Sleep consultants around the world acknowledge the benefits of using a cuddle blankie/sleep comforter with babies and young children.
Blankies are soothing, reassuring and familiar.
They do not require a parent to be involved in the process (other than pop it in the cot), which makes them an independent, gentle sleep aid.
Independent sleep aids are the BEST ones to have for long term happiness and success.
We get messages and emails from parents every week, asking lots of questions about sleep comforters.
So we've put together this comprehensive FAQ, to help you make an informed choice.
But First, Let's Reframe Sleep Training
"Sleep training" is a very loaded word, and can conjure up negative images of extended crying, strict timelines and stressed babies and parents.
That is not the intention of sleep training.
Sleep training is a framework. It can be flexible. It's more about adjusting wake times, reviewing sleep/feed/play routines, introducing independent sleep associations, and giving your child (and yourself) the gift of drifting to sleep and staying asleep, within age-appropriate guidelines.
If you are considering sleep training with babies over 6 months, we highly recommend you include the introduction of a sleep blankie/comforter in your plan.
It will make sleep training much easier, particularly if you are weaning your baby off a strong sleep association such as feeding, cuddling or rocking to sleep.
It may take a week or 2 for the comforter to become a favourite part of the sleep routine.
What age is safe to introduce a sleep blankie?
Newborns and babies under 6 months should not have blankets, toys, pillows or bumpers in their cot. The can be choking or suffocation hazards.
In terms of cuddle blankies, younger babies probably wouldn't notice one anyway.
In the 7th month, you can start to introduce the sleep blankie.
Will A Sleep Blankie Help my Bub Settle to Sleep?
Yes! It's familiar, soft and tactile. Holding the comforter reminds your baby that it's time for sleep.
They may suck the fabric or rub it on their cheek, for extra comfort.
Wear the comforter in your own shirt for a few hours, so it absorbs your familiar smell.
Introduce the comforter at play time with a little song or story, and then pop it into the cot at sleep time.
You can even add a few drops of organic lavender or chamomile essential oil onto the fabric.
Should I Only Let Them use it for Sleep Time?
This is a personal choice. As much as your little one might become attached to their sleep blankie, generally it's best to leave it for sleep time only.
Or for times of sickness or deep distress, eg getting immunisations, chronic cold and flu, uncertainty about a new baby.
Reserving the comforter for sleep time only often gives parents a great "incentive" to make babies or toddlers keen for a nap. As a toddler, my own child Joe would sprint from the lunch table for his afternoon nap so he could get his hands on his favourite blankie. He was asleep in 10 minutes, with his blankie firmly in his hand and snuggled to his body.
At night, he was just as eager to get into his cot (as a baby) and bed (as a toddler) to get the glorious comfort of his blankie. It soothed him and lulled him to sleep. It was such a gentle, positive sleep association for him.
How often do I need to wash it?
The blankie will develop a special smell which your little one will come to love. However, it will likely need a wash every other week.
In times of viral illness, always wash the blankie to avoid reinfection or cross contamination.
Blankies that accompany a child to day care will need washing more often.
Should I have more than 1?
This relates to the question above regarding washing. It's much easier to have 2 on the go, in case 1 is in the wash, or 1 gets lost.
The blankie is really old and tattered. Do I need to replace it?
It's a good idea to regularly inspect any toy or comforter for signs of wear and tear. After months of loving and washing, it's common for comforters to look and feel a little worn - in fact, it is often the 'worn' bits that are your child's favourite part and that helps children self soothe (e.g. worn ears and feet).
Just keep an eye out for loose threads and stitching, and trim if needed.
By the time the comforter is worn, your children will likely be over 12 months of age. Generally, there's so there's no need to be concerned about normal wear and tear or feel you need to keep your child's blankie looking new.
What about SIDS safe sleep guidelines?
The Red Nose foundation recommend a safe sleep comforter can be introduced from around 7 months. More information is available on their website.
What fabric should they be made of?
Your sleep comforter should be made from light, breathable material, like organic cotton or bamboo. Stay away from polyester, fleecy or woolen fabrics.
Ensure there are no long strings or ribbons, which could pose a choking hazard.
Do they have to be a cute design?
Not at all. Some parents started using one of their own organic cotton t-shirts to soothe their bub, and the baby became so attached to it, the t-shirt became the ultimate sleep comforter.
Just be aware of the amount of fabric though. An adult sized shirt will need to be cut down to a smaller size, to comply with recommended SIDS safe sleep guidelines, so it cannot be a suffocation hazard.
Will they become dependent on it?
The blankie will become a critical part of your little one's sleep routine, but ultimately it will give them the ability to soothe and settle to sleep. By the time they are 3 or 4, they will likely wean off wanting the blankie for sleep, as they grow and mature.
The benefits of consistent sleep as a baby and toddler, far outweigh the worry of dependency into childhood.
It's unlikely they will still want their "blankie" once they go off to Year 6 camp.
Are you ready to introduce a sleep comforter?
Our Farm Buddies are an organic cotton comforter loved by 1000s of Australian children. With a range of gorgeous designs, these safe sleep comforters could be the right addition to an age appropriate, consistent sleep routine.
Farm Buddies have tie-up arms and legs, which means you can loop a dummy or teether through, and it won't get lost or fall out of the cot. Genius.
Bring on the Zzzzzz's