Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Babies?
If you’re new to the parenting business, or if you already have a child at home, chances are you’ve heard of weighted blankets before. They’ve become pretty trendy nowadays and their popularity might actually increase in the following years.
If you’re planning to use one for your little one, and you’re wondering whether that’s a safe decision, or you just want to get informed on what baby blankets actually are, this is the place to be.
What are Weighted Blankets?
Even though the name might already be self-explanatory, a few words of introduction about weighted blankets will do no harm.
Weighted blankets are a special type of blanket with added weight to it. The initial use of these blankets was and still is for therapeutic purposes; they have been recommended by doctors and therapists, because they’re said to help with a number of different health conditions and psychological or mental disorders, such as anxiety, restlessness, hyperactivity, and autism. The extra weight of the blanket is supposed to cause a calming effect on the person using it, without necessarily producing additional warmth.
These blankets work by providing a kind of therapy called “deep touch pressure stimulation.” The extra weight of the blanket produces a deep pressure on the body (mimicking a therapist’s touch and gentle pressure) – this, in turn, facilitates feelings of calmness and reduction in anxiety; it also relaxes the body and helps the individual fall asleep easier and faster.
Different types of materials are used in weighted blankets in order to add the extra weight. Some companies use chain links placed in the interior of the blanket with padding for better comfort; others use metal balls or small weighted pellets, glass beads, rice or barley for additional weight. These types of blankets also vary in how much they weigh, usually ranging from 3-10 kilograms of extra weight.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Babies?
It’s natural that one of the priorities of parents for their babies would be getting enough good quality sleep. This is why some parents might reach for the weighted blankets as an option that would improve their child’s sleep. But there are a couple of things to consider before doing that, first of which is whether they’re a safe option for infants in the first place.
In fact, weighted blankets are not really recommended for babies under the age of either 1 or 2 years (some sources say 1, some say 2; but to be on the safe side, it’s better to take age 2 as reference).
The primary concern of using weighted blankets on infants is connected to the so-called SIDS syndrome, an acronym for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Most of these occurrences are unexplained, but some factors can increase the risk of this syndrome, as well as various items that may impair the infant’s breathing (plush toys, pillows, sleep positioners, loose blankets). Babies are in the highest risk of SIDS between 1-4 months. That’s why it’s not really recommended to use a weighted blanket on a baby under 1 or, preferably, 2 years of age. If you decide to use a weighted blanket after the first year of the baby’s life, it’s better to consult with a doctor or a pediatrician first.
Weighted blankets can be particularly risky for babies or toddlers because the excess weight could trap the baby underneath the blanket and significantly limit their range of movement. If the blanket is on the baby’s face, it could also lead to suffocation.
Do Weighted Blankets Help Improve Baby’s Sleep?
We know it’s tempting to try out different options to help your baby or toddler fall asleep faster or just have a better quality sleep at night. But, the evidence is not really conclusive as to the benefit of weighted blankets in infants and toddlers. In fact, most pediatric institutions and associations recommend a restricted use of blankets for babies, because they increase the risk of SIDS.
Weighted blankets are more beneficial for bigger children, with and without disabilities, as well as adults. If you consider purchasing one for a baby over the age of 2 years, make sure to find the correct size and weight appropriate for your child’s body (the blankets are supposed to fit the child’s body and not the child’s bed).
It’s good to have several considerations in mind if you consider buying a weighted blanket:
- The child should be above two years of age
- Could help if they’ve been struggling with poor sleep, hyperactivity disorders or restlessness
- Are strong enough to remove the blanket themselves (that’s why it’s a good idea to buy a lighter weighted blanket for a younger child, even if it is less than the usual ratio compared to their body)
- Are able to understand not to cover themselves above the neck
- More sensitive and tactile (touch-seeking) children
While it’s not a magic solution, the weighted blanket is still worth a shot for bigger children, and it can be used not only during sleep but also during reading sessions or just relaxing or napping on the couch. Infants’ bodies are different, though - they’re more fragile and the weighted blanket will do no benefit for their sleep, but might just contribute to an opposite effect. Parents should restrain from buying a weighted blanket for their youngest ones and opt for another, different option for improved baby sleep.