When Can a Baby Use a Blanket?

Keeping Baby Cozy on Chilly Nights

He's just so darn tiny! Surely he gets cold at night, especially when the weather is brisk. You've probably heard the little voice in your head say something similar. Your motherly instincts scream at you to protect your baby, so it's probably tempting to wrap his little body in a fuzzy blanket before he drifts off for the night. But because babies can be smothered by blankets, pillows and other soft items, it's safest to keep these out of his crib until he reaches toddlerhood.

Baby's First Blanket

Cute baby boy in bed under a fluffy blanket

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Receiving blankets, baby quilts, that hand-knitted blanket your mom made: Blankets are a popular baby-shower gift, so some moms don't realize that these items actually aren't safe for little ones to sleep with. You can certainly wrap your baby in a blanket when you're holding him, or lay a special blanket out under him during tummy time. They're off-limits in his bed because young infants lack the strength to lift their heads and move their bodies in a coordinated way. If he gets tangled in the blanket or rolls face-first onto the blanket in his sleep, he may not be able to get himself out of that position.

As your child grows and gets stronger, the danger lessens. By the time he's able to walk, he should be able to sleep safely with a blanket. But you may as well hold off until he's 2 or older, just in case. After all, he's been sleeping his whole life without a blanket.

When you do introduce his first blanket, choose one that's fairly small and thin. If he's a very heavy sleeper and a puffy comforter or thick plush blanket gets wrapped around his nose and mouth, it could block his air flow. Opt for a blanket that's no more than a few feet wide. You can buy his first big blanket when he makes the transition out of a crib and into a bed.

Keeping Baby Warm

Because he doesn't have a cozy throw to keep him warm, at night you may have to crank the heat up a little higher than you normally would. It shouldn't feel sweltering, though. Think about what temperature would feel comfortable if you were sleeping in warm pajamas without a blanket and set the thermostat accordingly.

Dress your baby in pajamas that are equivalent to what you plan to wear that night. In summer, that may mean thin cotton PJs with a sleeveless top and shorts. In colder weather, choose warmer pajamas. Then top his pajamas with a sleep sack. These sacks are like wearable blankets. Getting him used to a sleep sack now has a second purpose. Wearing one makes it hard to run around and climb the sides of the crib, so they keep energetic young toddlers from escaping their beds at night.

Sleeping Safety

Cute baby boy in bed under a fluffy blanket

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Whether your baby sleeps in your room or his own bedroom, he should have his own crib with a firm mattress covered with a tight fitted sheet. The mattress should fit snugly into the crib without any gaps around the sides. Choose a crib with sides that have no open spaces where a baby's arm, leg or head could get stuck.

There should be nothing in your baby's crib except for him and his mattress. Keep pillows, crib bumpers and stuffed animals out. Like blankets, they pose a suffocation risk. You can introduce these comforting objects when your baby is 2 or a little younger, or whenever you move him out of his crib and into a bed. He'll be delighted by all the cool new "big kid" stuff he gets to sleep with. Until then, he won't even know what he's missing.