relax Melodies app thanks to a suggestion here and promptly lost an hour as I laid down to bf my 5 month old to the sound of waves rolling in lol. I am now awake and he is still sleeping peacefully – Jennifer
- I use the ‘sound sleeper’ app on my phone and it was free. Seems to really help my son to relax and fall asleep – Renee
- I wouldn’t give a baby a habit if they didn’t need it. If baby sleeps well without it, why bother. Like, are you going to take the machine with you when you’re away from home – Bernadette
- I have a 13 month old and have used white noise pretty much since he was born. I still use it to get him off to sleep. I use the Simply Rain app on my phone and play via a little blue tooth speaker in his room. Just use when he going off to sleep now as we have a small house and it blocks out the noise from the rest of the house. I go into his room and turn off once he is asleep. It has worked great for us – Danielle
- I use an old noisy fan and turn it on every time he sleeps. It’s the only sound he likes and doesn’t like a recording of a fan – Veronique
- I have a free app that has great white-noise. Check the app store (or play store). You can choose from all different sounds and even mix them together however you want. Its called Relax Melodies – I think others have mentioned it too, its fantastic – Rebecca
- I brought a baby shusher for my second daughter from com.au as my first was not a good sleeper. I used it from her first week of life. It has been an absolute life saver and soothes her right away. It has 2 time settings for 15 and 30 minutes. Really easy to use and very portable. I use mine more than once every single day (my daughter is nearly 4 months now). Definitely worth every penny! Check out the website for more info – Aimee
- White noise is ok to get them to sleep for 30mins or so but if you want to keep something on all night/day then look for relaxation music and not too loud white noise can be bad for hearing if on too long or too loud – Chantelle
- I use a CD called Peace Baby (use to be able to buy it from woolies in the baby section). It’s lovely, 6 tracks of different instrumental ‘songs’ that I keep on repeat. It’s simply like background music and quiet to listen to through monitor for us at night time too – Kelly
- I used a free white noise app downloaded from App Store – think it’s called white noise HD – Megan
- My Kinesiologist relieved me of this pain within a day of her working on this.. Amazing – Sue-Anne
- My son has a lullaby seahorse for home, and a lullaby scout puppy thing for in the car or outings. Only used for nap time during the day. And my night time alternative was vacuuming….. The sound of the vacuum at night calmed him down somehow – Sherral
- Sound sleeper app? Has different noises – Liz
- I use soft playing classical music. I leave it on for naps during the day but turn it off at night when I go to bed – Tina
- Relax melodies app on an old iPod. I play it for every nap and all night. If anything it helps block out the noise we make while eating dinner, watching tv etc. He can sleep without it as he does so at my mums place but I like it so that we don’t feel like we have to creep around – Karli
- I used the White Noise app from Google Play. It didn’t really work for my little one (now 6wks old) – Sandra
- Totally in love with the Baby Shusher! Baby Shusher Australia. Similar to white noise but soooo much better. Calms fussy babies and toddlers quickly by shushing. It is pretty much a baby sleep miracle. I still use on my 3 year old to calm him down before bed – Fiona
- I tried many types of white noise aps and my bubs hated them all. Was worth a try though – Kelly
- I use a free one called white noise and use the washing machine sound. I only use it for her naps and not at night, but you can use it for night too – Leah
- If you have a smartphone, you can download apps. There are quite a few but I like “Sleep Bug” as you can adjust the volume level of different aspect of the white noise, for instance, LO likes the beach noises and you also add wind chimes, boats, waves and seagulls at different volume levels, whichever works best for bubs. Another one is “White Noise” if you prefer simple noise like vacuums, fans, washing machines, womb sounds etc – Tanya
- We used a fan facing the corner, just to put him off to sleep at night and turned it off when we went to bed – Wendy
- Cloud B Gentle Giraffe is amazing – has white noise as well as other options of soothing sounds & lullabys, heart beat etc (really helped with colic baby) I still sometimes use it to put my 4 month to sleep or she just enjoys the sounds & it’s soft. It’s great for drowning out external noises. It has two options of time duration longest being 45 minutes I reset by pushing the button again to get maximum time I bought it on line Oz sale I have also seen it in baby shops there is a lamb also. I also have one for the car bought from Baby Bunting, I think the brand is VTech ? “My baby” is the only writing on it and has heartbeat, waves, lullaby, white noise static. It is made out of plastic so just clips onto capsule straps. Hope that helps – Aime Jasmin
- We put a fish tank in our sons room. The filter noise kinda does the same job as white noise and the boys love to look at the fish when awake – Lisa
- I use the White Noise app on my tablet. It was free. I leave on the change table and it goes all night. About 8-10 sounds to choose from – Sheri
- I had an iPod touch I didn’t use and old speakers I kept for bubs room, downloaded white noise onto it and it stays in her room and I put it on whenever I put her down for sleep. My little girl has put herself to sleep since she was about 10 weeks old, the white noise really did settle her down and I could see her eyes getting every all the time as soon as I put it on – Samantha
- White noise wasn’t as good as getting audiobooks and playing them low. My daughter loves the Harry Potter series read by Stephen fry – Toni
- You can buy a white noise machine from baby hunting its $20 from memory and plays lullabys and heartbeat too. It’s great I use it in the car to calm and sometimes to go to sleep but I never leave on all night. I’d rather turn the radio on very lightly – Kerri
- Download the app Relax Melodies…there’s a wide range of noises on there to use, we find the sound of rain helps our little one… We would have it on during her day time naps, at night we would set the timer to turn it off after an hour or so…that way it wouldn’t go all night and she would keep sleeping. We found turning it off while she’s still in a light sleep would just wake her up – Liza
- There are apps on your phone that you can download. I had one that was a car noise that I could set to run for various lengths of time and when my son was a newborn I used to sit my phone next to his cot and put it on for 10 minutes and come back when it had finished and he’d be fast asleep – Laura
- I downloaded one ocean waves track from iTunes onto an old iPhone, and just have that playing on repeat all night and for all naps. Best thing is it blocks out the other noises we make in the house (we are renovating!) so we don’t have to worry so much about waking our DS up – Meagan
- My mum bought me a MyBaby Sleep thing. You get it at the baby shops. It has white noise, waves, music and heartbeat. And it has a timer. I found that it only needs to be on a timer until he falls asleep – Alecia
- I had a radio but found I got a lot of interference so brought a cheap tablet and downloaded an app which has multiple noise options. Just need to find one that has an infinite loop or timer that will go all night –Jodi
- From the day I bought my little guy home from hospital I put songs on my iPad baby lullabies with ocean sounds all that and he listens to it all night I don’t turn it off! As soon as he is in his cot Dummy in mouth music on he knows it’s sleep time he is 11 months now – Maria
- I have a fan in my sons room works well – Danielle
- I use a rain app on an old iPhone – I put it on all night and for naps in his room. We mainly use it, as noise travels in our house – Heather
- You don’t need to buy white noise. I used ones from YouTube, you can find videos with like 8 hours worth- Kendra
- We just used a radio off station….used it day and night from when he was a couple of weeks old. Worked for him, he’s been a great little sleeper – Sonya
- I use lullabies. Found that works well for my kids. There is an app you can get on your phone or iPad called sleepy sounds that I put on when both my kids sleep – Shanara
- I tried white noise however found classical music and lullabies worked better for my son. I have an old iPod in his room with a dock; I downloaded a couple albums off iTunes and put it on for naps and overnight. It’s a sleep cue for us now. We started at 3 months when we were only having 20 min naps & now we average 1.5-2hrs – Jaime
- I have waves playing on my iPad all night for my baby. And I have a machine that plays for 45mins during day sleeps. I think when I start taking him to the beach he will just fall asleep – Sally
- We use white noise for all sleeps! It has helped our 6 month old sleep a lot better! It’s also a great sleep cue for us! We use the rain track on repeat from the Dr Harvey Karp CD. But you can download free apps that have diff white noise tracks – Rachel
- I downloaded some from YouTube and put it on an old iPod we had. I leave it to run all through the night, we don’t use it for his day naps anymore – Sarah
- I just use the radio or static between stations. No need to buy anything. I use it for all naps and thru the night – Kristy
- I use an untuned radio in his room. And ‘white noise ambiance’ app when out. It is one of his sleep cues. We leave it running for all his sleeps including overnight so when he transitions between sleep cycles, everything is the same. The lower the sound frequency the better as it imitates mum’s tummy. Also, if you use an app, make sure you turn the device onto flight mode to lower the EMF in the room – Emma
- I was given a sleep sheep and loved it. You can set how long for the noise to run. I would only turn it back on when he woke up and I’d resettled him. Also, only used it at night – Danielle
- I used white noise from about 6 weeks old as my LO wouldn’t sleep longer than 20mins a stretch. At first it was for every sleep but as he got better at sleeping during the day and as his sleep cycle got a bit longer we were able to eventually turn it off. I use the ‘Relax M.P.’ white noise app for iPhones. I have an old iPhone that I leave plugged in in his room and turn it on each night. We haven’t been game enough to go without it at night yet (he is now 15months!) because he tends to wake up at 6:30 and I don’t think I could handle any earlier! I used the free version for a while until I got a video advert at 2am in the morning waking us all up. The app is only $5-$10, I think, and it’s been wonderful!! I recommend it to everyone I know who’s LO doesn’t sleep – Sinead
- MyBaby white noise machine. Love it! Portable too. I don’t think I can fall asleep without it now – Mara
- The galaxy light and sound machine is good. It has nature sounds and projects stars on the ceiling but you can just have the noises without the lights. I got mine from the Australian Geographic shop but you can get them online – Elizabeth
- I just put the radio on for day sleeps night sleeps-nothing – Amanda
- You could get a CD with lullaby music – Ash