The safe sleep guidelines tell you that there should be nothing loose in a baby's sleep space before age 1. This includes stuffed animals, crib bumpers, and yes...blankets. If you're wondering how to keep your baby warm before age 1, check this out. If your baby is over 1 year, then continue on! There are actually two separate questions I'll answer here:
When can a child have a blanket?
When can a child use a blanket?
Does that seem like the same question? Well, it's not. The age you can give your child a blanket and the age they will actually use it are two different things.
When can a toddler HAVE a blanket?
You can safely give your child a blanket at age 1. By then, his head and neck control is very strong and he has good control of all of his movements. A toddler's breathing is fully regulated and he's also well aware of his space and surroundings. All of these things are the risk factors for giving your child a blanket before age 1. But at age 1, they are able to lift it and move their head away from it if it's obstructing their breathing. So, if you've been dying to let your toddler have that adorable little blankey, go for it!
When can a toddler USE a blanket?
However...don't expect him to use it like a blanket yet! Toddlers are very squirmy sleepers and they move around a lot to get comfortable and explore their space. So, even if you lovingly place that adorable blanket on top of him when you put him down, it'll likely not be on him when you go back in.
I gave Phoebe a blanket around 18 months. My mom, or Grammy to the kids, had made her one of those knotted fleece blankets for Christmas. She loves it so much! However, it would usually end up in a ball in the corner of the crib, or she'd sleep on top of it, like a pillow. Needless to say, it definitely wasn't keeping her warm yet. So, we continued to use a sleep sack on her even though she had a blanket, until she started getting out of that anyway. Then, we just dressed her warm enough for the weather without any extra covering.
She's 2.5 years old now and has just very recently started staying under her blanket while she sleeps. Now she's always cozy and cuddled up under it, which makes me want to dive into my own bed every time I go in and get her! Gideon didn't stay under his blanket until closer to age 3. Between 2.5-3 years, children become much less active sleepers. Especially if they have a pillow as well, they usually start to stay in one spot, like we do.
You can safely give your child a blanket at age 1, although don't expect him to actually use it for warmth until a bit later. Kids will start using a blanket (and pillow) correctly between 2.5-3 years old.
Do your kids have a special blankey? Phoebe's has panda bears on it and Gideon's has construction vehicles- both made by their Grammy. Comment below and let me know what's special about your child's blankey!
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant