When Can my Baby Sleep with a Blanket?

For parents, it’s only normal to want to spoil your baby with the comfiest sheets, pillows, and blankets, but experts recommend waiting until your baby is at least 12 months old before introducing blankets into their crib. Because newborns are in their earliest stages of human development, they are far more prone to life-threatening sleep-related accidents. Parents should focus on implementing safe sleeping practices for the first year of their baby’s life.

Figuring out how to navigate the murky waters of raising a child can feel overwhelming to a new parent or a seasoned parent. We’re here to provide the information and sound advice you need and answer your many questions regarding when baby can sleep with blankets.

Use the links below for a quick answer to your concern:

Why are blankets and pillows unsafe for newborns?

When can babies sleep with blankets?

When can babies sleep with pillows?

What are good safe sleep guidelines to follow?

Why are blankets and pillows unsafe for newborns?

Blankets, pillows and other such baby crib items pose serious threats to newborn babies because babies under 12 months old do not have the muscle strength or coordination to handle them. Since their brains are still incredibly immature and have yet to understand how to react to danger, the baby’s brain will not signal a wake-up call in the face of a life-threatening event. In the event that baby gets tangled in a blanket or ends up face-down in a plushy pillow, they won’t have the brain or muscle strength to adjust his positioning.

“There are about 3,500 sleep-related deaths among U.S. babies each year, including sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation, and deaths from unknown causes.”

— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

According to a 2018 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 3,500 sleep-related deaths among American babies each year. A large number of these tragedies are the result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation. Blanket, pillows, and other soft, moveable bedding can exponentially increase the risk of smother, suffocation, or SIDS. The same risk applies to comforters, bumper pads, soft toys, and sheepskins.

For each and every night leading up to baby’s first birthday, the only thing in the crib during sleep and naptime should be baby, and baby alone.

When can babies sleep with blankets?

Parents can begin introducing blankets after baby hits the 12-month mark. By this time, their muscles have strengthened and their gross motor skills will have advanced enough to manipulate a blanket’s positioning.

If you’re worried about baby being cold without the warmth of the blanket, you’re not alone. Dressing your baby in warm clothes and adjusting the temperature are easy alternatives that come risk-free to your baby. Be sure to keep the neck and mouth area clear of any obstructive clothing.

If you are questioning whether your baby is developmentally ready for blankets at the one-year milestone, talk to your doctor to discuss next steps or visit CPSC.com for government-sanctioned advice,

When can babies sleep with pillows?

Babies and adults are incredibly different. Even though you can’t imagine sleeping the night away without a pillow to support your head, your baby doesn’t need the cushioned comfort you depend on. Worried about your baby being uncomfortable during naptime and sleepytime? Fret not— babies won’t begin to feel the discomfort of an unsupported neck until their shoulders are wider than their heads.

Plush and lush as a pillow may be, to a baby, it’s a danger sign. Newborns have very little head and neck control, so if their head gets stuck pressed up against a pillow, they won’t have the strength or control to move away.

Parents can begin to introduce pillows to their baby’s crib space once baby reaches about 18 months old. It’s around this age that the key muscle and brain development is mature enough to deal with soft bedding.

Some parents wait until their baby reaches the age of 2 or 3 before placing a pillow inside of the crib. Even after the newborn phase, an infant is still developing those key physical and mental strengths. It’s up to parent discretion to decide when baby is developmentally ready to sleep with a pillow.

The bottom line is that no parent wants to go to bed worrying about their little one’s safety in their own crib. By waiting and gauging, you’ll have a better understanding of your baby’s timeline and when it’ll be a good time to introduce a pillow.

What are good safe sleep guidelines to follow?

Every parent to a newborn should have a well-rounded understanding of safe sleep practices as they welcome their new baby into their home. Children develop at different stages, so as baby grows into an infant, toddler, and child, the safe sleep practices will change and adapt to your little one’s development path. To best suit your newborns sleep conditions, use these guidelines to keep sleepytime safe.

1. Have baby sleep on their back

It’s a proven fact that babies who sleep on their backs are far less likely to become victims of SIDS that babies who sleep on their sides or stomachs. Even though it may be instinctual to worry that baby will choke on their backs, rest assured knowing that baby’s airway anatomy and gag reflex will protect against any potentially fatal accidents.

As most mothers know, newborns require plenty of skin-to-skin contact as soon after birth as possible. When mom needs a break, baby should be placed on their backs in the crib. Since newborns have very little muscle development, they will likely remain in the same position all night until mom or dad retrieves them in the morning.

However, some babies roll. Little ones with the tendency to move around throughout the night require more attention that babies who remain still through the night. Parents with rolly babies should always place baby to sleep on their back. If baby rolls onto their tummy or their side, it is completely fine to leave them in their preferred position so long as there are no loose sheets or playthings that could pose a problem.

2. Use a firm sleep surface

A nontoxic crib, bassinet, or travel crib that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) safety standards paired with a tight-fitting, firm mattress is an excellent duo every parent should invest in. Dressing the mattress with a soft fitted sheet is the final piece to the baby bedding puzzle. It’s that simple!

Be sure to do your share of research before purchasing. Your baby will spend plenty of time in the crib between the ages of 0 to 3, so it’s a worthwhile investment to ensure that you walk home with a product you trust.

3. Don’t sleep with baby in the bed

Welcoming a baby into the home is an exciting experience, so it’s only fair to want to spend every waking moment with the newest addition to your family. Unfortunately, sleeping with baby in your bed poses more of a problem than a loving solution.

Your adult bed likely has plenty of bedding layers, differing in weight and size. Adding a baby that isn’t yet capable of pushing off smothering blankets makes for a dangerous equation. It’s completely okay to bring baby in bed for feeding time or practicing your newly learned lullaby lyrics, but bedtime should be spent apart.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing but discourages parents from sharing the same sleeping surface. A 2016 AAP report found that “room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.” So while it’s traditional to designate a nursery room to a newborn baby, it’s safer to share the room until baby is around 12 months old.

There are certain situations where bed-sharing is especially dangerous. These situations apply if:

  • You or anyone sharing the bed is a smoker (According to KidsHealth.org, secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS)
  • Your baby is younger than 4-months old
  • Your baby was born prematurely
  • Your baby was born underweight
  • You’ve taken any medications that may make waking up difficult
  • You’ve drank any alcohol

4. Remove loose bedding or playthings from the crib

As mention before, babies under the age of 12 months should be put to bed in a completely empty crib. Blanket, pillows, toys, sheepskins, and other bedding garments should never enter baby’s crib space until baby is developmentally ready to handle them.

5. Be careful of overheating

In an attempt to ensure that your baby stays warm through the night, you may find yourself overcompensating by dressing baby too warmly. Be on the lookout for any warning signs that may signal overheating. Don’t over-bundle, and don’t turn the thermostat too high— the last thing you want is to have baby feeling feverish and unwell due to your preventative measures.

A single layer of clothing that keeps the mouth and neck clear of obstruction is a simple enough solution to ensure baby stays comfy all night long.

Bottom line

12 months is the recommended age to decide when baby can sleep with a blanket and pillow, but it is ultimately up to the parents to decide when baby is truly developmentally ready. If you are ever feeling hesitation about your baby’s sleep time, call up your pediatrician for expert advice and much-needed peace of mind!