Finding blankets for baby sleep can be a lot of fun, but it’s also harder than it sounds. Your baby’s needs as far as blankets go change from newborn to infant to toddler stages. There are safety concerns. There are colors to coordinate. There are genders to gently remind strangers about until your baby’s hair comes in. Blankets can also play an important role in your baby’s sleep habits. In this article we’ll talk about blankets for babies at the newborn, infant, and older baby stages.
Blankets for Newborns
For newborn babies, especially in the crib, safety is the first concern. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a fairly simple guideline when it comes to what should be in the crib: a correctly-sized mattress, a fitted sheet, and the baby. The one exception is if you swaddle your baby using a blanket or a velcro swaddler. This is actually a good idea, as it provides both warmth and a feeling of snug security as your baby drifts off.
Swaddling is a skill that every parent should learn, and learn well. The ideal swaddle is snug, uniform, and won’t come undone during your baby’s nap. If you want the walk-through, see our article on how to swaddle a baby. One key element to swaddling well is to choose the right blanket.
When our little ones were still newborn-sized, I always preferred the square swaddle blankets, because you could fold them down to make an even triangle. It makes a good starting point and seems to provide better angles.
You also want a relatively thin and lightweight blanket; otherwise it’s too bulky when you make the required folds for swaddling.
One way to ensure a uniform, tight swaddle every time is to use a velcro swaddling blanket, which is shaped kind of like a peapod. You put your baby’s legs in the bottom, wrap both “wings” around him or her, and secure it in place with two or three velcro pieces. These are nice because you can do them one-handed. Also, even the most determined little baby usually can’t kick out of them because of the secure velcro closure.
When our boys were little, we had about four velcro swaddlers in rotation, a primary and a backup for each one. That way you always have one; in those still-fuzzy first few months of twin babies, I’d occasionally have a moment of panic when I couldn’t find either one for my assigned twin.
Blankets for Older Babies
As your baby grows and your fear of SIDS slowly passes, you’ll become more open to the idea of letting your baby take a blanket to bed. Technically, the only things in the crib should be mattress, fitted sheet, and baby, but let’s be honest: stuffed animals and pacifiers and an extra blanket or two are going to sneak their way in eventually.
Now is actually a good time to make a lightweight, loose blanket part of your baby’s bedtime routine. Nothing is better for this than the breathable muslin blankets by Aden + Anais. They don’t come cheap (you can expect to spend about $10 per blanket) but they’re the softest and most lightweight blankets ever. Our kids just love them, and I’m not even worried if they drape it across their faces when they go to sleep. Carter’s also makes soft muslin blankets that are a bit less expensive.
In fall and winter, a warmer blanket might be desirable. Adorable hand-sewn flannel or fleece baby blankets can be found on sites such as Etsy.
At some point your baby will start kicking out of the swaddle or just be too big to fit into the velcro swaddler anymore. It’s a bit of a sad day, but there are good alternatives. We transitioned our boys to sleep sacks, also called wearable baby blankets. These are single-piece garments, often cotton or flannel, with sleeves and a zipper that zips closed toward the bottom. There’s a lot to like about them:
- The body of the sleep sack keeps your baby’s legs warm but lets them move freely
- You can unzip and change a diaper without taking the baby out of the sleep sack.
- It fits over your baby’s onesie or pajamas
- They promote healthy hip positions while the baby’s sleeping
- Sleep sacks still seem to limit movement; they prevented our boys from rolling around too much.
Your Baby’s Blanket
As your baby grows and becomes more independent, self-will becomes very important. They like to have things a certain way, and they learn about the concept of personal property. In other words, everything is “mine.” It’s a good time to give them a special blanket to call their own. One that they’ll use to cover up dolls or teddy bears during play time, and take to bed every night.
Etsy is a great place to find unique baby blankets that were made by hand in the U.S.A… one of our favorite stores there is Snug As A Bug Baby Shop, which sells baby blankets for boys and girls, and even some gift sets with a blanket and a matching painting for the nursery wall.