Do you ever check on your sleeping toddler only to find they’re covered head to toe in their comforter? When you pull back the blanket, they’re breathing fine, even if they’re a little sweaty. But why do toddlers sleep with blankets over their heads anyway? Can that even be comfortable, and more importantly, is it safe?
Pediatrician Natasha Burgert, M.D., tells Romper that toddlers feel more comfortable when they can control their surroundings. Making a blankie cocoon may just be another way of doing that. “Fundamentally, toddlers are self-centered creatures that crave control. Sleeping with items over their heads allows them to create their own comfort position when they sleep, creating that soothing sense of control,” she explains.
Asked whether or not parents should move the blanket out of the way if they notice that their toddler's face is covered she says, “Isn't that like trying to wake a sleeping bear? If they are comfortably resting, then I would not be concerned. A toddler has the ability to reflexively remove an obstruction from her face if it is threatening her breathing,” Burgert explains.
But not everyone is comfortable with little ones’ airways being potentially blocked — parents or pros. Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator of Safe Kids Northeast Florida at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, tells Romper in an interview that if questionable safety hazards can be avoided, why not avoid them?
“Footed PJs of an appropriate weight so covers aren’t needed would solve this problem," Dennis says. Burgert agrees that footed pajamas for 2- or 3-year-olds are practical because little ones tend to kick blankets off in their sleep anyway, so if they're in a temperate climate, you can maybe even skip the blanket altogether.
Natasha Burgert, M.D., FAAP, board-certified pediatrician in Overland Park, Kansas, and writer at kckidsdoc.com
Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator of Safe Kids Northeast Florida at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville