Whether you had a vaginal delivery or cesarean section, postpartum recovery is a challenging time for all new mothers. You have endured the physical stress of childbirth and are thoroughly exhausted. No sooner do you then find yourself at home caring for a newborn not having had time to care for yourself. While reviewing the latest postpartum health trends, we were excited to find a great deal of positive information about the use of weighted blankets for postpartum recovery.
Studies have demonstrated how the blanket induces a calming effect on our nervous system and through the regulation of hormone production.
It is no surprise the weighted blanket is helping moms manage anxiety, insomnia, and even Restless Leg Syndrome.
The weighted blanket is quickly becoming one of the top-selling wellness products of 2019.
Though the use of a weighted blanket for the management of postpartum symptoms is still being evaluated, there has also been an overwhelming number of positive testimonials based on user experience.
Before any further discussion about weighted blankets, it is important for us to address some of the concerns most people have about wellness products that may become a permanent addition to the family household.
The number one question about weighted blankets:
Are weighted blankets safe?
This is particularly of interest to new moms since there is a newborn in the house. To date, the blanket is considered safe if used properly. The weight of the blanket should not exceed 10% of one’s body weight. If you decide to use a weighted blanket, never use the blanket when you are with your newborn baby.
As for the materials used in its construction, there are no concerns if you purchase a blanket from a reputable manufacturer that uses glass beads and natural fibers.
What is in weighted blankets?
This is an important question because of the concerns that had been raised about electric blankets. Fortunately, the weighted blanket does not use electricity.
Parents are also concerned about the composition of a blanket because it is a product that family members will be exposed to for many hours a day.
We have reviewed what is in weighted blankets produced by leading manufacturers.
The following is a list of what is in weighted blankets constructed by reputable manufacturers. Since weighted blankets can be expensive, there are many spin-offs that will be more affordable. We cannot speak to the safety of these pillows.
Here is a very simple list of what is in weighted blankets that we believe are very safe materials.
- Glass beads
- 100% Cotton
The top-rated weighted blankets use natural fibers because they are breathable.
Benefits Of Weighted Blankets For Postpartum Recovery:
Childbirth takes a toll on your body and it can take months to fully recover.
It doesn’t matter if you had a vaginal birth or a c-section, postpartum recovery is hard either way.
There are a number of postpartum conditions that (may) benefit from a weighted blanket upon returning home from the hospital with your newborn:
Postpartum anxiety is not uncommon, especially in first-time moms. As many as 20% of postpartum women experience anxiety and depression.
As many as 1 in 10 women are impacted and the highest rates of depression and anxiety occur during the postpartum period. (Source)
You want to be sure to discuss any symptoms of anxiety or depression with your doctor. Do not wait until your 6 weeks postpartum visit if you have symptoms before then.
Postpartum anxiety and depression can occur for as long as a year after delivery, so even if you have had your postpartum visit, contact your doctor and ask for help.
Do not feel ashamed. It is treatable and you deserve to feel better.
There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help if you are anxious and depressed.
A mother’s anxiety and depression if left untreated can have negative and far-reaching effects on her child, her partner, her family and herself.
There are many treatment options that your doctor will discuss with you. Weighted blankets have been found to be helpful in reducing symptoms in people with anxiety. (Source)
Postpartum insomnia is another common complaint of new mothers. It is often related to anxiety and depression in the postpartum period but has also been linked to postpartum fatigue.
Postpartum fatigue can increase your difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep which sounds crazy but is true! You can be so exhausted, overwhelmed, and nervous about having a new baby that you can’t fall asleep.
A weighted blanket can help, but it is only one piece necessary to get your sleep back on track. So what else can you do?
- Exercise. Try to get in a 30-minute walk a day if you can.
- Relax before bed. Take a warm bath. No screen time.
- Keep your bedroom temperature cool and make sure the room is dark.
- Get a properly sized weighted blanket for you and make your pillows are comfortable.
- Avoid caffeine at night
- If you have tried all of the above and your insomnia has been going on for more than a week or two, reach out to your doctor. You may need some medication temporarily to help you sleep and break the insomnia cycle.
- Accept help from family and friends. Do not feel guilty. As a new mom, you need far more care and support than you think. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome can develop during pregnancy but usually clears up within 4 weeks after childbirth. Those can be a long 4 weeks if you can’t fall asleep because of restless leg syndrome!
If using weighted blankets for postpartum recovery can help alleviate restless leg syndrome this will be a huge medical breakthrough.
By reducing anxiety through constant deep pressure stimulation to your legs this may help Restless Leg Syndrome. Studies have suggested a connection between anxiety and RLS.
Improves Quality and Duration of Sleep.
Sleep is in short supply when you have a newborn baby in the house. So the quality of your postpartum sleep really matters.
When you get the opportunity to sleep (and as a new mom you may need to speak up about needing sleep) you don’t want that sleep to be a struggle or to be constantly waking up.
Weighted blankets have been shown to trigger an increase in serotonin which is linked with an increase in melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycles and helps us to fall asleep. (Source)
You may find that using a weighted blanket improves how well you sleep.
Getting enough sleep has been shown in studies to improve mood, help with weight loss, and may help increase your breastmilk supply.
Getting enough rest and quality sleep during the postpartum period should be considered a therapeutic necessity and not a luxury.
Why are weighted blankets becoming so popular?
Currently, there appear to be three main reasons why weighted blankets are gaining so much popularity:
- Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of weighted blankets in helping to reduce anxiety.
- Weighted blankets have been shown to have a positive effect on the nervous system (Autonomic Nervous System) and hormone levels, including oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, cortisol, and melatonin.
- User experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
Dozeology is my choice in weighted blankets. Their blanket is stylish, neutral, goes with any decor style.
All brand new postpartum mothers should come home to this waiting for them! (and a postpartum doula!)
Dozeology makes an amazing weighted blanket! What I like is that it only weighs 15 pounds and it is made from a material that stays cool. The blanket comes with a machine-washable duvet cover. It comes in at least two colors. You can see it here.
The weight is good because it is just heavy enough to make you feel “hugged” and safe, but not so heavy you get that panicky can’t get out feeling.
You can check the price and read the reviews on Amazon here.
Dozeology Cooling Weighted Blanket Premium
How are weighted blankets made?
There are many designs and materials that go into the construction of a weighted blanket.
There are some basic materials and design principles that go into the construction of any weighted blanket.
These are listed below and are the same details you will want to evaluate should you decide to buy a weighted blanket.
- The weight of a weighted blanket is made up of glass or plastic pellets. The more pellets the more weight. Glass pellets are typically associated with the higher priced blankets. They are not necessary.
- To keep the pellets from shifting they are sewn into separate quilted compartments. This is a crucial step in the manufacturing process. If not done correctly or made of poor quality material, the pellets will shift or leak out over time. You always want a weighted blanket that has an even weight distribution of pellets that are securely sewn in place.
- Since the blankets are insulating, the blanket can serve as a cooling or warming blanket (not electrical) it is important to make sure that the shell of the blanket is made of a natural (breathable fiber). The most common fiber is 100% cotton. This applies to the filler as well.
- The size of your blanket is fit to the size of your body and not your bed. If the blanket is large enough to drape over the side of your bed the weight of the pellets can cause the blanket to slide off the bed.
- Some weighted blankets come with a studded inner lining which adds a massage effect
How does a weighted blanket work?
A weighted blanket is believed to work in at least two ways:
One is through the effect it has on our nervous system and the other is how it affects our hormone levels while we sleep.
Autonomic Nervous System Effects Can Help Anxiety:
Weighted blankets create deep pressure stimulation. This stimulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls our body’s involuntary nervous system.
This includes our response to stress and anxiety (sympathetic nervous system) as well as our body’s involuntary activities such as sleep and digestion (parasympathetic nervous system). These effects are why there is so much interest in the use of weighted blankets for postpartum recovery.
The deep pressure stimulation of a weighted blanket causes a shift in the autonomic nervous system from Fight or Flight to Rest and Digest.
This leads to feelings of calmness and decreased anxiety. (Source)
The benefits of Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS) is well studied:
- Therapy dogs (specially trained to provide pressure have been shown to help with PTSD)
- Weighted Vests can elicit the same response
- Lap weights have been found to be comforting. (Might explain why dogs sitting on our laps can be a stressbuster.)
- Weighted “hug” backpacks have been studied. It is well-known that hugs can make one feel less stressed and feel safe.
Weighted Blanket effects on hormonal production may help insomnia:
Individuals suffering from insomnia are desperately looking for ways to treat their condition.
A weighted blanket is thought to help insomnia by affecting levels of the serotonin hormone.
For years serotonin has been known to fluctuate during sleep. Studies continue to define the association of Serotonin to the sleep cycle. (Source)
Can weighted blankets for postpartum recovery be harmful?
Any product can potentially be harmful if used incorrectly. At this time, it appears that a properly designed and correctly weighted blanket is safe.
The weighted blanket does not use electricity and is made of non-toxic materials.
The risk of a weighted blanket at the present time would be related to issues that are well within your control:
- Age Using Blanket
- Weight of Blanket
- Underlying Health Concern
For adults, the risk of a weighted blanket is very low if used properly:
- Buy a blanket that is not heavier than 10% of your body weight.
- Use the blanket in short intervals of up to a few hours. Not to be used throughout the night.
- Talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions that are concerning (respiratory problems, circulatory problems, mental health concerns)
- Talk to your doctor and discuss if you may benefit from using weighted blankets for postpartum recovery
Can a weighted blanket be too heavy?
The standard recommended weight is 10% of one’s body weight. However, weighted blankets
Some of the criteria that are used to select the proper weight blanket are the following:
- Your Weight
- Climate you live in.
- Medical condition: circulatory, pulmonary, claustrophobia
- Indication: anxiety, insomnia, cooling
Interesting facts about weighted blankets:
- Weighted blankets were originally developed to manage children with autism and many studies showed positive results. Due to the risk of suffocation, there are many guidelines and this use must only be considered under the care of a physician trained to treat autism with a weighted blanket.
- The Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health: Reported decreased anxiety in 63% of adults using a weighted blanket.
- The effect of Deep Pressure Stimulation became the focus of many studies starting in the 1960s.
- Deep Pressure Stimulation has been shown to be effective for many mental health conditions.
- Deep Pressure Stimulation has been shown to be effective in wisdom tooth extraction.
We hope this article has helped to point out some of the potential benefits of weighted blankets for postpartum recovery.
Since the weighted blanket has only recently become popular for managing insomnia and anxiety, you will want to clear the use of a weighted blanket with your provider until further research has been done.
Talking to your provider is a precaution since we do know that weighted blankets do affect your autonomic nervous system and your endocrine system which controls the production of hormones.