As a new parent, it's natural to want to provide your baby with the coziest and warmest environment possible. Baby blankets can certainly help achieve this, but their use should be carefully considered to ensure the safety of your little one.
In this article, we’ll demystify why blankets are not good for babies, when you can use baby blankets, and the best alternatives to keep your newborn safe.
Baby blankets: Recommendations from pediatricians and baby experts
According to both Health Canada and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that baby blankets should only be used once a baby reaches at least 12 months to 18 months of age. By this time, babies have developed the necessary motor skills to remove a blanket if it becomes a hazard, significantly reducing the risk of suffocation.
Using a baby blanket and other soft bedding, including loose sheets and quilts, can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the unexplained death of a child during their first year of life, as well as sleep-related strangulation and suffocation.
Baby blankets can, in some cases, also cause your baby to overheat (hyperthermia), which can contribute to poor sleep and heat rash. When parents use improper swaddling techniques with a baby blanket—and wrap their newborns too tightly, they can inadvertently cause hip dysplasia, also known as hip joint misalignment and even dislocation in severe cases.
Sleep sacks for babies: A viable alternative
If you’re concerned about your baby being too cold with just pajamas on when sleeping at night or during naps, sleep sacks are the top product to help your newborn sleep peacefully. Also known as baby sleep sacks and sleep bags for babies, sleep sacks are cozy, breathable and comfortable. They mimic the plush feeling of a baby blanket—without the dangers!
To optimize baby sleep, there are some tips to consider when shopping for a sleep sack, particularly the material! The thermal index of a textile (TOG rating) is a unit of measurement that indicates the level of air that passes through a material from the inside and outside. TOG ratings for baby sleep sacks are important based on where you live and the ambient room temperature. For more information on how to choose your baby’s sleep sack, read this article.
General safety recommendations for baby sleep training
If you have decided to use sleep sacks to help the apple of your eye sleep soundly, be sure to start baby off right away with a baby sleep sack—ideally as soon as they are born. Newborn sleep sacks offer a reassuring and warm environment that is akin to their mother’s womb. By introducing sleep sacks for babies from the get-go, you will enhance your baby’s sleep.
Also, as healthcare professionals recommend, put your baby back to sleep in a crib, bassinet or cradle. Where baby sleeps should be completely free of bedding (except a mattress and a well-adjusted fitted sheet), pillows, stuffed toys and bumper pads. An uncluttered crib keeps dangers at bay.
In addition to a sleep sack, you can dress your baby in layers to help regulate their body temperature during sleep. Opt for breathable fabrics, such as cotton, muslin and bamboo. Avoid overdressing, as this (like baby blankets!) can also cause overheating. The general rule is to dress your baby in one more layer than you would wear yourself in the same environment.
Don’t forget to set your nursery’s room temperature. The ideal room temperature for a baby's sleep environment is between 68°F and 72°F (20°C and 22°C). Use a room thermometer to monitor the temperature and make adjustments accordingly.
When can baby blankets be used?
There are some instances when baby blankets can be used; however, please read our recommendations carefully and check out additional resources to maximize baby’s safety.
- For newborns between one to two months old, you may want to swaddle your infant with a baby blanket, much like giving them a feeling of being in a soothing cocoon. To discover the perfect swaddling technique for babies, check out our swaddling tips here.
- Baby blankets can be used for highly supervised, short naps, in your baby stroller, as a play mat, for the top of your changing table, and as a burp blanket. These baby blanket applications provide your baby with some additional comfort when they are somewhere outside the home: the comfort and smell of their nursery will definitely reassure them!
- Once your baby develops their motor skills and can easily move objects on or off themselves, you may want to slowly introduce baby blankets into the sleep routine. The best time to use baby blankets is when your child transitions from the crib, bassinet, or cradle to a toddler bed with children’s bedding.
- As your growing child and toddler explore the world, they may develop an attachment to a specific baby blanket (lovie) which can help them during the transition to new sleep habits and provide a sense of security. If you notice that your kid is adamant about having a specific baby blanket with them at all times, buy one or two extra versions of the same blanket. That way, if the first one is lost or wears down over time, you have a quick solution to eliminating temper tantrums and many a tear.
One caveat: don’t use baby blankets with car seats. Baby blankets wrapped underneath or over the harness straps of a car seat can compromise the effectiveness of the safety restraints. Instead, opt for a car seat cover specifically designed for babies that does not interfere with the harness system.
And there you have it! Now you have a better idea when to use baby blankets and when baby sleep sacks are preferred for baby’s sleep. With the right sleep sack, your baby will be getting all the Zzz’s they need!