When Can Babies Sleep with a Blanket?
Wondering “when can babies sleep with a blanket?” You’re not alone—there’s so much misleading information out there! For example, you know how baby blankets are packaged and sold with crib bedding? And how grandmas around the globe have been crocheting and quilting baby blankets since the needle and thread were invented? That all sends the wrong message! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is beyond clear: Babies under a year old should sleep in their own crib or bassinet with no blankets—or pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals, or other soft objects. Even with that warning, nearly 39% of parents report using soft bedding with their babies. Here, we dive into why that’s a dangerous move and share how to keep your bub warm without blankets…as well as when you can finally introduce a cuddly quilt to their sleep space. (It’s older than you think!)
Is It Safe for Babies to Sleep With a Blanket?
No! It’s never safe for newborns or babies to sleep with loose blankets. Soft bedding is to blame for nearly 70% of sleep-related suffocation deaths in babies, according to a 2019 study in the journal Pediatrics.
Why It’s Not Safe for Babies to Sleep With a Blanket
Loose blankets easily cover a baby’s mouth and nose, restricting breathing. Plus, soft bedding (and soft surfaces) can conform to the shape of your little one’s face and head, increasing the chance that Baby will breathe in the air they just breathed out. This “rebreathing” causes Baby’s oxygen levels to drop and their carbon dioxide levels to increase…which is dangerous during sleep. Normally, if a baby is taking in “stale air,” their brain would beckon them to wake and cry to take in fresh oxygen. But for some babies, that wake-and-breathe signal is simply too slow.
Swaddling: An Alternative Until Babies Can Sleep With a Blanket
While swaddling is done with a blanket, it’s not a loose blanket. Instead, a swaddle blanket should be wrapped snugly around Baby’s body, morphing your wee one to a cuddly burrito!
Swaddling and the 5 S’s
The AAP affirms that when done correctly, swaddling is a safe and effective technique for keeping babies calm and comfortable…and swaddling promotes sleep, too. (That’s why swaddling is an integral part of the 5 S’s, Dr. Harvey Karp’s renowned soothing technique that turns on Baby’s innate calming reflex, or baby's “off switch” for crying and “on switch” for sleep.)
How to Swaddle a Baby Until They Can Sleep with a Blanket
To swaddle correctly, choose a light cotton or muslin swaddle blanket (47-inch by 47-inch) and follow the DUDU swaddle method. The swaddle blanket should be looser around your baby’s legs, but their arms should be taut and straight, while still allowing a few fingers between the baby swaddle and Baby’s chest. Too tight can restrict breathing and too loose may unravel…both scenarios put Baby in danger.
No time to DUDU? Simply use Happiest Baby’s pediatrician-designed Sleepea, the 5-Second Swaddle. Its built-in quiet Velcro panels, breathable mesh vents, and an easy two-way zipper makes swaddling super simple and always safe.
How to Keep Baby Warm Without Swaddling
Once your baby can roll over, you need to stop swaddling. It’s dangerous for a rolling baby to be swaddled, because they may become stuck in an unsafe sleep position. That, however, does not mean your baby is ready for a loose blanket. Trade your trusty swaddle blanket for a sleeveless sleep sack (aka a wearable blanket), where your baby’s arms and legs can move freely. If your baby is snoozing in SNOO, they can remain safely swaddled until they graduate to the crib, at about 6 months old. Once in the crib, put Baby in a wearable blanket for warmth.
How to Keep Baby Warm Until They Can Sleep With a Blanket
The general, cozy-sleep rule is this: Dress your baby in one more layer than what you’d find comfortable. So, when it’s on the warm side, dress your sweet pea in breathable cotton pajamas or a short-sleeve cotton bodysuit, with a lightweight swaddle or wearable blanket. While it’s okay to turn on the air conditioning if needed, never place your baby’s crib or bassinet next to or in front of the AC…they’ll get far too cold!
When the days and nights are cooler, zip your baby in footed pajamas or dress them in a long-sleeved bodysuit and a lightweight swaddle blanket or sleep sack made with breathable mesh, like Sleepea. According to the AAP, swaddling not only keeps your baby warm, but the slight pressure of the swaddle seems to give most newborns a sense of security, too. (Make sure Baby’s crib or bassinet isn’t situated near any air vents or drafty windows.)
To further ensure your baby’s sleepytime comfort, adjust the temperature of the room they’re sleeping in to fall between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Turning the heat higher can cause overheating, making your baby uncomfortable...and raising their risk of infant sleep death (SIDS).
When Can a Baby Sleep With a Blanket?
The AAP recommends that babies sleep without loose blankets for their first year, but they never offer a clear age when it’s okay to snooze with one. While it’s true that your kiddo’s risk of SIDS plummets after one year old, there’s no need to rush to buy your tot a comforter (or a toddler pillow) for their first birthday. It’s actually best to wait until your tyke is at least 18 months old, but it’s still not exactly needed at that time. Squirmy toddlers roll around a lot in their cribs, rendering their blankets decidedly useless, as they lay rumpled and unused beside them. (It usually takes a child until around 3 or 4 years old to actually keep their covers on!) Because of this, many parents continue to keep growing toddlers in wearable blankets as long as they can. As a bonus, a toddler-size sleep sack may be just the deterrent a kiddo needs to resist climbing out of their crib! (Meanwhile, a bunched comforter can be climbed on, facilitating a crib escape!) Before you pick up your tyke’s first honest-to-goodness blanket, chat with your pediatrician. They’ll likely advise you to avoid thick or weighted blankets or quilts, and steer you toward a thin, breathable blanket.
More on sleep safety for babies and toddlers:
- Safe Sleep for Babies 101
- 5 Ways to Make Your Home Safer for Your Sleeping Baby
- Baby Sleep Positions: What’s Safe?
- Baby Sleeping on Stomach: Your Questions, Answered
- Is Your Tot Bunk-Bed Ready?
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.