White noise is a new parent’s best friend. Why? It can be used from the get-go to help you soothe and calm your baby. This is so important, especially in the early days of parenthood, when you’re still trying to find your footing. Curious how white noise works its magic? Keep reading to learn all the ways white noise benefits your newborn.

What is white noise for babies?

Have you ever heard the static that comes from an untuned radio or TV? How about the steady hum of a running vacuum? What you’re hearing is white noise, which is the total of all the frequencies that your ear can distinguish—smushed together at the very same intensity. This all-at-once noise is not only calming to babies (and people of all ages!), it creates a “blanket of sound” that masks potentially sleep-sapping outside noises, like a horn honking or a mid-nap doorbell ring.

Why do babies like white noise?

White noise reminds your newborn of their “happy place”—the womb! It’s anything but quiet in there. For nine months, your little one swam in a noisy sea that  sounded almost like the low roar of a jet engine or a gush of running water…if you were submerged in bathwater while filling the tub. In short, your baby finds comfort in the familiar.

Don’t babies like the quiet, too?

Nope! Imagine what it’s like for a newborn to leave the raucous environment of the womb—complete with constant noise and motion—and enter a world of whispers, tiptoeing, and silence. While adults may crave such stillness, it’s shocking for newborns!

Why does white noise calm babies?

White noise eases your baby’s transition into the great big world. Not only does your wee one adore the familiar, loud sound of white noise, your baby needs it! It’s one of the most important triggers of your sweet pea’s inborn calming reflex, which is essentially nature's “off-switch” for crying and “on-switch” for sleep that all babies are born with.

Is shushing white noise?

Yes! White noise and shushing are the same thing. No matter what you call it, it’s an integral part of the 5 S’s for soothing babies, that works wonders to activate Baby’s calming reflex. So, that means that one of the easiest ways to recreate womb-like white noise is through good, old-fashioned shushing...with your mouth! Simply put your lips just a couple of inches away from your baby’s ear and make a long, loud, drawn-out “Shhhhh” sound. Do it as loud (and for as long) as your baby is wailing!

The problem? Even the most practiced baby calmers will get fatigued by continuous, loud shushing. You're going to want some help with a white noise machine to keep up with your baby's needs. And don’t worry, all my white noise machine recommendations below are absolutely safe for your baby's ears...their own crying is much louder! (Learn more about white noise and your baby’s hearing.)

What white noise sounds are best for babies?

There are so many so-called “white noise” machines available today that are not, in fact, white noise! Jungle sounds, a heartbeat, and birds chirping are not white noise. Plus, most white noise machines and white noise apps are far too hissy to be effective. (Their sound can be more like fingernails on a chalkboard to a baby!) So, what is the best white noise for Baby? Continuous, monotonous, and low-pitch sounds, like a hair dryer, the shower, or a vacuum cleaner. And, of course, the very best white noise sounds for your baby’s sleep mimic the loud rumbly sounds they heard in the womb. You can rest assured that every one of the Happiest Baby white noise products I designed has the exact right white noise for Baby sleep. That means SNOO, SNOObear, and SNOObie all perfectly mimic the rough rumble of the womb and help babies drift off to dreamland.

When should I use white noise with my baby?

White noise should be used during your baby’s bedtime routine, throughout their naps and night sleeps, and whenever you need help to calm crying. When you use a white noise machine to help stop crying, make sure it’s turned up just as loud as your little one’s wails. (An upset baby needs a more vigorous take on the 5 S’s to flip on the calming reflex.) Of course, you don’t want to blast the white noise machine at max volume all night! Instead, temporarily turn the volume up on the white noise machine for several minutes. Once your little one’s crying has subsided, return the white noise machine to its normal level. (SNOO automatically respond to crying with louder white noise…then reverts to a lower volume once Baby is calm. SNOObie can be programmed with the Happiest Baby app to start the night at a louder volume when your little one is most likely to be restless and then quiet at a predetermined time.)

Finally, while white noise is a magical baby soother, it should not be used all day! You want your baby to learn the normal everyday sounds of your home—and your voice—during their calm, awake hours.


More tips for soothing your newborn:

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

View more posts tagged, white noise

Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.