Your preemie is about to be discharged. Perhaps she’s breathing on her own. Maybe she needs oxygen to support her lungs, either through a cannula or a trach. You look around her nursery for one final safety check. Your eyes fall upon the one smothering item which still eludes your careful planning: the blanket.
Children’s safety organizations recommend putting your baby to sleep on her back, without anything in the crib: no bumpers, no toys (especially stuffies), and no blankets. However, the lovely pictures you’ve seen in parental magazines and the bed sets you purchased include these items of risk. Premature children are at a higher risk for SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, than other babies.
Babies don’t need blankets, bumpers and stuffed animals to sleep. They need routine, warmth (sleepers and layers) and no choking, strangulation or smothering hazards within reach.
So, what do you do with that lovely baby blanket? Here are my top five suggestions:
1. A Floor Mat for Physiotherapy (OR as part of therapy)
My son had physio, occupational or developmental therapy four out of five business days a week for the first year of his life. A friend of ours created an incubator cover which later converted into a baby blanket. Instead, we used it underneath him during any therapy. It was also helpful for the drippy mess as he became older and started drinking milk on his own! Blankets are much easier to throw into the washing machine than carpets. Later, we used it as part of Torran’s physio: I held his extended arms whilst he lay on the floor and, with the blanket underneath him, he pulled his arms inwards towards himself, learning to crawl. Playing Peek-A-Boo behind a blanket is a key part of infant development because it helps teach object permanence.
2. Baby Blanket Quilt
This is a great project for the crafty mom, or friends of a crafty parent. Take squares of the baby blankets you’ve received (yes, it’s OK to cut them up!) and stitch them together. Seal the back with a solid piece of fabric or another layer of squares and finish the edges to your liking. It’s also a good idea for recycling old baby clothes that can’t be reused. A friend of mine crafted this blanket from squares of material belonging to the costumes of friends in our medieval re-enactment group. She embroidered each person’s name on the square (some people did it themselves) and put symbolic pictures on squares that “filled out” the pattern. This larger blanket covered his bed during his toddler years when smothering during sleep was no longer an issue.
3. Framed or Hanging Art
Frugal parents might consider hanging baby blankets, especially ones with designs, as wall art or even window coverings in the nursery. Why pay for nursery decorations which you’ll change in a few years time when your baby is no longer… a baby? But be sure you’re not hanging the quilt above the baby’s bed in case it falls or if she pulls it down on herself. Peter Lugten has the simplest no-sew, inexpensive and painless lifehack for hanging lightweight blankets without putting holes in your wall or damaging the blanket. If you’re looking for something more upmarket in appearance, sew a tube of cotton material (thicker is better so it doesn’t stretch) across the top of the blanket on its back side. If you place it 1/4 of an inch below the blanket edge, you won’t be able to see it when it hangs. Be sure to secure the top and bottom of the tube (stitches will go through to the front of the blanket, so use a matching thread). This is where you slip in a curtain rod. Using this method, the blanket becomes hangable as art or a short curtain for a window dressing. Alternatively, you can secure tabs or loops to the top of the blanket and hang it on the rod.
4. Re-purposed as a Breastfeeding Pillow or Baby Sleeper/Bunting Bag for the Crib
With all this extra material on hand, why not change that baby blanket into something equally functional which also saves you money? Larger blankets can be turned into a breast feeding pillow using simple sewing patterns and little to no expertise. Two smaller blankets sewn together (wrong sides together) and then turned inside out make a bag. What better place for a baby to sleep than a cosy baby sleeping bag. Fastenings at the top shouldn’t be made with strangulation or choking hazards. Consider Velcro instead of buttons for straps which secure the bag at the shoulders. Of course, the neckline should be narrow enough that the bulk of the material won’t slide up and cover baby’s face.
5. As a Sun Shade for a Wagon
I attend a big festival in Pennsylvania every year and it gets really hot in the summertime. I think this idea, pictured here using cotton muslin, would also work with baby blankets. If you have a wagon that doesn’t have a sun frame, you can create one with light weight PVC piping. Secure it with industrial adhesive or zip ties. Lay your baby blanket over the top. If you want side panels, stitch other blankets to the sides. Instant canopy! Horses and servants not included. If you’re going to give it a try, send me a picture and with your permission, I’ll feature it on this post!