A baby who sleeps throughout the night is one of the biggest goals for all new parents, yet this is not often the case. Naturally, you may wonder if there is any trick you could use to help the baby sleep better. Some research suggests that weighted sleep sacks could be useful, but the question is: are these sacks safe?
Weighted blankets and sleep sacks are heavier than the regular ones.
These products have been inspired by a therapy called deep pressure stimulation, and supposedly help ease stress and promote better sleep.
The research does not support these health claims.
Health experts do not recommend weighted blankets or weighted sleep sacks for children younger than two years of age.
Benefits of weighted blankets
Weighted blankets are heavier than normal blankets and have been inspired by a therapy called deep pressure stimulation. This therapeutic approach is based on using firm, controlled pressure with the purpose of creating a sensation of calm and relaxation.
According to the Sleep Foundation, the potential benefits of weighted blankets include the following:
- Comfort and security;
- Reduced stress;
- Improved sleep quality.
The extra weight may improve the levels of serotonin and melatonin, while reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Are they suitable for everyone?
For adult use, research suggests that weighted blankets may help manage anxiety, but there is not enough evidence to support their use for sleeping problems. While the weighted blankets are considered safe for healthy adults, they may not be suitable for those with lung or cardiovascular diseases, those of Type 2 diabetes, or claustrophobia.
For babies younger than two years of age, weighted blankets and sleep sacks are not recommended by health experts.
General tips for baby safety during sleep
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) offers several recommendations to help keep the baby safe during sleep:
- Safe baby cribs. Babies should not sleep in adult beds, but in a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). If parents buy a secondhand bed, they should check to see if that product has been recalled.
- Infant sleeping position. Infants should be placed on their backs during sleep and mothers are encouraged to breastfeed, if possible. No one should smoke in the environment where the baby sleeps and lives.
- Sleep hygiene. When it comes to bedding, AAP recommends keeping loose blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, bumpers, and other soft items out of the baby’s sleep space during the first year of life. These objects could be dangerous, as they can obstruct the baby’s nose and mouth and increase the risk of suffocation or strangulation.
Weighted sleep sacks and blankets
While loose blankets – either regular or weighted ones – are not recommended for babies, what could parents use instead? According to AAP, sleep sacks are much safer compared with loose blankets or swaddles. However, according to AAP, parents should avoid all weighted sleep products for babies, meaning no weighted sleep sacks, swaddles, sleepers, or blankets.
Specifically related to weighted sleep sacks, there is not much research, but health experts evaluated whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks of using them:
- Benefits. The weighted sleep sack could make the baby feel in the womb again and thus could make him or her sleep better.
- Drawbacks. On the other hand, weighted sleep sacks may interfere with breathing and with the baby’s ability to move. If the baby flips over, it may be unable to flip back due to a weighted sack. This could lead to suffocation. In addition, sleeping sacks may cause overheating. Overheating is a known risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.
The bottom line is that weighted blankets may be safe for healthy children two years of age or older, assuming the caregivers buy products designed for their age. However, it is best to consult a pediatrician, especially if the child has asthma, sleep apnea, or other conditions that affect breathing. It is also important to get the right size and weight of the blanket.
While sleeping sacks are considered much safer than blankets, the weighted version carries potential risks for children younger than age two. There are plenty of products available online specifically created for babies, claiming to be safe if the weight isn't more than 10% of your baby's body weight.
However, parents who consider using these sleeping products for babies up to two years of age should carefully consider the risks and consult a pediatrician first.
In a small study involving 16 babies who were assessed and monitored in a neonatal intensive care unit, researchers found that using weighted blankets may help babies with a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome. However, they noted that larger studies are needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of these blankets. Furthermore, the babies were monitored by medical personnel and therefore the safety of these blankets at home is not known.
Some studies also evaluated weighted blankets for older children, and the results were mixed. Overall, research does not show that weighted blankets can significantly improve sleep for children.
While weighted sleep sacks for babies are increasing in popularity and are widely available in online stores, pediatricians recommend not using these products for babies younger than age two. Research studies are limited and do not support significant sleeping improvements. Regular sleep sacks are considered much safer than loose blankets or swaddles.
Parents should always check with a pediatrician when considering buying a new product for their babies.
- National Association of Neonatal Nurses. Safety, Feasibility, and Effectiveness of Weighted Blankets in the Care of Infants With Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
- The American Association of Occupational Therapy. Weighted Blanket Use: A Systematic Review.
- The American Occupational Therapy Association. Baby Weighted Blankets: Are They Safe? What You Need to Know.
- The Sleep Foundation. Weighted Blanket.