Weighted blankets have become more popular recently, and with that popularity comes people asking the question of if weighted blankets are safe for their babies. The answer is sort of “yes, but no” as, while they aren’t safe for babies, they can still help young children to sleep better at night.
What are Weighted Blankets?
A weighted blanket is, as the name implies, a blanket with some extra weight built into it. This weight is added by a range of different materials. Some weighted blankets are made with chain links built in with some extra padding for comfort. Then there are blankets that are made with metal balls or pellets for some extra weight. Weighted blankets are also available in a range of weights, generally between 6 and 10 kilograms.
The extra weight of the blanket is said to help induce a calming effect on the person using the blanket, without increasing the heat and becoming uncomfortable. One study in particular showed that using blankets that weighed at least 10% of the individual’s body weight offered calming benefits and improved sleep quality for people with insomnia.
Weighted blankets were originally used to help keep individuals with autism, hyperactivity, and certain developmental disorders to stay calm. They essentially produce pressure on the body, which helps one to feel calmer. They reduce anxiety and promote healthy relaxation and sleep. Weighted blankets have proven themselves to be able to help induce all of these benefits in people with certain disorders and elder people. Some nursing homes have started to use weighted blankets to help residents to sleep better at night and reduce agitation and prevent restlessness.
Weighted Blanket Safety
Given that weighted blankets help to induce better sleep, parents may be wondering if they can use a weighted blanket with their baby to help them sleep better. Many parents have trouble getting enough sleep at night and anything that could help with this is worth considering.
While you might be tempted to try just about anything to help babies and toddlers sleep at night, there hasn’t been enough evidence to suggest that using weighted blankets for babies will be effective, let alone safe.
The problem is that weighted blankets can pose serious risks to children, especially babies, and especially those with developmental disorders. There are some reports of deaths associated with weighted blankets.
While weighted blankets are completely safe for adults and most older children, they shouldn’t be used with children under one year of age. The Children’s MD blog of the Children’s Hospital of St. Louis says that the primary concern when using weighted blankets with babies is the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – which is when babies suddenly die while sleeping, often with a completely unknown or unexplained cause.
While the majority of cases of SIDs are unexplained, medical experts agree there are some factors that can increase the risk of this tragic problem. Parents can reduce the risk of SIDs by avoiding the use of loose blankets, plush toys, pillows, and sleep positioners that could prevent their baby from breathing properly. It’s also recommended that babies should be laid on their backs to sleep, as this is considered to be the safest sleeping position for little ones.
Babies are most at-risk of SIDs between the ages of one to four months. Around 90% of all SIDs cases happen during the first six months of life. Baby Center suggest that, by definition, SIDs never strikes children after their first birthday.
The American Academy of Pediatrician’s (AAP) sleep safe recommendations for children include not using blankets with children under one year old because they pose a risk of strangulation and increase the risk of SIDs. Weighted blankets are no exception to this.
If anything, weighted blankets are particularly risky to babies because the extra weight could push down on them, trapping them and leaving them unable to move properly. If the blanket found its way over their face somehow, it presents a major suffocation risk. It’s worth noting that even if you don’t use a weighted blanket for your child, but you sleep with one yourself and sleep with your baby in your bed, it can still be hazardous to their health. Parents should avoid using weighted blankets around their babies and follow the sleep safe recommendations of organizations such as the AAP to reduce the risk of SIDs and other sleep-related accidents with babies.
For now, we recommend that you skip the weighted blanket and instead stock up on some coffee for those mornings after. For yourself of course. No giving coffee to babies either.