White noise is the sound of home for newborns. Designed to mimic the comforting whooshing of the womb, it’s a static sound that stays on one frequency (consistent rain, a whirring fan or a heartbeat, for example). It can help block out the sound of a noisy household and calm an unsettled baby and — for some — send them to sleep.
There are several ways to play calming noises, including toys, devices, apps and streaming services. According to Sophie Giles, founder of family consultancy Gentle Start, the sound should be repetitive (a pause or sharp change might wake a dozing child) and last for 20 minutes or more (the average sleep cycle of a newborn).
“White noise is most beneficial from birth until four months,” advises Giles. “At that point, a baby’s development usually accelerates and parents can experience the exhausting four-month sleep regression, so it is better to switch to pink noise, a more sensory sound such as rainstorms or waves, which helps children not only fall asleep but stay asleep.”
We asked a panel of parenting experts — from sleep consultants and postnatal doulas to a paediatrician and an editor of a parenting website — for their top-rated devices. Read on for the best portable device, the best sleep soundtrack, and the best cuddly toy sleep aid.
Best overall sleep device
myHummy bears, which were recommended by two of our experts, come in several styles and colours. London-based sleep consultant Marta Gardner recommends its Simon bear (£49.95), a traditional-looking teddy, because of its 12-hour nonstop mode (“Order a large stock of backup batteries for that,” she advises). Gardner likes its intuitive cry sensor that “ideally will send your baby off to sleep before you get woken and have to spend long periods shushing them.” It plays five sounds — white noise, pink noise, rainfall, ocean waves, and amniotic fluid with a heartbeat — and comes with a free teething ring.
Jade Crow, branded buyer at JoJo Maman Bébé, singles out the myHummy Mini, which has the same functions as the Simon bear, minus the 12-hour nonstop mode. “I’ve bought this for several friends’ baby showers,” she says, citing its “easy single-button operation” particularly helpful for new parents. The 15-by-15 cm bear face has a Velcro strap, suitable for fitting to a wrist, buggy, car seat, or cot. Crow likes how “the sounds fade out gently after 60 minutes but the 12-hour standby sleep sensor will reactivate if the baby stirs at any point.”
A note on safety, according to the Lullaby Trust, “a clear cot is a safe cot,” so toys and devices should be left outside the cot until a baby is old enough to roll and sit up, usually around six months.
Best (less expensive) sleep device
Sussex parenting blogger Nilly Dahlia has three children: Aayla, 2; Ascia, 4; and Kamil, 6. When Dahlia was pregnant with Aayla, she would bundle her two older children into the double buggy, attach this portable Soother Owl, and set off on long walks. “I managed to get fresh air and steps in,” she recalls. “By the time we came back home, I also had two fast-asleep kids.” This device, with its wipe-clean plastic shell, isn’t going to replace a cuddly teddy, but it does offer two lullabies, two natural sounds (waves and rainforest), and an automatic off timer for 15, 30, and 60 minutes. Dahlia began weaning her children off this device when they were around 2–3 years old, “slowly reducing the volume of the noise gradually each day over the course of a week until it was almost silent.”
Best cuddly sleep device
“This is always a real hit with babies,” says Susie Boone, editorial director of MadeForMums.com. “It has all the sleep-aid elements you would expect — cute features, soft music, and the soothing sounds of white noise, heartbeats, womb sounds, and gentle snoring. But there is a special feature that makes it stand out: Its illuminated tummy moves up and down with a breathing motion.” Each soundtrack plays for 30 minutes, and the sounds, light, and breathing can be isolated to play individually or set to play all together.
Jade Crow also recommends British brand Snüz, highlighting its “contemporary style and amazing functionality,” which continues through to smaller accessories. She especially likes the SnüzCloud Sleep Aid, “a supersoft cloud with sleeping eyes.” The minimalist device has four sounds — including pink noise — and two light options, both of which play on 20-minute cycles. Operation is simple, with each click of the left side of the toy introducing a different sound, and each click of the right side changing the light. It’s secured via a Velcro strap, so it can be attached to a cot, but also a car seat or buggy.
When Nilly Dahlia’s third child, Aayla, was born in 2018, she used this velvety owl teddy to soothe her — and only stopped using it recently. “It’s brilliant because it’s charged via USB, which is much more cost effective than battery-operated devices and I don’t have to worry about batteries getting into the hands of my children,” says Dahlia. “The most handy feature is the cry sensor that restarted the white noise as soon as Aayla started to cry.” Ollie, which has a faint glowing tummy, plays four sounds — lullaby, white noise, heartbeat, and rainfall — for 20 minutes each, and the cry sensor stays on standby for three hours. There’s also a teddy and panda version.
Best white noise sleep device
“White noise isn’t the solution to every sleep issue, but this device is a firm favourite of mine,” says Marta Gardner. “It’s a reliable, no-frills, reasonably priced white-noise machine that can stay on all night.” The speaker has buttons on the outer rim, plays three variations of white noise, and features a light “bright enough for nighttime nappy changes.” It’s charged via a USB port and comes with a buggy clip. Gardner recommends fully charging it and “taking it out in the buggy or car to help re-create your baby’s sleep environment wherever you are.”
Best pink noise sleep device
For babies nearing the 4-month mark, or beyond it, pink noise is a more suitable sound to help them settle and stay asleep. Sophie Giles recommends Polish brand Whisbear’s Humming Bunny because “it lasts 40 minutes, so it won’t be turning off just as your baby goes into a different sleep cycle.” The sensor is sensitive enough to be effective “but not so much it turns on when your baby rolls over.” Giles suggests using this from four months, day and night, but to avoid dependency, take it away for at least one nap a day. “When you’re ready to wean your child off it, you can gradually reduce the noise, and eventually replace the device with a Jellycat, which has a similar feel.” For babies unable to roll over, this can be attached to cot bars by its magnetised paws. [Editor’s note: Whisbear have temporarily paused shipments to the U.K due to Brexit; you can find more information on their website].
Over 1 million Ewans have been sold since it launched in 2009, and Susie Boone declares it “the godfather of the baby sleep-aid world.” Boone singles out the Deluxe edition, which has all the functionality of the original Ewan combined with a new four-hour cry sensor and machine washable material. “It has soothing 20-minute-long sounds, including a calming human voice saying, ‘Shush,’ which is really effective at getting babies to drop off to sleep,” she says. “There’s also a vacuum-cleaner sound, rainfall, harp music, and womb sounds, gently backed with a resting heartbeat.” There’s a subtle light in the toy’s centre, and it can be attached to a cot by the Velcro tail.
Sleep scientist Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans works with clients in the U.K. and U.S. and recommends the SoundSpa to new parents, particularly for those who are going on holiday or staying with family and need a simple device to mask erratic sounds and re-create the settled environment of home. This is a minimalist device, with basic but essential noises — heartbeat, white noise, ocean, and a lullaby — and a timer that can be set for 15, 30, or 45 minutes, plus adjustable volume. However, Flynn-Evans is cautious about cranking up your SoundSpa: “Louder white noise is not necessarily better,” she warns. “The World Health Organization suggests noise in the bedroom environment should be kept below 35 dB, which doesn’t mean the white noise has to be that quiet, but that the noise that reaches a child’s ear shouldn’t exceed 35 dB.” There’s no light on this device and that’s intentional — “light is a cue to tell the body clock to be awake.”
Dr. Kiran Rahim, a paediatrician at Barking and Dagenham Hospital, who posts under @TheMunchingMedic on Instagram, recommends two apps: White Noise Generator for Android and MyNoise for iPhone. “A lot of parents I’ve worked with have used these apps with real success,” says Rahim. “White Noise Generator, which plays calming sounds on a loop and has a timer, can be useful for babies who live with lots of other people and are used to noise — silence can be difficult for them.”
MyNoise, on the other hand, has eight free calming tracks, each of which can be set to play on a timer and the function to customise the individual sounds, such as bass and treble, within each track. Additional songs cost 99 pence each. “You should only use these apps alongside a healthy sleep routine, which includes teaching your children sleep cues and learning about what your particular baby needs,” says Rahim. She recommends the device be placed around six feet away from the baby to protect their hearing.
Vibha Donne, a doula and mindfulness teacher in Lewes, has seen clients use all sorts of sleep devices, but the one that stands out is the Baby Shusher. “It emits a human voice saying ‘shush’ on a 15- or 30-minute timer,” says Donne. “The human voice is calming to babies and they connect to it.” It’s essentially a small speaker with a strap (a useful addition when walking around with a fractious baby), but Donne has been impressed by the response from her client’s babies. “I worked with a couple who had twins, and I recommended they used it at the start of naps, when the babies were drowsy, for just half an hour, to help their babies drop into sleep,” she says. “They used it from birth, and their twins were amazing sleepers.” The device is designed to sit up in the corner of a cot, but the strap allows it to be attached to cot bars, a buggy bar, or car seat.
Best playlists on Spotify and Amazon Music
Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s informative parenting books are well-known among parents, but less known are her soothing soundtracks, which can be bought for 99 pence each on Amazon Music. They are the only noise soundtracks Hertfordshire-based doula and sleep consultant Saima Kara recommends to her clients. “Sarah and her husband, Ian, a musician, created an album of alpha music — simplistic 60 bpm music with no voices, and very repetitive — that takes us into a state of deep relaxation,” says Kara. “It is regular and consistent noise, which is good so the baby can go through their sleep cycle with no change in their surroundings — something that can trigger babies to wake.” There are six tracks: One and two are for birth to 3 months, and songs three to six are for 4 months to adulthood. “The tracks can be bought individually, and I recommend one track on repeat all night, as part of a wider sleep routine,” says Kara.
For a Spotify alternative, Nilly Dahlia suggests, White Noise for Babies (10+ Hours) Relaxing Sounds to Help Soothe Your Baby, compiled by Sean Thurley-Purcill, the founder of Australian nature recording studio Stardust Vibes. There are 43 tracks, including crashing waves, rainstorms, waterfalls, and snowstorms. “We still use it sometimes now, just to calm the kids rather than get them to sleep,” says Dahlia.
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