When Can My Baby Sleep With a Blanket?

baby sleeping with blanket

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While it's natural to want your baby's crib to feel as cozy as your own bed, blankets, pillows, and furry friends aren’t recommended for infants to sleep with.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests keeping all types of soft bedding—that is, blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and stuffed animals—out of the crib until at least 12 months of age. You should use your baby’s gestational age, not their birth age, as a determinant. (That means premature babies should wait longer for bedding.) 

“Infants really don't need blankets,” says Dr. Elizabeth Murray, DO, a pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, NY, and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here’s what else you need to know about when it’s safe for a baby to go to bed with a blanket—so you don’t have to lose sleep over it.

When Is It Safe For My Baby to Sleep With a Blanket?  

Experts recommend against soft bedding for infants up to 6 months of age due to the correlation between crib dressings and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a diagnosis in which all probable causes have been eliminated. They also recommend against bedding for babies between 6 and 12 months since they are known to cause accidental suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation. In addition to SIDS, these are all types of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), also known as sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

Forgoing typical blankets isn’t the only way to keep your child safe from SIDS. AAP also suggests putting infants down on a firm surface on their back in your bedroom but not in your bed, breastfeeding, routine immunizations, use of a pacifier, and avoidance of overheating, smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs.

“After 12 months, the risks [of SIDS] decrease dramatically, but large, thick, or quilted blankets can still pose a risk, especially if a baby was born prematurely,” says registered nurse Joan Becker Friedman, a certified child sleep consultant at Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Pea Pod Sleep Consultants. “By 18 months, a small, lightweight blanket will be fine for the vast majority of babies but between 12 and 18 months, parents should use their discretion or consult with their child's pediatrician.”

The AAP recommends infant sleep clothing instead, such as a wearable blanket, to keep your child cozy while reducing the risk of entrapment from using a blanket. 

After 18 months, if your child can untangle themself when wrapped in a loose blanket and push away blankets or stuffed animals from their face, and your pediatrician signs off, a small, lightweight blanket can be used for the majority of babies, Becker Friedman says. Just make sure your child is fully mobile—i.e., they can roll both ways, sit up, and stand up—which usually wouldn’t happen before they are one year old, Dr. Murray cautions. 

When transitioning to a blanket, Becker Friedman recommends starting out with a small, thin, breathable muslin blanket, and avoiding quilts, weighted blankets, or blankets with strings, ties, or ribbons.

Dr. Murray echoes this recommendation: “We know that even a sheet laying over a baby's face can cause suffocation, so start with something simple instead of multiple layers like in an adult bed. Because toddlers will often have an opinion about the color and feel of the blanket, just like we do as adults, let them be part of the blanket-choosing process.”

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about your infant sleeping with a blanket.

Why Parents Want Their Baby to Have a Blanket

If you ask Dr. Murray about the benefits of blankets for babies, she’ll tell you there are none. "The wearable blankets or sleep sacks are safe and provide adequate warmth, even in the cold climates,” she says. While the expert consensus is to avoid blankets till your baby is 1 year old, parents often still feel the urge to wrap their little one in that baby blanket from grandma. (Just make sure you don't!) Here are a few reasons why.

Blankets Can Be Cozy

Among adults, there’s nothing less appealing than a mattress with no covers. New parents who have received blankets, afghans, or quilts as baby gifts may be anxious to cozy up their child’s crib, all with good intentions. 

“I think as parents, we often have preset ideas of how things should be—we have a sheet, blankets, comforter, etc. on our beds, so that is what a bed should be,” Dr. Murray says. “However, many toddlers are super active in their sleep and a blanket ends up being kind of an annoyance since they often come off or lump up.” 

Know that your baby will be fine—and safer—without a blanket, so long as you put them to bed in the appropriate sleepwear to keep them warm (but not too warm).

Blankets Have Sentimental Value

Say you received a special quilt from a beloved family member or a beautiful afghan from a friend—it’s no wonder you want to display it on or around the crib, pronto. “Many times, these are handmade and made with love,” Becker Freidman points out. “Parents may want to envelop their baby in a blanket that has sentimental meaning—before considering the risks of SUID.”

If you’re anxious to use a particular blanket, consider hanging it on the wall, draping it over a glider or rocking chair, or spreading it out on the floor during your baby’s tummy time

It Can Provide Comfort and Security

If your child’s blanket turns into a comfort object or a “lovey,” it can be a helpful sleep association or cue that it’s time to go to sleep, says Becker Friedman. “Attachment to a blanket lovey can be one of the first steps in helping a child develop a sense of independence,” she says.

Another pro? Your child may come to snuggle with their lovey to fall asleep or get back to bed instead of calling for you. “You can certainly work on attachment to a lovey before that first birthday but wait until at least 12 months before placing it in the crib,” she says.

Risks of Baby Sleeping with a Blanket Too Soon 

There are many risks to your baby sleeping with a blanket too early. Here are some of the most common.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The scariest thing about SIDS is that there is no known cause—just a bunch of correlations between behaviors and adverse outcomes. It’s why it’s best to sidestep any known behaviors with a connection to SIDS, including using a blanket in the crib prematurely, according to the AAP.

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)

SUID is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant due to natural or unnatural causes. SIDS is one cause of SUID. It indicates there is no known cause of death.

Other scenarios that can lead to SUID include accidental suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation. Because there is a direct correlation between sleep environment and infant death, many causes of SUID are entirely preventable.

Difficulty Sleeping

After your baby turns 12 months old, transitioning to a blanket too soon can make going to bed and staying asleep more challenging. “Kids learn to sleep well when they can rely on sustainable sleep associations,” says Becker Freidman. “Whenever you make a change in your child's bedtime routine, sleep environment, or any other condition related to sleep, there could be some protesting.”

Luckily, any sleep issues that follow a change like swapping wearable blankets to a regular one should be temporary, Becker Freidman assures. “As soon as you get through the adjustment period, your good little sleeper will reappear,” she says.

And because blankets really aren’t critical, Dr. Murray says, it’s perfectly fine to forgo it if it’s impacting your child’s sleep. 

Remember: There is no downside to continuing use of a wearable blanket into toddlerhood—it’s why many parents wait to transition out of sleepsuits until they move their child into a big kid bed, according to Becker Freidman.

“Wearable blankets are a safer alternative to a loose blanket,” she says. “Aside from providing a little extra warmth, a wearable blanket can be a very helpful sleep association and can also deter a determined crib climber from straddling the rails and getting out of the crib.”

Overheating

Many people have trouble sleeping when it's too hot—and babies are no exception. "Overheating is one reason kids can have night wakings or early morning wake ups,” says Becker Freidman. It’s also a risk factor for SIDS during the first year of life. It’s why it’s not necessary to use both the wearable blanket your child is used to in addition to a regular blanket for warmth. 

A Word From Verywell

At the end of the day (or a very long pre-nap morning), it makes sense why you’d want to bundle up your baby in a cozy blanket. However, experts agree that you should wait until after your child’s first birthday, minding developmental milestones, then ask your pediatrician to assess their readiness for a big-kid blanket. Remember that crib safety is more important than covers, which can absolutely wait. After all, your child’s life depends on it.

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2 Sources
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  2. National Institutes of Health. Known risk factors for sids and other sleep-related causes of infant death.