Firstly, let's define what exactly is a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets are designed to be heavier than normal blankets. Usually between 5 and 30 pounds (equivalent to 2 and 13 kilograms), weighted blankets are filled with plastic pellets, glass beads, ball bearings or other heavy fill. The pressure from the extra weight mimics a therapeutic technique called deep pressure stimulation, which models the experience of being held or hugged.
Weighted blankets have gained popularity among adults and older children for their potential therapeutic benefits. Some of the potential benefits associated with weighted blankets include: reduced anxiety, improved sleep, sense of calmness and feelings of relaxation.
However, the evidence is limited and further research is needed to substantiate reports of actual positive effects when using weighted blankets. It's also important to note that the effectiveness of weighted blankets can vary among individuals, and not everyone may experience the same benefits.
Furthermore, weighted blankets are generally designed for use by older children and adults, and caution should be exercised when considering their use for infants or very young children due to safety concerns.
Are weighted blankets safe for babies?
This brings us to wonder why there are weighted blanket products being sold for babies. So we decided to conduct our own research and we interviewed a couple of experts on baby safety so that we can set the record straight for you and to help educate parents about this very important baby safety topic.
Here's what we've found.
Weighted blankets pose several potential dangers for babies and here's why:
Suffocation Risk: Babies lack the strength and mobility to easily remove a heavy blanket if it covers their face or obstructs their breathing. This can increase the risk of suffocation or positional asphyxia.
Overheating: Weighted blankets can trap heat, potentially causing a baby to overheat. Overheating is associated with an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other sleep-related risks.
Impaired Movement: The added weight of a blanket can restrict a baby's movement and limit their ability to shift positions during sleep. This restriction of movement can increase the risk of discomfort or potentially compromise their airway.
Developmental Concerns: Weighted blankets are designed for adults and older children. Infants have developing motor skills, and using a weighted blanket at a young age may interfere with their motor development and hinder natural movement patterns.
"Weighted blankets are not recommended for babies and infants under the age of one year and strongly advise against the use of weighted blankets for infants due to safety concerns. Infants have limited mobility and may not be able to move the blanket off themselves if it becomes too heavy or causes discomfort. There is a risk of suffocation or overheating if the blanket covers the baby's face or impedes their ability to breathe properly."
Weighted blankets are often advertised as “calming blankets”, “sensory blankets”, “anxiety aids”, or “support blankets”. They are also being marketed in clever ways that lead parents to believe they are a safe option for babies. They are not and they can be fatal.
There is very little research on the safety aspects of weighted blankets or weighted sleeping bags for babies, particularly in the context of sleep safety in babies and children. We know that babies have smaller and more easily compressed airways, a more easily compressed chest wall, and less respiratory stamina than older children and adults.
Babies have died due to pressure directly on or against their chests because the pressure inhibits full expansion of the chest and the abdominal movement required for healthy breathing.
They have further said that the evidence available at this time does not indicate that weighted swaddle products are safe, nor does it demonstrate that they are effective in helping babies sleep longer or with fewer disruptions.
So if you're thinking about jumping on the band wagon of weighted blankets for your baby, we urge you to please consider alternatives.
To ensure the safety of your baby during sleep, it's important to follow the guidelines recommended by the Red Nose Foundation for creating a safe sleep environment. This includes:
Placing babies on their backs to sleep
Placing babies to sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet
Avoid loose bedding, blankets, pillows, or other items that may pose suffocation or strangulation hazards.
If you have concerns about your baby's sleep or are looking for ways to provide comfort, it's always best to consult with your pediatrician or healthcare professional for appropriate advice and safe alternatives.