As the weather gets cooler, we start to think about how we can continue to provide comfort and safety for our little ones.
One item that is becoming more common in homes, particularly in the cooler months, is the weighted blanket. What is worrying is that some parents are using them in their baby’s sleep environment.
These blankets are often considered a great 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 marketed in clever ways to lead parents into believing they are a safe option for babies.
They are not.
Weighted blankets are often described in advertising as “calming blankets”, “sensory blankets”, “anxiety aids”, or “support blankets”. The weight (small beads or sand) is built into the design of the blanket.
If misused and on the wrong person, weighted blankets can be fatal.
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.
In 2008, a nine-year-old boy in Canada also died after being wrapped in a weighted blanket, almost as a form of restraint.
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. We know that babies, in particular, 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. This is because the pressure inhibits full expansion of the chest and the abdominal movement required for healthy breathing.
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.
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, toys, 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 a safe cot on a safe mattress with safe bedding.
Last modified: 11/5/22