Parents are being warned not to use weighted blankets and weighted sleep sacks for babies and young children this winter after two deaths involving them were recorded overseas.
Major fundraiser Red Nose Australia has issued a new urgent warning about weighted blankets and sleeping bags, cautioning they could pose a suffocation risk for babies and small children.
While the charity recognised the benefits of weighted blankets for adults and older children who require additional support before sleep, Red Nose Australia chief executive Keren Ludski reported that at least two infants overseas have died using models made for adults.
Ludski said the deaths, which included a 7-month-old baby in the US, who died after being covered with a weighted blanket which was half his weight, highlighted what could happen if a baby or child cannot remove a blanket if they need to.
"When you put a weighted blanket for an adult anywhere near a baby or a child, the risk of something really awful happening is significantly really high [sic]," she said.
"That was incredibly alarming to think about a weight being put down on the chest of a baby that could in any way impede their ability to breathe."
Weighted blankets are often described in advertising as "calming blankets", "sensory blankets", "anxiety aids", or "support blankets" and contain small beads or sand.
Baby "sleep sacks", which can be bought in weighted varieties online for infants, can also compress the lungs, resulting in a lack of oxygen.
They also risk overheating, which is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome.
New mum Molly Winton said she was bombarded with advice and warnings when she became a parent in March this year, which made it difficult to work out what was safe and what wasn't.
"I'm constantly hearing different advice from family, friends, on parenting websites and on social media," she said.
"It can be confusing to know what works and what's safe, so my rule is to avoid all blankets until he's one."
The 27-year-old Melbourne mum said she relied on other methods to get her 5-month-old to sleep.
"Harry is my first, so I'm still working it out, but I've been relying on white noise and non-weighted sleeping bags to get him to sleep," she said.
Red Nose Australia is also advising parents with babies to ensure they are placed with their feet at the end of the cot, with any blanket tucked securely underneath the mattress.
No quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins, toys, or any other loose items should be placed in the cot, as these can significantly increase the risk to your baby of SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy), a statement read.
New Zealand's Plunket website has a list of advice for making sure your baby is slept safely while being kept warm in bed. It advises using more layers of clothing "rather than adding more layers of bedding". That way your baby can still move around in their bed while staying safe and warm.
If you do use a blanket, Plunket advises making sure it is "lightweight and securely tucked in under the mattress, and that it can't come loose or cover your baby's face".
It also recommends sleeping your baby at the foot of their cot so they can't slip down under any blanket being used.
For babies trying to roll over, Plunket advises this is the time to "stop swaddling or swaddle with arms free".
- Carly Douglas, news.com.au Additional reporting: NZ Herald
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