Why It’s Important to Use a Blanket
Using a blanket to cover your baby at night is an important part of their bedtime routine. A blanket provides warmth and a sense of security that can help your little one sleep more soundly. There are several key reasons why covering a baby with a blanket is recommended:
Regulates Body Temperature
Babies have difficulty regulating their body temperature, especially at night. Covering them with a lightweight blanket helps maintain a comfortable temperature and prevents them from getting too hot or cold. The blanket acts as insulation to trap your baby’s body heat.
Prevents Startle Reflex
Newborns and young infants are prone to the startle reflex, which causes sudden jerky movements of their arms and legs. Being wrapped snugly in a blanket prevents this reflex from waking your baby up. The light pressure of the blanket gives them a sense of security.
Signals Sleep Time
Using a blanket as part of your bedtime routine helps signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep. The blanket becomes associated with sleep, so putting it on lets your little one know it’s time for bed. This consistency with bedtime aids in establishing a healthy sleep schedule.
Provides Comfort & Security
The comfort and security of being wrapped in a familiar blanket can help soothe your baby to sleep. It makes them feel safe, warm, and protected. The blanket mimics the cozy confinement of the womb. Many babies actually prefer to sleep with their blanket once they become attached to it.
Choosing a Safe Blanket
When choosing a blanket for your baby, be sure to select one that meets safety guidelines. Certain features are important for preventing suffocation and overheating:
Opt for a thin cotton muslin or microfiber blanket in a breathable knit or weave. Avoid heavy fabrics like wool or fleece that could overheat your baby, especially in warm weather. Light blankets allow your baby’s body heat to properly ventilate.
Make sure the blanket is not too large for the crib or bassinet. It should just reach to your baby’s chest or stomach while lying down. Oversized blankets can bunch up and pose a risk of smothering. Measure your sleep space before buying.
Avoid Loose Threads, Strings & Ties
Anything that could come loose poses a strangulation hazard. Don’t use blankets with decorative ribbons, ties or cut fringe. Check regularly for any loose threads and trim if needed.
No Hoods or Foot Pockets
Some baby blankets come with attached hoods or foot pockets. These increase the risk of covering your baby’s face, so it’s safest to avoid this style. Instead, opt for a simple rectangular blanket.
Swaddling your newborn is an effective way to give them security and help them sleep longer stretches at night. Follow these tips for safe swaddling:
- Use a thin muslin swaddle blanket of breathable fabric.
- Only swaddle until 2 months old, before baby starts trying to roll over.
- Place baby on their back and wrap each arm snugly at their side. Avoid constricting hips and legs.
- Make sure nothing covers baby’s face. Keep their head uncovered.
- Use swaddles with Velcro or zippers for a tight fit, but avoid fabrics with loose parts.
- Stop swaddling immediately if there are any signs of distress or overheating.
- Transition out of swaddling slowly by leaving one arm unwrapped, then both arms free.
Using a Sleep Sack
A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that zips up over your baby’s night clothes. It eliminates loose bedding while keeping baby warm and cozy. Sleep sacks:
- Prevent your baby from kicking off their covers during sleep.
- Reduce the risk of suffocation and entanglement that loose blankets can pose.
- Come in different weights for temperature regulation. Pair with appropriate jammies.
- Allow your baby’s arms free movement while keeping the body snug.
- Should fit snugly according to weight; avoid oversizing.
- Are available with sleeves or sleeveless. Get one with a low neck without hood or fringe.
Appropriate Use of Blankets
Here are some dos and don’ts for properly using blankets to cover your baby at night:
- Place baby on their back and cover just up to their chest or stomach.
- Tuck the blanket firmly under the crib mattress so it stays in place.
- Make sure baby’s face and head stay uncovered.
- Use only a lightweight blanket that won’t overheat.
- Remove the blanket as soon as baby can roll over (2-4 months).
- Use loose blankets once baby can roll.
- Cover the head or let the fabric bunch near the face.
- Overdress baby in warm pajamas with heavy blankets.
- Use pillows, bumpers, or other soft bedding under baby.
Transitioning Out of the Blanket
Once your baby reaches 2-4 months and becomes mobile, it’s time to transition away from loose blankets for safety. Here are some tips:
- Start using a wearable blanket or sleep sack with no loose fabric.
- Dress the baby in appropriate sleep clothes for the room temperature instead of blankets.
- Remove any loose bedding including blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, etc.
- Use a sleep sack during travel or naps until 1 year old.
- If baby resists change at first, try pre-warming the crib with a hot water bottle or heating pad (removed before placing baby).
Monitoring Baby’s Sleep Position
Babies should always be placed fully on their back to sleep, never on their side or stomach. If your baby flips onto their stomach during sleep, immediately return them to their back. Monitor your baby’s sleep position with these tips:
- Place them in the “feet to foot” position with feet close to the crib’s foot. This makes it harder to wiggle into a risky position.
- Try using a crib that has breathable mesh sides for maximum visibility.
- Set up a baby monitor that provides a clear view of the baby during sleep.
- Frequently check on baby by looking into the crib to observe their sleep position.
- If baby keeps rolling, try a sleep sack to restrict movement. Talk to your pediatrician.
- Encourage back sleeping during tummy time and play while awake.
Maintaining Safe Sleep Practices
Covering baby with a blanket is just one aspect of creating a safe sleep environment. Follow these evidence-based practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Alone: Baby should sleep in their own crib, not with parents or pets. Do not use a pillow or blanket yourself if co-sleeping.
- Back: Always place baby fully on their back to sleep, never stomach or side.
- Crib: Use a firm, flat, properly assembled crib, bassinet or play yard – not a bed, chair, couch or inclined sleeper.
- No soft bedding: Avoid blankets, bumpers, toys and soft surfaces under baby. Use a wearable blanket instead of loose covers.
- Avoid smoke exposure: Do not smoke or expose baby to secondhand smoke.
- Room share: Keep baby’s crib in your room close to your bed for at least the first 6 months.
Following safe sleep guidelines reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental death or injury. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep. With some thoughtful precautions, blankets can be used safely for warmth and comfort during your little one’s bedtime routine. Sweet dreams!