Weighted Blankets for Babies
The benefits of weighted blankets are becoming more widely studied. The use of weighted blankets or vests can relieve stress + anxiety, evoke a sense of calm, simulate a hug—and can even help you fall asleep and stay asleep. But are they safe for babies?
Anyone who is a parent knows that it's hard to get your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. If weighted blankets can help your child sleep, why wouldn't you try it? Wait—just hold on a second. Turns out it's a bad idea.
Our research reveals why weighted blankets are unsafe for young children and alternatives you can use to help your baby—and you—sleep through the night.
Weighted Blanket Safety for Babies
When it comes to using weighted blankets for babies, the fast and hard answer is a resounding NO. Weighted blankets are exactly as they sound—blankets that have some sort of pellet/glass bead sewn into the lining to add weight. So what are the risks? Why aren't they safe?
Risk #1: Suffocation
But wait—someone told me that it simulates the feeling of being hugged or cuddled with. Aren't those benefits I want?
Hugs have been show to release oxytocin—otherwise known as the "love hormone"—which can reduce stress and anxiety. A weighted blanket mimics the effects of a hug and can release the same "feel-good" hormones (1, 2).
However, a baby doesn't have the cognitive or physical ability to move a weighted blanket off of them. Even if you place a small weighted blanket on their legs, they move in their sleep. If that weight shifts up, they could easily suffocate. This is the #1 danger of using a weighted blanket for a baby.
If your child is of a developmental age or stage where they depend on you to roll over, sit upright, stand, crawl, walk, and feed themselves, they do not have the motor skills to remove a weighted blanket when their internal temperatures get too hot (3)."
Harkla Weighted Blankets
Disclaimer: Harkla has everything to gain by selling their products. But they've proven safety of their customers comes before profit and do not advocate using any of their products with an infant.
Risk #2: It Increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS is is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. It has been hypothesized that baby who pass away from SIDS had some sort of brain abnormality that affects their ability to breath properly while sleeping and impairs their ability to rouse themselves (4).
Another risk factor for SIDS is when a baby routinely sleeps on their stomach. In the first few months of life, it is imperative that your newborn sleeps on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS. Babies potentially have a more difficult time breathing when on their stomachs (5).
You can further reduce the risk of SIDS by removing any toys, loose blankets, pillows, etc. from the crib. A child should only sleep on a mattress with a fitted sheet (5, 6). This helps remove the risk of suffocation.
Risk #3: Overheating
Utilizing weighted swaddles, weighted blankets (and any blanket in general), or heavy and cumbersome sleep sacks put your child at risk of over-heating. If they are unable to regulate their temperature you are putting their life at-risk.
Instead, choose something that fits well with no loose fabric around the neck. It can be a onesie, sleep-sack, swaddle etc. Be sure your babies face is not flushed. If they appear to be too warm, adjust what they're wearing accordingly (7).
What about weighted swaddles?
Hold on a second—there are brands that advertise weighted swaddles for babies. How can they sell these if they aren't safe?
Some brands, such as Nested Bean, sell swaddles that boast lightly weighted pressure pads that "mimic your gentle touch to help soothe your baby to sleep between cuddles" (8). Nested Bean shares their product use and safety standards on their website (9) and claim to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) standards for safe sleep.
However, experts state that anything that might even-in-the-slightest increase the risk of SIDS is not worth using (10). Even the minimal weight (1/10th of the babies weight) increases the risk of suffocation.
Another type of swaddle on the market is a transitional swaddle, Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit® (11). It is marketed for 3-6 mo. and 6-9 mo. of age. It looks like the equivalent of a weighted snowsuit. While they, too, advocate that it's a safe product it greatly increases the risk of overheating (12).
What should you use (or do) instead?
So we've shot down using weighted blankets and swaddles. So what is a parent to do? How do you help your child sleep through the night? Here's what the experts suggest:
How to Create a Safe Sleeping Environment
Have you heard of the ABC's of sleep? This is the guideline the experts say you should follow:
A - Alone: Co-sleeping with a parent or sibling is not recommend
B - Back: A baby should be put to bed on their back to lower the risk of SIDS.
C - Crib: Put your baby to bed in a crib with only fitted sheets.
Here is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends (15):
I hope we've convinced you that it is NOT safe to use any sort of weighted blankets or swaddle for your baby. For more information, consult a pediatrician.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.