Making your baby sleep better at night is a challenge that every parent goes through. Usually, they sleep during the day instead of at night, turning their mom’s and dad’s life upside down. Thus, there is a huge demand for strategies to make babies and toddlers sleep better, and using weighted blankets is hugely popular. But is using a weighted blanket for babies safe?
Weighted blankets are not safe for babies to use. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), blankets of any type should be avoided around babies due to the correlated risk of SIDS. AAP studies have also shown that weighted blankets don’t significantly impact sleep quality or timing.
Weighted blankets are therapeutic and awesome, due to their weight and texture. My children love to wrap up in them, as they help relieve stress and anxiety. However, they aren’t a safe option for babies according to the AAP. Even so, there are some related products and options we need to discuss.
Is a Weighted Blanket Safe for Older Babies?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has its safe sleep guidelines and they recommend that blankets of any type and specially weighted blankets should be avoided around babies up to the age of 2 when they are sleeping.
Using blankets for newborns can increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). To reduce the chance of SIDS happening, the AAP recommends the use of sleeping sacks rather than blankets. We will discuss more this topic throughout the text.
Studies from AAP also have shown that weighted blankets didn’t improve the ability to sleep longer, fall asleep better or wake up at night less often for children diagnosed with autism, during the research. This result raises the fact that this practice of using blankets to increase the sleep quality of babies isn’t effective and it can be dangerous for children.
Now, granted this research was done on children with autism between 5 and 16 years old. But the data and the evidence the AAP presented in the study were enough to convince me.
These are important studies that should reach everyone that have babies because a lot of parents want to buy weighted blankets thinking that they will perform a good improvement for their children, but instead of that, they are potentially harming them.
Why Do People Want to Use Weighted Blankets for Babies?
Many experts recommend weighted blankets as comfort or therapeutic tool for adults and some children, so many people assume this advice extends to babies, too.
The use of weighted blankets for adults is recommended by sleep experts in particular, as they produce pressure on people’s bodies, making them calmer and reducing anxiety. It also helps in the treatment of some autism spectrum disorders.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.Pretty much the worst rationale ever, even if it’s totally understandable.
Combined with the fact that some babies can’t sleep well, it’s only reasonable that parents (who have heard that weighted blankets are awesome) might start thinking about using a weighted blanket for their babies and infants. Only using a weighted blanket for a baby isn’t a great idea.
Plus, it’s not like this particular AAP study has gotten a ton of publication. I mean, I’m a sleep training expert, and I hadn’t realized that the AAP had done studies on sleep blankets until I began digging into the research! I certainly didn’t find it in the local news feed.
Here’s Why Weighted Blankets for Babies Are Not Safe
Weighted blankets have an increased likelihood of trapping babies underneath them or inhibiting the baby’s ability to move or breathe, especially if the blanket covers their face. This means that weighted blankets have a potentially increased risk of SIDS over even regular blankets.
The excess weight of the blanket might trap the baby underneath the blanket, so they will not be able to move. Another thing that could happen is the blanket making its way to the baby’s face, obstructing its nose and mouth, and suffocating the child.
Can I use my weighted blanket for my baby’s nap?
Blankets (weighted or not) are still not recommended for babies under the age of 2 to use, even with naps, according to the AAP.
It may not seem like a big risk, but it’s still a great danger. Imagine if your toddler is taking a nap and you also become sleepy and fall asleep. The hazard is the same as if you used the weighted blanket for your baby to sleep alone because you will be not paying attention to its bedtime.
Another concern that’s officially discouraged is bed-sharing. Because as newborns move around when sleeping, adults might do the same, and when sleeping, you have zero control of where you are going. So, you may suffocate your baby without seeing, and unfortunately, this happens often.
So, it’s always safer to follow the APP’s recommendations and avoid this type of blanked around children so that the risk of SIDS and other injuries and deaths related to sleep will be prevented.
Now, a quick note. It’s your call whether you follow these guidelines or not. I just want you to be aware of the risks. And if you ever have any concerns about these risks, please talk to your pediatrician about them.
Can A 1-Year-Old Use a Weighted Blanket?
Blankets, weighted or not, are not recommended for even 1-year-old children.
The risks are the same for newborns and 1-year-old children, even though a year-old child is bigger – and most of the time they already can walk. A 1-year-old can still get trapped due to the blanket’s weight, and it can suffocate them.
An alternative for children at that age, as cited before, is the sleep sacks, according to AAP studies. Usually, sleep sacks keep the children’s arms free and cover the rest of the legs, torso, and feet, keeping them warm while they can steel move during sleep. Some sleep sacks cover the arms and are slightly more insulated for cooler weather.
And this is the main difference between sacks and weighted blankets because if the children move around during sleep and there’s no risk of their face being covered, then the risk of SIDS and suffocation is greatly diminished to the point that the AAP is fine with those kinds of products.
So, if you are considering buying a weighted blanket for your child, forget about it. Buy a sleep sack instead, as it’s safer and more effective for children. And it’s more fun for us to watch, too!
There are some other alternatives similar to weighted blankets but safer? Like weighted swaddles? Yes, there are other alternatives, but they aren’t necessarily safer, let me explain.
Is a Weighted Swaddle Safe?
Weighted swaddles may not be safe, due to the weight of the fabric. The weight may prevent the baby from being able to turn properly, which could lead to the bed itself becoming the greatest suffocation risk.
The same risks that a weighted blanket might have, the weighted swaddle may also have. And it can be even worse since the baby is swaddled to a piece of heavy fabric. The concern of specialists is when the baby flips over, a common action of sleeping babies.
Due to the swaddle’s weight, the baby might be unable to turn back, keeping their faces to the bed, obstructing their noses and mouth, stopping their breath, leading to death.
The same concern comes up when we talk about weighted sleeping sacks.
So, the advice that is given by pediatricians and experts versed in evidence-based practice is this: Avoid any kind of heavy fabric on your babies!
But if weighted blankets should be avoided in children of any age? When would it be safe to use it?
At What Age Child Can Use a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets can be safe for children over the age of 2, provided they do not have apnea, asthma, or other breathing disorders. Test weighted blankets out with the child while awake (to make sure they can move) before using them while they sleep.
Katherine Williamson, MD, a pediatrician, and president of the chapter of the AAP in Orange County, says that weighted blankets are safe for children over 2 years old because children younger than this are too small to escape from the blanket “trap” and the risk of suffocation is high.
She also says that children with asthma or sleep apnea should avoid this type of blanket because in these particular cases, it can still asphyxiate the child. Otherwise, if the child does not have any respiratory disease, contact your pediatrician first, and choose the correct weight and size for your child’s blanket.
Right, now you know that is not safe to use weighted blankets, swaddles, or sacks. Always prefer the conventional versions of it. And if it’s not enough for your baby to sleep and you are still getting dark circles under your eyes, here are some sleeping tips.
AAP’s Sleeping Tips (no matter the blanket, or lack of blanket)
The APP has been studying children’s sleep for a long time and they have some recommendations for sleep safety and some practices that might improve your dreams because you only can sleep well when your infant sleeps well.
- Baby’s outfit. Always dress up your baby with comfortable clothing and don’t forget to check if it’s a hot or a cold day, to choose the best option. If you wouldn’t wear five layers, don’t put five layers on the baby.
- Baby’s space. Your baby needs to have a safe sleeping place, like a crib in their own room, or a crib next to your bed. Set up their safe place to be the perfect place to sleep and minimize the risk of SIDS.
- Eliminate any dangerous objects in the crib. Obviously, skip any dangerous objects like sharp objects. But inside the crib, any object like soft toys, stuffed animals, and blankets may pose a suffocation hazard. So, remove anything that can harm your baby.
- Better safe than sorry. Keeping the baby’s space is extremely important, but, during the child’s first year of life, it’s important to keep the crib within the reach of parents, in the same room, to always keep your eye on the crib.
- Sleep position. It’s always important to remember that babies should sleep on their backs, to prevent suffocation hazards, because if they sleep on their stomachs the chances of suffocating or SIDS events do go up.
- Be patient. Providing good sleep for babies isn’t an easy job, so you have to be patient. Understand that everything takes time and effort, but one day everything will be fine. It will work out. Eventually.
So, the most important information that we have learned in this article is that avoid weighted stuff for newborns and babies younger than 2 years old. Research has shown that isn’t effective to improve their sleep, so you are just putting your child in danger.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
If you have any questions, please, contact your child’s pediatrician and clear up every question and listen to answers carefully, because it might save your infant’s life.
Make sure you’re using a safe, approved mattress and baby clothing for naps and bedtime, too. You can read more about both of those topics here on this site:
And last but not least, take care of yourself, so that your baby can take you as an example!
Learning about parenting or sleep training techniques is important to learn from various reputable sources. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as parents.
- Gringras, Paul, et al. “Weighted Blankets and Sleep in Autistic Children—A Randomized Controlled Trial.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Aug. 2014, publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-abstract/134/2/298/33011/Weighted-Blankets-and-Sleep-in-Autistic-Children-A?redirectedFrom=fulltext.
- Lindberg, Sara. “Baby Weighted Blankets: Are They Safe? What You Need to Know.” Healthline, 13 Nov. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/baby/baby-weighted-blanket#takeaway.
- Moon, Rachel, et al. “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Nov. 2016, publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/138/5/e20162938/60309/SIDS-and-Other-Sleep-Related-Infant-Deaths-Updated.
- “Safe Sleep.” American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org/en/patient-care/safe-sleep. Accessed 16 Apr. 2022.