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Do you ever get confused by all the rules around babies and sleep?
Many of us have blankets knitted or sewn for us by beloved relatives that we keep throughout our lives, and it’s definitely one of the top baby gifts at any baby shower.
Though these gifts are beloved keepsakes, softer objects like bedding have been linked by scientists to an increased risk of sudden infant death (SIDS) in your baby’s early months.
The good news is that all those handmade gifts didn’t go to waste, and yours won’t either. If you’re wondering, “when can my baby sleep with a blanket?” keep reading—we’ll go over this and some other safety tips.
Baby Sleeping With a Blanket: Is it Safe?
During pregnancy, you probably dreamt of tucking your little one in each night. While a comforting bedtime routine is important, you may have to wait on pulling up the covers until your baby’s first birthday. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there shouldn’t be any type of bedding where your baby sleeps.
These guidelines are based on research that soft objects in your child’s sleeping area can lead to suffocation, strangulation, and an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Once your baby is over one year, you can introduce a blanket, but it’s still best to think about safety. Choose something small, lightweight, and breathable to start with.
When Can Babies Start To Use Blankets?
Sometime after your little one’s first birthday, you can think about introducing a blanket. Keep in mind that there is still a slight risk with large and thick blankets, as well as ones with ribbons and strings. Little ones move around a lot while sleeping, so one of the safest options to use through toddlerhood is a sleep sack.
Learn more: Parent's Guide to a Child's Sleep
Transitioning from Sleep Sacks
Sleep sacks are wearable blankets that look like sleeping bags with arm holes. They come in different fabrics (look for the “tog” rating on the label that indicates warmth) and range in sizes from preemie to toddler. While some tots love them, others hate anything that restricts their movements.
When your toddler has outgrown the largest size or simply refuses to wear their sleep sack, it’s time to transition. While toddlers rarely keep the covers on, you can finally start tucking them into bed at night.
Extra Baby Sleep Safety Tips
Besides not using a blanket until your baby is over a year, there are some other sleep guidelines that are important for safety.
Keep the Crib Clear of Pillows and Toys
The AAP advises that no soft objects, including pillows and toys, be in the crib or space where your infant is sleeping.
Never Let a Baby Sleep on a Couch
Couches, sofas, and armchairs are extremely dangerous places for babies to sleep because of the risk of falls, strangulation, and suffocation.
Share a Room, Not a Bed
Use a Pacifier
Offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime can help to reduce the risk of SIDS, even if it falls out after your baby falls asleep.
How to Dress a Baby for Naps or Sleep
If you’re worried about your infant getting cold without a blanket, you can dress them in layers or use a sleep sack. You can use this guide to help you choose their sleeping outfit based on the temperature of the room:
Put Baby "Back" to Sleep
Since the mid-90s, the AAP and other child safety councils have been urging parents to place infants on their backs for naps and bedtime. This came after a surge in crib deaths that were attributed to parents placing newborns on their stomachs for sleep. Side sleeping and using positioners in the crib are also not recommended since babies can easily roll onto their tummies.
Once your little is rolling proficiently in both directions, you can continue to place her “back” to sleep, but don’t have to worry if she rolls onto her stomach during the night. It’s also important to stop swaddling before your baby learns to roll over.
- Place the crib mattress at the appropriate level: As your little one grows, it’s important to lower the mattress. You’ll want to start lowering by 1 notch once he’s sitting up, and it should be in its lowest position when your tot can pull up on his own.
- Choose the placement of the crib carefully: It’s important that the crib is away from any artwork, hanging cords or blinds, electrical outlets, or any other objects that could be reached once your baby is mobile.
- Baby proof the room: Babies learn to climb out of their cribs long before most parents think. Be proactive, and baby proof ahead of time.
Connection Between Blankets and SIDS
Every year, more than 3,600 infants die from sudden, unexpected causes, including SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but factors like genetic defects, immature arousal centers in the brain, and environmental stressors (such as cigarette smoke) are all thought to play a part.
If we accidentally pull the covers up too high and re-breathe excess carbon dioxide, our oxygen levels will drop and the brain will automatically wake us up. Unfortunately, newborns and young infants often won’t wake up or know how to move a blanket away from their face if they do.
In order to keep your baby safe and lower the risk of SIDS, the APA advises that no soft objects be in their sleeping space. This includes blankets, pillows, toys, bumper pads, and sheepskins. The only thing that should be in the crib is a tightly fitted sheet, your baby, and a sleep sack (if needed).
Keeping your baby safe can feel like a lot of rules at first. While it’s okay to be a rebel every now and then, it’s not okay when it comes to your baby’s safety.
A year can seem like a long time to wait to use those adorable blankies, but the wait is well worth it. In the meantime, swaddles and sleep sacks are a great way to keep your baby warm while they sleep. By the time your little one is running around, you’ll be tucking in their covers—probably more than once a night!