Why Buy a Baby Sound Machine?
The top performers in our review are the Graco Sweet Slumber, the Gold Award winner; the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound, the Silver Award winner; and The First Years Sounds for Silence Premium, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 baby sound machines.
One of the most important parts of a baby's early development is sleep, which makes baby sound machines vital if your infant struggles with sleep. Baby sound machines help babies fall asleep and stay asleep by masking noises with a constant and repeating sound. The repeating pattern is soothing and makes babies feel safe. Sudden noises and changes in environment are the most likely culprits to keep your baby from sleeping well and a good sound machine will take care of that.
Ideally, you should combine a baby sound machine with an IP camera or baby video monitor. A regular audio monitor might not easily detect a baby's cries over a sound machine. Of course, this also depends on how loud the sound machine is. Still, you never want to take chances with your baby. A baby video monitor allows you to check up on your baby with video and audio.
Check out our articles on baby sound machines to learn more.
How We Evaluated Baby Sound Machines
There are four key areas to consider when looking at baby sound machines: audio, helpful features, ease of use and support options. We evaluated and compared each of the products on our lineup with each other to determine which one was the best. We also considered many other baby sound machines, but they were eliminated for various reasons, such as not being an apples-to-apples comparison or simply not scoring well enough to fall in the top 10.
As far as audio options go, the more choices you have, the better. Baby sound machines with more built-in audio options scored better here than those that had few options. Regarding helpful features, timers, night lights and audio ports are all important to have and are included in the best baby sound machines. With ease of use, we looked at tools and options that make your life less stressful. These include auto-shutoff and other power options. The most important part of support for baby sound machines is the warranty. The longer it lasts, the better.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in a way that best serves the consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our evaluation, nor was the evaluation method provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important?
A recent study garnered national attention and hypothesized that sound machines were capable of injuring a baby's sense of hearing. Naturally, some people are concerned about possibly damaging their baby's ears. Here's what we've found in our research of the issue.
The study was hypothetical, meaning that there wasn't any testing done on babies. The researchers collected a sample of sound machines and measured their loudness when set to maximum volume. After looking at the results, the researchers said that hearing damage was possible, basing their assertion on the fact that neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) limit sound levels to 50 A-weighted decibels and that many of the sound machines produced far more than 50 A-weighted decibels.
However, NICUs don't set the 50 A-weighted decibel limit because they're afraid of damaging infants' hearing. NICUs set the sound limit because they want babies to sleep. Sleep is incredibly important for all babies, but even more so for infants in the NICU. And aiding sleep is exactly what baby sound machines are designed to do.
That said, there is something to be aware of. This may be common sense for most people, but it bears saying: Don't set the sound machine to maximum volume, place it close to your baby and leave it on for eight hours or more. This could cause hearing damage even in adults, as some sound machines can produce more than 85 dB. OSHA requires that work environments be 85 dB or quieter when workers don't have hearing protection. In short, if you use baby sound machines responsibly, they shouldn't cause your infant any harm.
Baby Sound Machines: Other Items of Interest
Some baby sound machines come with small, built-in projectors that display images on walls or ceilings. Not only does this give the baby something to look at, it serves as a nightlight as well. When you come to check on the baby, you don’t want a pitch-black room, nor do you want to turn the light on, as that could wake your baby up. Having a nightlight allows you to check on the baby and not disturb its sleep.
While it may seem trivial, a timer for the sound machine can be important. It's probably for the best if your baby doesn't become completely reliant on a sound machine to fall asleep, as there will be times when that same machine isn't available. Having the timer set to turn the machine off after 30 minutes or an hour will make sure that the machine helps the baby fall asleep, but also exposes the baby to normal sounds during sleep.
Not all baby sound machines are battery-powered. Some are only powered by being plugged into the wall, while others just use batteries. The best baby sound machines give you both options. When you need to take the sound machine with you, then battery power ensures that you can soothe your baby to sleep wherever you go. But when you're at home, there's no need to waste battery life, and you don't want the batteries to die, so a wall outlet adapter is best here.
Our Top Recommendations
The Graco Sweet Slumber comes with an impressive amount of features and options. You can choose from a large list of sounds to play, or even connect your smartphone or MP3 player via the 3.5mm audio port. One of the most important things a baby sound machine should have is a timer, and Sweet Slumber's is easy to set up and use. You can use this machine at home and plug it into a wall outlet, or take it on the go and use battery power.
While the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound doesn’t have everything we look for in our evaluation of baby sound machines, it has most of the important features. For example, the built-in timer is useful, and the image projector doubles as a night-light. This device doesn't have a 3.5mm audio port, so you can't play media off of your smartphone. However, the selection of built-in audio options is better than most baby sound machines have.
The First Years Sounds for Silence is all about being easy to use. Thanks to its small form factor and battery power, you can take this device with you on the go. In order to preserve that battery life, the Sounds for Silence sound machine automatically turns itself off when not actively in use. Other built-in tools, like a timer and 3.5 mm audio port, make this one of the best baby sound machines you can get. Unfortunately, the built-in audio selection is weaker than those of many other sound machines.
DEX Products' Sound Sleeper is an excellent option if you're looking for an affordable baby sound machine. While it doesn't have a night light or image projector, it does have a large selection of audio options to play for your baby.