Weighted blankets for kids? Two doctors weigh pros, cons

Currently there's no research to show weighted blankets help children

Weighted blankets can have calming benefits for people who use them, when spread out across the body, they don't feel very heavy, but blankets can weight between 5 and 20 pounds.

As the popularity of weighted blankets to help people with anxiety or insomnia grows, News 6 checked with both children and doctors about weighted blankets made specifically for children.

While the children News 6 talked to love them, the doctors have mixed reviews.

"I liked the weight of it," said 8-year-old Braden Hoenberger, whose father had him test a 5-pound weighted blanket. "I thought it was comfy."

"I thought it was cozy, and I really liked to sleep with it," said Braden's 9-year-old sister Natalie.

Their dad, Greg Hoenberger, said he noticed it also helped them sleep a little better, too. 

"The one that had the blanket would calm down and go to sleep a little bit easier," Hoenberger said. 

News 6 consulted with two medical doctors about the pros and cons of these weighted blankets, and asked if they really help.

"Patients of mine have been using it for years and years," said Dr. Gary Trock, a neurologist and sleep specialist at Beaumont Hospital in Detroit. "I know the occupational therapists frequently recommend them." 

Trock said while the research on weighted blankets is limited and has mixed results, he says it may help some kids, especially those with autism.

"A weighted blanket is almost like giving a child a hug during their sleep," Trock said. "And some parents say it has helped quite a bit. Some parents say it has not."

But the Orlando Health pediatrician News 6 consulted with says parents should not be giving these weighted blankets to kids at all.

"Right now we know of two deaths related to weighted blankets in children," said Dr. Jean Moorjani, a board certified pediatrician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. 

Moorjani says the first death involved a 7-month-old baby who suffocated and died while covered with a weighted blanket. The second death involved the same thing happening to a 9-year-old boy with autism.

"I think that's really concerning because right now, we don't have any research to show that weighted blankets help children. But we do know they have harmed children," Moorjani said.

Both Trock and Moorjani agree that weighted blankets are not safe to use on babies or toddlers.

News 6 checked both online and in stores, and all the weighted blankets advertised recommend the weight of any weighted blanket should only be about 10% or less of the person's body weight.

That would mean a child would have to weigh at least 50 pounds for a 5-pound weighted blanket. Or up to 70 pounds for the next size up which is a 7-pound blanket. According to the Center for Disease Control, that's the average weight of a 5-to 8-year-old child.

But is that too young? Moorjani says parents should check with their child's doctor before making that call.

"I would strongly, strongly recommend against using a weighted blanket in children," Moorjani said, who has 9-and 11-year-old children.

"I don't think I would use a weighted blanket on my kids, just because I don't know if it is doing anything good for children, but I do know it has harmed children," she said.

"The child needs to be able to move freely and get out of the blanket if he or she chooses to do so," Trock said.

Both Braden and Natalie said they really like the 5-pound blanket they tried. They say they just wished it was a little longer, to cover up their feet.

Would you buy a weighted blanket for your elementary, middle or high school age child? Tell us in the poll below.