The Best Baby Sleep Soothers 2022
Getting baby to sleep has been an age old dilemma. Whether you call them sound machines, white noise generators or sleep soothers, these devices offer the same sweet nirvana: soothing a fussy baby. After testing 17 different baby sleep soothers, we picked LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine from Adaptive Sound Technologies as the best sleep soother for baby.
Types of Baby Sleep Soothers
Before we discuss our picks in depth, first let’s go over the basic options for baby sleep soothers. There are two general types of baby sleep soothers: machines that play “white noise” only (such as a fan sound) and those with pre-recorded nature sounds and/or lullabies. Additional options include night lights and smart phone control. We looked for these key features when we tested baby sleep soothers:
- Noise masking: If you’ve got older children or live on a noisy street, you’ll want a white noise machine that successfully masks the environmental noise.
- Timer: As we’ll discuss below in our Things No One Tells You About Buying a Sleep Soother, white noise machines in a baby nursery should not be left on the entire night. An hour is usually enough. Hence, we only tested machines that had timers.
- Volume control with a low setting: Because babies’ hearing is still developing, we recommend using the lowest volume setting when put near a crib. See our Things No One Tells You below for more on this.
- Number of available sounds: While many babies will respond well to a simple white noise machine with the sound of a mechanical fan, some folks may want more options. For example, a soothing lullaby or nature sound might be nice to introduce as a “time to get ready for bedtime” sound. And when babies grow into toddlers, having more options for a restless little one may be helpful.
- Ease of use: We especially looked for soothers that have easy-to-set timers. Some have smartphone apps to control the unit remotely, which seems like a great idea. But after testing, we discovered the apps are more promise than actual help. Companion apps were often difficult to set up and sometimes plagued by short Bluetooth range and random disconnections.
Check out our top picks for white noise machines and pre-recorded sound soothers:
Best White Noise Sleep Soother: Adaptive Sound Technologies LectroFan Premium White Noise Sound Machine
This white noise machine offers ten fan noises and ten “ambient noise variations including white noise, pink noise and brown noise.” In a nutshell, white noise can sound tinny to some folks—pink noise sounds more balanced to our testing ears. And brown noise takes that a step further, making more of a low hum.
In our testing, we found the LetroFan does an excellent job masking environmental noises like crying toddlers (and their crying parents who’ve had a tough day too), dogs barking or street noise. We like the multitude of options, although once you find one that works, it’s unlikely you’ll change the setting much.
Other features include a 60 minute timer (it fades out rather than just stopping) and volume control (be sure to use the lowest setting possible). This machine is very simple to use, plus the noise is digitally produced so there are no repeated loopings of sounds. Other cheaper sound machines we tested had that looping/repeating issue, which many users find annoying.
As for feedback from our readers, LectroFan gets great reviews overall, with a few complaints about a low-quality power cord. In some cases, it disconnected completely from the unit. Some readers replaced the cheaper cord and had no further issues.
Bottom line: even though the LectroFan isn’t marketed as a sound machine for nurseries, it works as an excellent white noise machine.
Best Multi-Sound Sleep Soother: White Noise Sound Machine for Adults, Kids, or Sleeping Baby
Want more than just white noise? The Big Red Rooster White Noise Machine comes with fewer sounds than the LectroFan (six), but includes heartbeat, lullaby, ocean, rock-a-bye and twinkle noises as well as traditional white noise.
This unit also has a timer with three options: 15 minute, 30 minute or one hour. While it comes with an AC adapter, you can also use it with 3 AA batteries—that’s a nice feature if you plan to go camping or other places with few outlets.
In our testing, we found this machine very easy to use with one caveat: pushing the buttons to change the volume or choose a new sound causes a sound loud enough to wake a sleeping baby in some cases. Quieter-to-the-touch buttons would be a welcome improvement.
The Big Red Rooster has had a few quality control issues that we see in online reviews. Some folks said the AC adapter stopped working after a time (although, oddly, it still worked with batteries).
A few dissenters thought the lullabies sounded “tinny.” We didn’t find that in our testing—although at this price, we weren’t expecting Dolby theater sound quality.
Bottom line: the Big Red Rooster sleep soother is an excellent baby sleep soother.
Best Travel Sleep Soother: Sound + Sleep MINI
The Sound + Sleep Mini lives up to its name—it is quite tiny. So tiny, we didn’t think it would work all that well as a sleep aid. But after testing it on various trips, were we wrong! While the sound isn’t going to fill a room, it’s enough to block most sounds in hotel hallways or grandma’s house.
The Mini offers ten sounds: five fan sounds, four white noise sounds and one ocean sound. It comes with a built-in rechargeable battery (USB) so you don’t have to carry batteries with you and the volume can be adjusted in tiny increments for perfect coverage. One bummer: it comes without a timer so you’ll have to turn it off yourself or leave it on all night.
Best of all, the Mini weighs 5 ounces and is only three inches tall and wide, making it easy to slip into your suitcase or bag. As a side benefit, the Mini allows you to connect your smartphone via Bluetooth connectivity so you can play songs through the speaker.
What’s not to like? The cord. It could be longer. And readers who’ve used the Mini complained that the cord broke or became disconnected and wouldn’t charge. The cord is also pretty short and irked most testers, but you can use a regular USB cord to charge it if you need more length.
Parents also mentioned the Mini has a short life if you use it continuously. If you plan to take it on occasional trips to Disney World or grandma’s house, it’s a great option. But it doesn’t have the build quality to stand up to regular use day in and day out.
Best Sleep Soother with Nightlight: Fisher-Price Smart Connect Deluxe Soother
Fisher-Price’s Smart Connect Deluxe Soother offers a night light with ceiling projection plus a sound generator with three sounds: nature, music and pink noise (which is like white noise, but not as annoying).
We tested this model and thought it performed the best among the combo nightlight/sleep soother sound machines designed for nurseries—as long as you don’t mind the somewhat glitchy companion smartphone app.
The “Smart Connect” part of this sleep soother is it’s Bluetooth-enabled app. You can adjust both the sounds and the lighting effects using a smartphone. The app also allows you to set a timer, choose from three light options (amber all-over light, softer blue light and base lighting), adjust the volume and change the type of sound.
So how does this work in the real world? When it works, the app is pretty cool.
But getting it to work consistently was frustrating for us (as well as other parents, as noted in online reviews). The app occasionally cut out or froze, which required reloading. Yes, the soother itself has manual buttons and they’re backlit so you can see them in the dark, but what’s the point of having an app if it doesn’t work all the time?
On the plus side, you don’t have to register or give Fisher-Price any personal data to use the app (unlike some other sleep soothers–we’re looking at you, Hatch).
Another disappointment for some people: the projected lights don’t move, they just glow steadily. We didn’t see this as a major drawback in our testing.
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing baby products since 1994. We test baby products here in our offices and we pay for all of test products ourselves. We look to our reader feedback to give us a real world perspective and we also evaluate consumer reviews posted online.
Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!
How we picked a winner
We evaluated sleep soother by in-house testing and by sending products to parents to test. We check for ease of use, effectiveness and durability. We also gather significant reader feedback. The best sound machines meet our minimum requirements for a timer, volume control, variety of sounds, and masking ability.
Things No One Tells You About Buying a Sleep Soother!
Sleep Soothers have been controversial . . .
Parents are always on a quest to find a way to help baby sleep more—this has been the case for generations, of course! Newborns typically sleep only a few hours at a time because they are growing so fast and need to eat frequently. But once your baby reaches the four-month mark, your baby can learn to soothe itself.
But it ain’t so easy! You can ask your pediatrician about various methods that teach baby to fall asleep on it’s own, but even if baby falls asleep, older siblings, dogs and environmental noises always seem to conspire to wake them up.
Sleep soothers that play white noise, music or nature sounds are a solution to consider, but not without some cautions.
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study of 14 “infant sleep machines” or ISMs . The authors of the study tested the noise output at three different distances from baby’s ears (no real babies were tested). They compared the level of noise to the amount of decibels that would cause noise-induced hearing loss in adults. That number is 85 decibels or more. (We don’t have a level that would cause hearing loss in children, but you can imagine it is much lower than that).
Bottom line: 13 of the 14 ISMs were capable of delivering more than 50 decibels of noise even when placed at the largest distance of 200 centimeters from a baby’s ear. Since babies are more sensitive than adults, experts estimate 50 decibels would be likely to cause some hearing damage. Three of the machines were capable of more than 85 decibels of noise.
Now here’s the caveat: This was a small study over several years ago. The study didn’t identify which sound machines were tested. And finally, the study authors admit there is no real world proof that infants’ are suffering from damaged hearing because white noise machines were used in nurseries.
The take-home message: the American Academy of Pediatrics has three basic recommendations for white noise machines.
- DO NOT place the white noise machine near baby’s head. In fact, the farther away the better.
- DO NOT use the white noise machine at top volume, rather use the lowest volume possible.
- DO NOT use it all night. An hour or less is the basic recommendation.
. . . but other studies show they work
Another small study (using only 40 newborns aged two and seven days old) tested white noise machines to see if they did help infants fall asleep faster. Researchers tested 20 babies with white noise machines and compared them to a control group put to sleep with no sound. The result: 80% of the babies using the white noise machine fell asleep within five minutes. In the control group (no noise machine), 25% fell asleep within five minutes.
So what’s a parent to do?
- There are many apps available today that will test the decibel metric of anything. Your goal is to get the sound below 50 decibels at the edge of your baby’s crib.
- Only buy a machine with a timer that you can set. Run the machine less than an hour at night.
- Place the sound machine as far away from baby as you can. Set the volume as low as possible.
- If it’s not helpful, stop using it.