What should be a simple question is, unfortunately, mostly misunderstood in both the medical and occupational therapy industries. The most common advice given to parents is to get a blanket which weighs 10% of the child’s weight plus one or two pounds and while this isn’t “bad” advice it is a bit too vague to be of much use.
A more complete and accurate answer must also include the size of the blanket and not just weight. The reason is that weight alone does not tell us how much pressure or pounds per square foot that the child will actually experience. It is also a bit misleading because it comes from studies on weighted clothing where the child must carry the entire weight of the vest or belt on their person, while with weighted blankets a portion of the weight, sometimes even the majority of it, is on the mattress and not on the child at all.
Here is a simple example which demonstrates why pressure is so important. If I choose a small 7 pound blanket which is 28” x 37” in size, it creates a pressure of 0.97 pounds per square foot, whereas a king size 7 pound blanket that is 76” x 79” only provides a pressure of 0.17 pounds per square foot because the weight is distributed over a much larger area, resulting in a huge difference in how heavy the child perceives it to be.
So what’s the best way to approach the problem? Well, in adults, the size of the blanket is a matter of preference and the weight/pressure can be adjusted based on the size chosen but for a child (anyone under the age of 15) we recommend using the smallest blanket that will cover the child while sleeping.
This provides several benefits:
- It is easier to get an appropriate pressure using 5 or 6 pounds in a small blanket than it is if you have to put 20 or 25 pounds into a queen or king size blanket to achieve a similar effect. It also makes the blanket safer as there is less risk of the child crawling under it and getting stuck because of the heavy weight.
- It will be much easier for the child to carry their blanket around the house and it will also be easier to take the blanket on trips, vacations, to school on visits to the doctor or dentist than it would be if you had to transport a queen or king size blankets weighing 20 pounds or more!
- Lastly, but certainly not least, is that the blanket will cost less if you have to add less weight to it to get the appropriate amount of pressure since the cost of most blankets goes up as you add more weight, typically by $4 or $5 per pound.
Here are some general guidelines that may help you select the correct weight and size for a weighted blanket.
FOR children: With children try to get a blanket that is close to their size. If you measure the child’s height while laying down and add maybe 2” this should get you pretty close to the right length blanket. The width of most blankets is dependent on their length, so this shouldn’t present any issues.
FOR adults: then once again it is a matter of preference. We offer a range of pressures from 0.25 to 0.95 pounds per square foot and we have found that most adults are most comfortable with pressures between 0.6 to 0.7 pounds per square foot.
To calculate the correct weight for a given size and desired pressure, use this simple formula:
Multiply the blanket’s width by its length by the desired pressure and divide the result by 144 to get the number of pounds you’ll need.
For example, say you want to purchase a small blanket that is 28” x 37” and you’d like a pressure of .45 pounds per square foot:
1. Multiply width x length x desired pressure
28 x 37 x 0.45 = 466.20
2. Divide the result by 144
466.20 / 144 = 3.23 pounds!
Most providers of weighted blankets only deal in whole pounds so you’ll have to either round up or down, whichever you prefer.
- Under the age of 3
Weighted blankets are generally NOT recommended for children under this age nor should they ever be used in a crib as they can become a suffocation hazard. We will make blankets for children this age but require that you send us a note from the child’s physician or occupational therapist for legal reasons.
- Ages 3 to 7
We encourage you to limit the pressure to between 0.25 – 0.45 pounds per square foot and also to not exceed the general recommendation of 10% of the child’s weight plus 1 pound. We also strongly recommend checking with your child’s physician before making your purchase.
- Ages 8 to 15
Assuming that the blanket is roughly the size of the child who will be using it, we recommend a pressure of between 0.35 – 0.6 pounds per square foot and not exceeding 15% of the child’s body weight.
These recommendations are made with the assumption that the individual using them does not have any medical conditions which might make using a weighted blanket a special risk such as those that impair a person’s ability to breath, or which adversely affects their muscle strength or neuromuscular system.
While we can answer most questions on weighted blankets with authority, we are NOT MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS and the advice we give you is NOT MEDICAL ADVICE and is based only on our experience and anecdotal stories from our customers. You should ALWAYS check with your child’s physician or occupational therapist for approval before making your purchase. When used properly, weighted blankets can be a wonderful thing for your child and help them relax and get to sleep easier, but if misused they can also present serious dangers.
- NEVER use a weighted blanket as a restraint or punishment of any kind!
- NEVER use a weighted blanket in a crib or with a child under 3 years of age without an explicit recommendation from a medical professional.
- NEVER allow children to crawl underneath a weighted blanket like a tent or when playing “house”.
- ALWAYS double check with a physician or occupational therapist on the appropriateness of both size and weight before using a weighted blanket.
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Email: [email protected]
Our guest writer is Irlanda Corrales of Red Barn Blankets. More about Irlanda: