Are Afghan Blankets Dangerous for Babies?

By Sharon Perkins
A baby should sleep without any blanket, including an afghan.
A baby should sleep without any blanket, including an afghan.

It is difficult to tell grandma that your new baby can't sleep with grandma’s lovingly knitted afghan blanket -- but babies shouldn't sleep with any blankets, at all. Knitted blankets like afghans pose an additional risk, because the afghan’s weave includes open areas that could present a strangulation risk. Save the hand-made blankets for snuggle time when you are with him, watching him carefully, but don't put your baby to sleep with an afghan in the crib.

Suffocation Risks

Parents and other caregivers shouldn’t use any blankets in the crib for infants -- not just afghans, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Blankets can cause suffocation if your baby gets the blanket over his head, resulting in a restriction in the amount of air that reaches him. Although blankets with large holes like afghans might seem safe, they're not, warns Boston Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Lois Lee. Soft toys, pillows and crib bumpers pose the same risks. Remove any soft object from the crib that could fall over your baby's face from the sleep area. Additionally, don't put your baby in your bed with adult pillows, comforters or other soft objects nearby.

Entrapment Risks

Afghans are loosely knit and have wide holes that could trap an infant's head or limbs. Openings larger than ¼-inch across could entrap body parts, warns HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because an afghan is stretchy, it is likely to become entangled when the baby squirms, and the afghan could become wrapped around baby’s neck. If you swaddle your baby to keep him calm, afghans don't work well, because they're stretchy and they work loose easily when your baby squirms or kicks.

When to Use Blankets

Once your baby graduates from a crib to a toddler bed, you can use blankets to keep him warm, states Laura Reno, vice president of public affairs for the First Candle/SIDS Alliance in an article on Consumer Reports. You can wrap your baby in the afghan while rocking in a chair or at other times when you have an eye on him at all times. Afghans don't make a good floor mat, because your baby could get his hands or fingers caught in the holes.

Safe Sleeping

To make sure your baby stays warm at night, you need a source of warmth that doesn’t include blankets. Don't overdress or overheat your baby; he needs no more than one additional layer of clothing over what you wear to stay comfortable. Overheating could increase the risk of SIDS, the AAP warns. Blanket sleepers or warm fleece pajamas with feet keep your baby cozy throughout the night. Never place your baby on his stomach for sleep; place him on his back to decrease the risk of SIDS.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.