Last Updated on June 16, 2020
Are you thinking about introducing a blanket into your toddler’s bed or crib? But you’re not quite sure if they are ready?
What’s important to note is that there is a right time for introducing blankets and it needs to be done with your child’s safety in mind. A blanket may seem harmless but to a baby, they can pose a risk.
You may be aware of the current consensus regarding the use of toys, blankets and loose items in the crib. It is generally advised that they shouldn’t be in the sleeping area until your child reaches a certain age.
This article is going to take you through the major concerns and try to answer any questions you may have regarding the introduction of blankets to your toddler or baby. So that your little one can sleep comfortably and you can have peace of mind.
Why are Blankets Not Safe for Babies?
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) advises parents to keep a baby’s crib, bassinet or sleeping space clear from loose articles and toys, and that includes blankets. This advice is provided under their recommendations to create a safe sleeping environment in order to help reduce the risk of SIDS.
It is recommended that the SIDS Prevention Guidelines are followed until a child is at least 6 months old, but ideally until a child reaches 1 year of age.
SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and is a term used to describe the sudden, unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby, which typically occurs during sleep. The cause of SIDS is currently unknown but there are many factors which are thought to increase its risk of occurring.
One of those risks is blankets and other items within the crib that could potentially obstruct a babies airways and result in suffocation.
When Can Toddlers Sleep with a Blanket?
The bottom line is that your baby shouldn’t start using a blanket in their crib or sleeping area until they are at least 1 year old. But it’s important to remember that this is just a general guideline and that all infants develop at different rates.
After the age of 1, it does not mean that the risk of SIDS occurring is completely gone but the risk drastically reduces beyond this stage. The major reason for this is that babies above 1 year of age have typically started to sit up and support their head and neck independently.
Infants above age 1 have also often shown the ability to move things with their arms, which is of key importance when it comes to sleep safety. As they need to be able to move objects away from their faces that could otherwise obstruct their ability to breath and cause suffocation.
Therefore, if your infant is past age 1 and is able to easily sit up, support themselves independently and move objects with their arms, it may be time to think about introducing a blanket.
Can a Toddler Suffocate Under a Blanket?
Yes, this is the main reason it is advised that you avoid having blankets in the crib until they reach 1 year old. If the blanket or duvet covers their mouth and nose, they are at risk of suffocation because they may not have the ability or the arm strength to move the blanket away like they could if they were a little older.
This, of course, applies to other loose items in the crib such as soft toys, pillows and crib bumpers which may also pose a potential strangulation or suffocation risk.
Even if your child is above the age of 1, it’s still important to realize there is still a risk of SIDS and suffocation. As a result, make sure to choose blankets that are lightweight, easy to move and ideally come with zips.
How to Keep Your Baby Warm without a Blanket
Until your baby or toddler is ready for a blanket, you may be wondering how to keep them warm at night and how to keep them comfortable as they sleep in their crib.
If it gets particularly cold during the night time in your home, and it’s either (understandably) too expensive to have the heating on overnight or not possible for you to do, there are plenty of ways to keep your baby warm during the night without a blanket.
Room Temperature: Check the room thermometer and try to keep their room between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius which is a comfortable and warm temperature for them.
Wearable Blanket: A wearable blanket or a sleep sack which are great because they are not loose in the crib, instead they are attached to your baby. This prevents the risk of them choking or suffocating but you’ll want to ensure you find the best wearable blanket which adheres to safety certification to ensure it’s suitable before you buy.
Swaddling: Swaddling is another much loved, although a controversial method of keeping your baby warm in the crib. It’s controversial because there are some safety concerns with swaddling when it is done incorrectly, but it can certainly be an effective method of keeping your child snug, warm and comfortable.
Monitor Their Temperature
Remember that in your efforts to keep them warm, there’s a chance that they could get too hot and overheating is another factor which increases the risk of SIDS. By feeling your child’s tummy you can gauge their temperature. You can then take the appropriate action such as turning up/down the heating, loosening the swaddle or adding/removing layers if they are too hot or cold.
Don’t put their bed next to a heat source, such as near the radiators and don’t use an electric blanket as this makes it more difficult for you to ensure your baby is not overheating during the night.
Signs to looks out for if your baby is too hot are sweating, heat rash and redness in the face.
Signs to looks out for if your baby is too cold are blue lips, shivering, and fingertips that are paler than usual.
When can You Introduce Pillows?
Similar to blankets and other types of common crib objects, pillows can also pose a potential suffocation risk. Specifically for young infants with very little head and neck control that lack the ability to move independently or effectively.
This means that if the pillow was to fall onto their face or restrict their airways, they may not be able to move out of the way. This can potentially result in suffocation or obstructed breathing.
For this reason, the majority of pediatric sleep experts often do not recommend pillows to children under 2 years of age. This is around the time when most children tend to be transitioning from bassinet or crib to their first toddler bed.
Since the speed of development varies, the right time to introduce a blanket to a baby or toddler largely depends on the individual. However, in general, blankets should not be introduced until an infant is above the age of 1 and has the ability to support themselves and move objects independently e.g. blankets.
Introducing blankets into your baby’s sleep schedule is actually a very easy thing to do as they’ll welcome the extra comfort, and snuggle up with the blanket at night. It also gives them more freedom to moderate their temperature and uncover themselves if they get too warm and uncomfortable.
Start by just putting the blanket over them whilst they are asleep, they’ll start tucking it under themselves or just rolling it up and using it as a pillow. After some time they’ll not want to go to bed without it!