At What Age Can A Baby Sleep With A Blanket?
There are so many baby products and sleep products on the market which can feel overwhelming as a new expectant mom. Swaddles, sleep sacks, sleepers, onesies, bassinets and the list goes on and on. You may know that newborns best sleep swaddled but you may be unsure of when they move from a swaddle to a sleep sack to a blanket.
I’m Katie Roeder, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula. I am the Owner and Founder of Happily Ever After Sleep Consulting and I’m passionate about helping families get more sleep. In this blog post I’m going to share more about when babies can sleep with a blanket as well as other recommendations for safe sleep.
When is it safe to let a baby sleep with a blanket?
Infants are most vulnerable in their first 6 months of life, even in the first year of life. Safe sleep recommendations are that your baby is placed on their back for all sleep situations (until they are able to roll freely) in their own sleep space without any pillows, blankets, bumpers, loose bedding or toys. Blankets are not recommended until after 12 months of age. These recommendations come directly from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
After 12 months of age, you can decide to introduce a blanket and a lovey if you would like. These items are comfort items for your child and can help them feel comfortable and cozy in their crib. A lovey can be a stuffed animal, blanket with an animal attached or any kind of soft toy. Once your child is 18 months old you can also introduce a pillow.
Why should you wait to let your baby sleep with a blanket?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting on introducing a blanket in order for your baby to sleep safely. Every year approximately 3500 infants die of sleep-related deaths including SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Following safe sleep guidelines is the best way to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths.
Placing a blanket or other soft items in the crib with your child puts them at risk for suffocation or entanglement. If their mouth or nose was to be covered or obstructed this can cause them to asphyxiate. There are safer methods to keep your baby warm while sleeping which I will share in this post.
What size should a baby’s first blanket be?
A good blanket size for your baby would be something that covers their crib mattress completely. After 12 months of age your baby is going to be a pretty active sleeper so anything smaller most likely won’t keep them covered all night. 40”X50” or 40” X 60” is a relatively standard size for crib blankets or quilts.
What are other safe sleep practices?
Your baby should be laid down on their back on a flat sleep surface with no other items. The AAP also recommends that your baby sleeps in the parents’ room (but in a separate sleep space) for at least the first 6 months of life. Cosleeping or bed sharing is not recommended. Of course, these guidelines are their recommendations, parents should make the best decision that works for their family.
What is considered a safe, flat sleep surface? A crib, bassinet, portable crib or pack and play are safe sleep surfaces as long as they meet the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Only approved infant mattresses should be used. Soft mattresses with foam toppers meant for older children or adults should not be used for infants as they can create a pocket in which your child can suffocate or roll to their tummy.
Currently the AAP does not recommend using any alternative products for sleep surfaces such as inclined sleepers, hammocks, in-bed sleepers, baby nests and pods, compact bassinets without a stand or legs, travel bassinets or baby tents. Parents should check the CPSC website for safety standards and to ensure the product has not been recalled.
Anything added to the crib is unsafe which includes bumpers, mobiles, crib wedges, blankets, toys pillows. Your child’s crib should also be placed away from any hazards such as dangling cords, electric wires, and blind cords (from window coverings), because these may present a strangulation risk. Keeping these items out of your baby’s sleep space helps reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, entrapment and strangulation. View the full AAP guidelines here.
What is an alternative to blankets for keeping babies warm and comfortable at night?
Newborns can overheat so it’s important to dress them appropriately depending on the temperature as they cannot regulate their body temperature. Do not keep a hat on your baby while sleeping as this can cause them to overheat. A onesie or a sleeper with a swaddle or sleep sack will keep them warm without needing a blanket. For recommended dressing guidelines from the AAP, click here.
The temperature of your baby’s room (or your room) should be set between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Sleep sacks come in different TOG (thermal overall grade) levels to help you gauge the thickness of the material. Depending on the temperature of the room you will want to choose a TOG rating of 0.5-1.0 in most situations. A sleep sack with a TOG rating of 2.5 should be used for babies that have trouble keeping themselves warm, in a house that has a cooler temperature or does not have sufficient heating.
Why is it safer to swaddle?
Swaddling is most effective in the first 8-10 weeks of life. Swaddling your newborn recreates the snug feeling of being in the womb which helps calm them. This also prevents their moro or “startle reflex” which can wake them up. Since blankets aren’t recommended until 12 months of age a swaddle is a safer option for newborns.
At the first signs of rolling you should stop swaddling your newborn (usually by 3-4 months, but in some cases even earlier) . Infants should always be placed on their back when swaddled. Parents can decide on when to take the baby's arms out of the swaddle depending on the baby's preference and needs.
When I am supporting a newborn family with sleep, I recommend taking a more proactive approach, getting arms up or one arm out around the 8-10 week mark, but definitely by 12 weeks. If you wait until your baby is rolling you have to take them out of the swaddling immediately which can be tough to do cold turkey.
Always follow safe sleep guidelines and try not to be overwhelmed by all the baby products out there! Most of the time, less is more. I hope this was helpful. If you’re looking for a customized sleep solution or some support making changes with your little one’s sleep, book a free call with me today!
Katie Roeder is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner and Founder of Happily Ever After Sleep. Katie also recently obtained her Postpartum and Infant Care Doula Certification from ProDoula. She is a wife and mom to two girls who weren't always the best sleepers. After leaving her longtime career and focusing on her family Katie found a sleep solution that changed her family's lives. Katie is passionate about sleep and loves supporting exhausted mamas through sleep coaching as well as in home support. She believes that everyone deserves a full night of rest and it's never too late to make a change. Katie coaches families 1:1 from the Newborn stage through school aged children. You can find more information at www.happilyeveraftersleep.com.