While there may be guidelines on weights to choose for weighted blankets, there are still gaps in research. So we reviewed what health professional are currently suggest and came up with safe guideline for using a weighted blanket on children.
Below you'll find 16 things to consider before using a weighted blanket on your child:
Is it safe to use a weighted blanket on a toddler?
The CDC says a toddler is between the ages of 2 to 3 years old. Occupational therapist recommend that children 3 years or younger not use a weighted blanket. So no, do not use a weighted blanket on a toddler.
Weighted blankets are considered safe for children ages 3 and up. A child should not be too small or young. They should be able to physically and mentally remove the blanket independently. Supervision is advised, particularly for children under the ages of 6.
Why use a weighted blanket on a child
Weighted blankets have been used since the 1990s on children as a therapy tool to calm children with autism. More people have been discovering the benefits of these blankets, and they’ve been gaining popularity.
A weighted blanket is a therapeutic tool that provides feelings of comfort, safety, and grounded, by calming their nervous system. It provides deep touch therapy, and feels like a hug.
If your child often struggles with sleep, overwhelmed easily, an overactive nervous system, ADHD, or sensory issues, try a weighted blanket.
Occupational therapists often use weighted blankets as a tool to calm children, fall asleep, improve focus, stay alert, and organised. They can be used both at home or school.
They can even be used to help your child settle for dinner. For example, say your child is busy playing a game, and you can’t get them to stop and join you for dinner. Try using a weighted blanket about 10 minutes before dinner is ready. This will help them relax, making it much more likely they’ll be joining you for your next meal. Just don’t let them use the blanket for too long, or they’ll accidentally take a nap.
Everyone is unique, and in some cases it won’t work for your child, but you won’t know until you try.
Who should not use a weighted blanket
Infants and toddlers or children under 3 years old.
Children with a history of breathing or heart problems, epilepsy, asthma, skin problems, poor circulation, or compromised posture.
They can’t independently remove the weighted blanket either physically or cognitively.
History of trauma.
How to use a weighted blanket safely on children
Blankets filled with pellets or beads are a choking hazard to children under 3 years old.
If swallowed, pellets or beads may cause gastrointestinal blockage.
Monitor the blanket for wear or damage.
Stop using the blanket if it becomes worn or damaged.
Never use a blanket as punishment.
Never wrap a child in a weighted blanket.
Never cover a child’s head or neck.
Each blanket should be personally tailor to each child, so it shouldn’t be used on another child.
Consult your doctor before using a weighted blanket for your child.
Rejecting the weighted blanket
It may take time, but once a child discovers the therapeutic benefits from using a blanket, they are open to using it.
In some case they may reject the weighted blanket, here’s what you should do:
When you first introduce a weighted blanket to a child, in some cases, they may not like it and pull away.
If they decide they don’t like the blanket and resist it, try introducing the blanket another time, try this a few times.
Instead of placing the blanket on their body, try placing the blanket on just their legs.
Try using the blanket for short periods of time, such as 5 minutes, and build their tolerance to 20 minutes or until they accept it.
If they reject the blanket on a consistent basis, then respect their wishes and don’t attempt to use the blanket again.
Can a child sleep with a weighted blanket all night?
No, many therapists and doctors say that children should not sleep with a weighted blanket all night.
Weighted blankets are often used at night to help children with their bedtime routine. For children that struggle to fall asleep at night, it can help them make the transition to sleep.
Here's how to use a weighted blanket safely at night:
Occupational therapists caution against the use of weighted blankets at night due to a lack of supervision.
Once the child falls asleep, remove the blanket.
If the child wakes up through the night, then try using the blanket again.
Use the blanket during your bedtime routine, for example, reading time.
If you decide to use the blanket at night, do so at your own risk. Check on the child occasionally throughout the night.
When to stop using a weighted blanket
Stop using a weighted blanket if your child experiences any of the following symptoms while using a weighted blanket:
Body temperature increase
Any discomfort or distress
If your child shows any signs of distress stop using the blanket altogether or try it again on another night.
How to place a weighted blanket on children
Place the blanket over them to cover their body, arms, and feet.
Never cover the head, face, or neck of your child
If the blanket covers their head and neck while using it, adjust the blanket to remove it from their head or neck.
How to place a weighted blanket on a child’s bed
The goal of a weighted blanket is to use the weight for therapeutic benefits, not warmth.
Use the weighted blanket, along with the usual bedding on the bed.
Place the weighted blanket on top of existing bedding, or insert into an existing duvet.
They’re designed to fit the child’s body, not the bed, so it shouldn’t be hanging over the side of the bed.
How long you should use a weighted blanket on children
Each child’s personal needs should be considered when using a weighted blanket.
How long you should use a weighted blanket, will vary for each and should be based on your child's tolerance to the blanket. In general therapist suggest:
Short periods of time and as needed basis.
Use it for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
Use it up to an hour per day.
A child with greater health needs, may use it more.
If they feel uncomfortable, remove the blanket.
If they’re enjoying and tolerating it, then keep the blanket on.
If the child is older they can use it for as long as they like.
When a child is using a blanket, check on them every so often.
Check on them to see if they’re hot, and adjust other bedding if needed.
How do you know if a weighted blanket is helping your child?
Just 5 minutes under a weighted blanket is enough to start to feel calmer. It’s been reported it can take upto 20 minutes before the full benefits are felt. The more time a weighted blanket is used on a child, the more benefit they will feel.
If you start to see positive changes in your child, like their calmer, doing better overall, than it’s working.
Is a weighted blanket right for your child?
Are you looking for a quick fix? Before buying a weighted blanket for your child, think about whether your child needs a weighted blanket.
Do they have an overactive nervous system? Do they have sleep problems? Are they have trouble focusing during the day? Sometimes it could be a symptom of an underlying issue, but weighted blankets should never replace treatment.
Once your child starts using a weighted blanket, check to see if the blanket is helping them reach their health goals.
Can it create a dependency?
There’s no research that says weighted blankets can create a dependency. Children may start to use a weighted blanket like a security blanket.
Weighted blankets make people feel calmer and more secure. Anything that brings a pleasant feeling, may be used more often.
How to prevent children from using a weighted blanket security blanket. To avoid this limit the amount of time your child uses the blanket by following the 20-minute-rule and stop using the blanket if your child shows any signs of distress.
Can a weighted blanket be too heavy for a child?
When it comes to deciding on the weight of your child's blanket, there is not enough research to provide a firm guideline.
When shopping for a weighted blanket for your children consider their age, size, weight, unique health needs, personal preferences, and trusting your gut.
If your child often struggles with sleep, is easily overwhelmed, or has an overactive nervous system, they may prefer a heavier weight.
The heavier a weighted blanket is the more benefits you feel. But heavier is not necessarily better.
You don't want the blanket to be so heavy it causes discomfort.
For example, if your one child has a Sensory Processing Disorder, they may prefer two blankets and extra weight, but for another child that would be uncomfortable.
The blanket should be as light as possible so that they’re comfortable but heavy enough to feel the benefits.
When in doubt, start with a lighter weight. You can always upgrade to a heavier blanket later.
Generally, a moderate amount of weight is a good place to start, but you can always try a heavier one later.
Should you follow the 10% percent rule?
When choosing the best weight for your child, you can start with 10 percent of your child’s weight, but keep in mind there is not enough research on this.
The 10 percent rule is calculated by taking your child’s body weight and multiplying that by 10% to get the blanket weight.
Child’s body weight x 10% = blanket weight
For example: 50 pounds x 10% = 5 pounds
The 10% percent rule is based on safety guidelines from children’s backpacks. In 2018 the American Occupational Therapy Association says that a backpack should weigh more than ten percent of a child’s body weight due the impact on their backs. Any heavier, and it could cause discomfort and orthopaedic problems in their knees, hips, back, or shoulders.
The safety guidelines for backpacks and weighted vests have been applied to weighted blankets due to a lack of research available. Backpacks are used when a child is upright, which is different from using a heavy blanket lying down. Each product has different uses. Safety practices should be followed for its true use. For example, a child can tolerate more weight lying down, plus some of the weight is not on the child, it's on the bed. Unlike a backpack, the blanket's weight is not focused on the back, it’s distributed more evenly over the child’s body.
Studies have shown that adults prefer weighted blankets as heavy as 20% of their body weight. Heavier blankets even provide more benefits than a lighter one.
Due to a lack of research, for your child, start with the 10% rule but consider your child's personal needs as well. Trust your intuition, and consult your doctor.
Consult your blanket manufacture if you need help.
Selecting a size for children
The most common blankets types you’ll find on the market are child size, twin, or throw.
Getting a blanket that fits your child is the most important, but most parents end up shopping for a blanket that fits the bed and getting a size that they grow into to save money. If you get a larger blanket, just make sure it’s age appropriate for them.
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Frequently asked questions about weighted blanket safety for children
What age is appropriate for a weighted blanket?
The CDC says a toddler is between the ages of 2 to 3 years old. Occupational therapist recommend that children 3 years or younger, should not use a weighted blanket. So no, do not use a weighted blanket on a toddler.
There is a lack of research on weighted blanket safety on children. But the consensus among occupational therapists, is that weighted blankets are considered safe for children ages 3 and up, and as long as they are physically and mentally able to remove their blanket independently.
Is a 12 lbs weighted blanket too heavy for a child?
If you follow the 10% rule, your child would need to be 120 pounds, which is too heavy for most children. A 17 year old teenager is better suited for a 12 pound weighted blanket.
When choosing the best weight for your child, you can start with 10 percent of your child’s weight, but keep in mind there isn't clear enough safety guidelines on this.
The 10 percent rule is calculated by taking your child’s body weight and multiplying that by 10% to get the blanket weight.
For example: 120 pounds x 10% = 12 pounds weighted blanket
Shopping for a weighted blanket comes down to personal choice. Some children might prefer a heavy blanket, while others a lighter blanket. Listen to your child, and use your best judgement.