best in class

The 6 Very Best Baby Sound Machines

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy Retailer

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If you’re struggling with your baby’s sleep schedule, you’ve probably considered a baby sound machine. And then you’ve probably despaired at the choices available to you. Do you opt for a rocket-shaped shusher or a teddy bear with a heartbeat? Do you choose white noise, brown noise, or pink noise? Can you just use the adult white-noise machine that you already own? The first thing to understand is the differences between the noises available. “White noise is the most well known of all the options,” says pediatric sleep consultant Eva Klein of My Sleeping Baby. “It is very high-pitched and sounds like static from an old TV,” plus it’s the “most effective at blocking out background noise.” Then, brown noise and pink noises are considered gentler and more relaxing by some. Pink noise is akin to natural sounds like the ocean, while brown noise can be compared to “strong wind or low thunder.”

The next thing to understand is what makes a baby sound machine great. During my research I found a study stating that some baby sound machines can exceed a safe volume when used too close to a baby, which could result in hearing damage. So you want a sound machine that can comfortably mask ambient noise while positioned at least 30 centimeters away from your child. (When I tested our best overall product — the Hatch Baby Rest — it masked noise from the street even with the window open). After that, the best baby sound machine is the one that suits your lifestyle. For instance, if you struggle to get your baby to nap while you’re out of the house, you’ll want a portable option. Or if you want a sound machine you can continue to use outside of the baby stage, you might want one that acts as a time-to-rise clock or has other downloadable content such as sleep stories for kids.

Even with those parameters, there are a lot of options with white noise machines, shushers, and machines that play heartbeat sounds or nature sounds, and it’s not always clear which one to buy. I spoke to 12 parents and experts, including pediatric sleep consultants and a family doctor, to get their recommendations for baby sound machine — and then I began to test them out. Whether you want a basic baby sound machine, a portable baby sound machine, or a sound machine that will grow with your baby into childhood, there’s an option to fit your needs. And if you’re looking for more baby sleep essentials, I’ve also written about the best cribs and the best baby mattresses.

What we’re looking for

Range of sounds

Most baby sound machines offer at least one white noise setting — some also have other noise colors, such as brown noise and pink noise. Those with heartbeat or fetal tone sounds may help to settle newborns and young infants by replicating sounds heard in the womb. There are also shusher noise machines for settling young babies that make a shushing sound similar to ones parents might make for fussy infants. I’ve focused on machines that offer a range of noises, and mentioned whether or not you can pay to access a wider sound library.

Extra features

Some parents and caregivers swear by smart features and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can change the settings via an app. Dana Oliver, founder and CEO of Adventure Kids Playcare, likes app connectivity, as it “enables parents to change settings without having to disturb the baby.” There are also some sound machines that sport clocks and time-to-rise features that are still useful as babies grow into kids. Nightlights are also useful for navigating babies’ rooms without switching the light on. I’ve considered machines both with and without smart features, as some parents find them handy and some never use them.

Best overall baby sound machine

$60

Sounds: 15 free sounds, content library access for $49.99 yearly Extra features: Nightlight, time-to-rise function, Wi-Fi connectivity, app-controlled

The Hatch Rest was recommended by five of our experts, so I wanted to try it out for myself. Getting it set up was simple. I just downloaded the app, plugged it in, connected it to my Wi-Fi network, and it was good to go. There are a total of 16 free sounds — including white noise, heartbeat, rain, and ocean — and it’s easy enough to find them in the “sleep sounds” tab of the app. When I tested the Rest overnight, I was pleased with the audio quality — there was no distortion at full volume. It blocked out the ambient noises from outside even with the window open.

The nightlight is another draw. At 50 percent brightness, I was able to navigate a room with the rest of the lights off — at full power, I can imagine being able to deal with a quick diaper change. If your child is especially sensitive to the light, I appreciated that you can switch the nightlight on and off using the on-unit controls as well as in the app. Family-medicine practitioner Dr. Laura Purdy likes to use the nightlight function for night feedings, but it’s nice for older kids too: “My daughter loves being able to pick a different nightlight color every bedtime,” notes Poppylist co-founder and CTO Tamiz Ahmed.

However, the Hatch’s time-to-rise function is what makes it our best-in-class pick. It’s a light setting that lets kids know when it’s time to get up, and it means the Hatch remains useful past babyhood. Sittercity nanny expert Jada Rashawn says it worked well with her toddler charges. “When it turned blue, my kiddos knew it was time to begin getting ready for the day, and when it turned green, it was sleepy time.” I found it easy to set a time-to-rise light using the “schedule” tab in the app. The nightlight automatically changed color at the time I set in the schedule. The whole process was super-simple to navigate. This time-to-rise function along with the sleep stories (available with the Hatch+ subscription) convince me that parents could use the Rest with their kids well into childhood. As pediatric sleep consultant Amy Motroni notes, “My daughter is 6, and we still use ours daily.”

Best (less expensive) baby sound machine

Sounds: 7 white noise, 7 fan sounds, 10 natural sounds Extra features: Nightlight

At half the price of the Hatch Rest, the Dreamegg is a good budget pick. Despite the price, Amy Johnson, a parenting blogger and mom of two under age 2, notes that it has “a fetal tone sound, which you don’t get with every sound machine,” and that this is “particularly helpful during the newborn stage.” She adds that this sound machine “calms down my baby and helps him to stay asleep.”

Johnson finds “the nightlight is the perfect hue of warm white for getting baby into sleepy mode,” and it’s also dimmable if you find it too bright. It has the most free sounds of all the machines on our list. There are 24 in total: seven types of white noise; seven fan sounds; and ten natural sounds, including rain, crickets, and waves. However, the Dreamegg needs to be plugged into an outlet, so you’ll need to consider placement.

Best portable baby sound machine

Sounds: 10 sounds Extra features: None

If you’d prefer a portable sound machine, Ahmed recommends this model by Hatch, appreciating how well it can be heard in bustling environments. Purdy likes that you can clip it “to anything from the stroller, to your baby carrier, to the car seat.” Its ability to block out sounds in noisy environments is what makes it our favorite portable option. Ahmed notes that the volume level is essential “when trying to calm your baby in a chaotic public space,” and that the Hatch’s sound coverage is the best of the “multiple portable sound machines” that he’s tried.

It is super-small, USB rechargeable, and offers ten sounds including wind, rain, fan, white noise, and ocean. The battery is rechargeable and runs for 15 hours, taking just 2 hours to charge from flat to full power. It comes in five colors — mint, peach, putty, honey, and slate.

Best white noise machine for babies

Sounds: 6 sounds Extra features: None

While this sound machine isn’t specifically designed for babies, it’s recommended by Klein, who’s uses it in her role as a pediatric sleep consultant. There are six sounds on offer: white noise, thunder, ocean, rain, summer night, and brook. It’s easy to switch between them and control the volume on the body of the machine, so there’s no messing around when you’re trying to get your child to sleep.

Klein suggests looking for a white noise machine that’s portable for use when you’re sleeping away from home, which is why she likes the Homedics SoundSleep. It measures just six inches wide and two inches high, so it’s small enough to pack, but the battery backup is a big reason why it’s one of our top picks. It can run on four AA batteries, so you can use it anywhere (although an AC adapter is included for when you have easy access to an outlet).

You can run this machine continuously all night. “The last thing you want is for the white noise to automatically shut off halfway through your little one’s nap, which can easily jolt him awake,” explains Klein. She likes that this one doesn’t switch itself off unless you choose to use the timer.

Best shushing baby sound machine

Sounds: 1 Extra features: None

More of a baby soother than a noise-blocking sound machine, the Baby Shusher is great for the early days. It’s small and wireless, running off two AA batteries. Rashawn appreciates that “it’s very versatile and easy to take on the go.” Podcast host and author Doree Shafrir agrees. This one was recommended to her by a mom friend when her son was a few weeks old, and Shafrir used it until her son was 4 months old. “It felt like a real mom word-of-mouth find,” she says.

Shafrir continues, “We had a regular noise machine, and it helped, but I think there’s something about how this thing literally goes ‘shhhhh’ in a human voice, just like a mother would.” Rashawn agrees: She says this shusher makes “nap-time soothing a success anywhere.”

Best portable sound machine with nightlight

Sounds: 3 Extra features: Nightlight

This sound machine is beloved by several Strategist editors, including senior editor Ailbhe Malone, who received it as a registry gift from New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff (who herself bought it for her son). It’s small and portable, so it’s great for travel and use out of the house. Samantha Shipp Warrick recommended it, liking that it’s “small, inexpensive, has great volume, and has a clip, so you can clip it onto your stroller, car seat, or travel crib.” It’s also a favorite of Gabby Slome of parenting platform Cooper. “I wanted something portable so we can keep the sleep environment consistent wherever we go,” she says. “I use it in the car, on planes, and in hotel rooms as well as at home.”
The Hushh can make three sounds — bright white noise, deep white noise, and gentle surf. It also has a nightlight with a gentle amber glow. It’s USB rechargeable with a battery life of at least six hours — significantly more if the nightlight is off.

Some more noise machines we’ve written about

Our experts

• Tamiz Ahmed, Poppylist co-founder and CTO
Amy Johnson, parenting blogger
• Eva Klein, pediatric sleep consultant at My Sleeping Baby.
• Dana Oliver, founder and CEO of Adventure Kids Playcare
• Ailbhe Malone, Strategist senior editor
Amy Motroni, pediatric sleep consultant
Dr. Laura Purdy, family-medicine practitioner
Doree Shafrir, podcast host and author
Samantha Shipp Warrick, attorney and parent
• Gabby Slome, CMO of parenting platform Cooper
• Alexis Swerdloff, New York deputy editor
• Jada Rashawn, Sittercity nanny expert

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The 6 Very Best Baby Sound Machines