Everyone knows that the best way to drift off into dreamland is to snuggle up in a warm, cozy blanket while resting your head on a fluffy pillow. For the parents of babies who seem to never want to stay asleep, these can seem like logical solutions. Unfortunately, experts do not recommend these bedding basics for infants. So what age can a baby sleep with a blanket? And when is it safe for a baby to sleep with a pillow? Here are the risks surrounding these adorable accessories and the safe time frames for transitioning to big kid bedding.
When Can Babies Sleep With a Blanket?
Once they reach their first birthday, babies can sleep with a blanket safely. However, it's important to remember that size matters. An average crib blanket measures at 40 inches by 60 inches. Anything bigger than this can be a suffocation hazard, especially for smaller children.
Also, continue to stick with the basics with the blanket's design. Buttons, beading, and tassels can all pose a choking risk. Avoid loose stitching as well. Just like their clothing, this should be a lightweight blanket made with cotton, muslin, or polyester fabric.
It is also important to note that there are no weighted items that are safe for babies. Just because there's a product on the market for you to purchase does not mean it has been safety tested. The AAP does not recommend weighted blankets or sleep sacks and stresses that these are not safe for babies.
When Can Babies Sleep With a Pillow?
In contrast, parents should wait to introduce pillows until their toddler is over the age of two. Why? First, a pillow can cause a suffocation risk, especially if it were to get wedged in the crib slats. Second, a perfectly plump pillow is a fantastic tool to help your toddler to climb out of their crib. Kids are crafty little creatures, and falls can have dangerous repercussions.
Just like with the blanket, you want to purchase a pillow that's appropriate for your toddler's small stature. The average toddler pillow measures 13 inches by 18 inches. Look for one with a firm consistency and avoid options that provide easy access to the filling. While it may seem enticing to adjust how much stuffing is in this bedding accessory, your toddler could find their way in, making for a massive headache for you later.
Pillows with a waterproof cover that are machine washable can make for a sound investment. Also, pay attention to the pillow's stuffing - many toddler pillows contain shredded latex or down feathers, both of which can cause allergic reactions. Choosing hypoallergenic materials can prevent these types of issues.
Can a Baby Sleep on a Pillow if Supervised?
While this may seem like a safe option, life is filled with distractions and it only takes a few minutes for a baby to suffocate. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that "among babies, accidental suffocation is responsible for three-fourths of all unintentional injury deaths" and 85% of accidental suffocation and strangulation incidents in beds happen with children ages six months and younger. Therefore, always be safe and put your baby down on a firm, flat surface that is clear of other objects.
Create a Safe Sleeping Environment
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), simplicity is the best policy for your baby's bedding. Pillows, blankets, lovies, bumpers, and other soft items may seem safe, but they can lead to accidental suffocation and overheating, which is linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The only exception is a swaddle blanket, but once your child learns how to flip over onto their stomach, this covering also needs to be removed from the space. In order to create a safe sleep environment, the only piece of bedding that should be in your baby's crib is a fitted sheet. This applies to both nap times and bedtimes. It ensures that your baby, who likely moves a lot in their sleep, stays safe throughout the night.
For the parents who are worried about their baby getting cold at night, all they need is a lightweight, fitted onesie. Unlike adults, infants cannot effectively regulate their body temperatures, which is why experts recommend cooler room temperatures and fan use in the area where they sleep at night. Sleep sacks are another great alternative that can keep your baby snuggled up, while still allowing for proper arm movement throughout the night.
Transitioning to Traditional Bedding
When introducing a pillow and blanket to your toddler, slow and steady wins the race. Start by letting them snuggle up with a blanket while you watch a movie or read a book. If they understand the concept of the item, it makes it easier to transition it into a different space.
For the pillow, place it at the head of their bed and lay them down on it each day. Some toddlers will take to this bedroom accessory immediately and others will take some time. That's okay. Let them decide when they are ready to use it. Until then, continue to place the pillow back at the head of the bed each morning. Over time, they will resist the urge to move it.
Safe Sleep Starts With You
While sleeping with a pillow and blanket is second nature to you, there's going to be a learning curve with your baby. When they use these sleep accessories, make a habit of checking in on them throughout the night to ensure that they do not accidentally obstruct their face.
Also remember that less is always more. When you introduce the blanket, wait to add in stuffed animals. They need to get accustomed to one item at a time. Finally, when the pillow comes into play, if they have not switched over to their big kid's bed, make sure that the crib is sitting in the lowest position to prevent any great escapes from happening.