Weighted blankets and sleeping bags have been advertised as safe for babies.
Many new products emerge onto the market every year. One item that is becoming more common in homes is the weighted blanket. The weight is produced by including small beads or sand into the design of the blanket.
Weighted blankets are often advertised as “calming blankets”, “sensory blankets”, “anxiety aids”, or “support blankets”. These blankets are marketed as a good option for comfort because the added bulk and weight of the blankets are seen as helpful for adults and children who require additional support to settle and go to sleep.
They are also being marketed in clever ways that lead parents to believe they are a safe option for babies.
They are not.
If misused and on the wrong person, weighted blankets can be fatal.
In 2008, a nine-year-old boy in Canada died after being wrapped in a weighted blanket, used almost as a form of restraint.
In 2014 in the US, a seven-month-old baby who was put down for a nap at daycare tragically died after he’d been covered with a weighted blanket that was half his weight.
These two deaths highlight what can happen if a baby or child cannot remove the blanket if they need to.
There is much research into the vulnerability of babies and children in the sleep environment, particularly with regard to their airways. But there is very little research on the safety aspects of weighted blankets or 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. Covering a baby’s face in any way can also impede their breathing, especially if the covering is heavy such as a weighted blanket.
Red Nose recommends parents follow safe sleep principles when preparing an environment for their babies to sleep. Avoid the use of weighted blankets altogether.
- A safe sleeping environment is one where your baby is sleeping in a safe cot that meets Australian standards on a firm, flat surface that is not tilted.
- Ensure your baby is placed with their feet at the end of the cot, with any blanket tucked securely underneath the mattress, so it can only ride up as far as the baby’s chest and cannot cover their head.
- Do not add quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins, or any other loose items as these can significantly increase the risk to your baby of SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy).
The safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own safe sleep space, on a safe mattress with safe bedding.
Last modified: 17/11/23