Should I Get a Weighted Blanket For My Child?

published Jan 12, 2023
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little girl wrapped in rose weighted blanket on rose sheets
Credit: Bearaby

If you’re like me, you’re probably always looking for ideas that will help your child sleep better, longer and deeper. The weighted blanket — once a fairly specialized tool for kids and adults diagnosed with ASD, ADHD, sensory processing differences, and anxiety — has now entered the mainstream. You might have seen claims about using one of these as a sleep aid, and I wouldn’t blame you for wondering if it might work for your kid. 

I reached out to Samantha Davis, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at Kidsplay Therapy Center for her take on weighted blankets for kids. Here’s what she said:

Could Your Child Benefit from a Weighted Blanket?

When Davis begins working with patients, she starts with a few questions:

  • Does your child struggle to settle at night or do they wake frequently?
  • Can they safely move a blanket off themselves? Do they enjoy deep pressure (think bear hugs, squeezes, or very close snuggling)?
  • Are they over the age of three?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, she will often recommend trying a weighted blanket. 

When looking for a blanket, you’ll want to keep in mind ideal weight suggestions—weighted blankets should never be more than 5-10% of the body weight of the person using it, says Davis. So if your child is 30 pounds, your weighted blanket should be no more than 3 pounds. Davis recommends starting with the 5% to see how your child does before moving to the 10%. 

Important note about age: weighted blankets aren’t recommended for kids under three because the recommended weight for a blanket in a very young child isn’t likely to be heavy enough to be helpful, and going up in weight can be a safety issue. If you’re looking for something to provide more weight to a younger child, try a quilt or check out a weighted wearable blanket or swaddle for similar effects. 

What to Look for in a Kid’s Weighted Blanket

Once the weight is right, there are a few things to look for in a good blanket. First off, you want to make sure the weight is evenly distributed for the best results. This often has a quilted look where each square is filled with the same amount of weighted material (often glass beads). If you pick a blanket up and all the filling falls to one side, it’s not going to be effective. Another type of weighted blanket is the heavy knitted kind, such as those made by Bearaby, which will also provide even distribution of weight. 

Whatever type you choose, you’ll want to make sure the blanket is washable or has a washable cover at the least, since your kids will be using them. 

When you’re first introducing the blanket, Davis recommends starting off away from bedtime, on the couch or in some other relaxing place while snuggling to get your little one used to it. Then, move it to the bed to take a nighttime test drive. 

Another reason to try when your child is awake is to make sure that they can safely move out from under the blanket. If your child is injured, has decreased range of motion, poor strength, or decreased sensation, it’s safest to eschew the weighted blanket. It’s also important to note that no one of any age should have a weighted blanket over their face or neck. 

Is the Weighted Blanket Working? Things to Consider

If sleep is getting easier, either falling asleep or waking less during the night, it’s a good sign that the weighted blanket is the right call. However, if your child is crying or fussy more often, moving a lot to wiggle it off, or sleep is not improving, it’s probably not a good fit. With older kids, you can ask how it makes them feel—the goal is for it to decrease physical feelings of anxiety and bring comfort and security, like a tight hug. Though many people have this experience, others feel claustrophobic, anxious, or unsettled, which is a sure sign that this type of pressure isn’t ideal for you. 

If your child does take to the weighted blanket, you may find that nighttime isn’t the only time it’s helpful—if they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, encourage them to wrap themselves in the blanket and see if it doesn’t help to calm them down. If you’re going to be traveling and it’s possible to bring the blanket along, it can help with some of the anxieties of being in a new place. 

Weighted blankets aren’t just for kids, either. If you could use more restful sleep—and who among us couldn’t? Consider trying a weighted blanket for yourself. You can use the weight guidelines above to choose the right one for you, and it might make all the difference if you’re a restless sleeper. 

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