Sleeping bags are designed with a specific occupant in mind and lots will change depending on whether the occupant is a 200lb adult or a 35lb toddler. A child can sleep in an adult sleeping bag, but will the child be comfortable and safe?
The short answer is no, sleeping bags are not safe for toddlers. There are a number of valid reasons sleeping bags are not suitable for toddlers and they hinge around safety concerns, sleep quality and warmth.
Any sleeping bag works on the premise that a person’s own body warmth heats up the bag, trapping the heat in the layers of insulating material, resulting in an inside temperature that is higher than the outside air temperature.
Putting a toddler into an adult size sleeping bag means there is going to be so much space inside the bag for the child’s body heat to warm that this may not happen and the child will be cold. A child needs a smaller bag that can heat efficiently and keep it warm through the night.
Risk of Suffocation
A toddler placed in an adult sleeping bag runs the risk of wiggling down in the bag and becoming trapped. There don’t seem to be any recorded cases suffocation, but the experience of being trapped is enough to upset a child.
A study on sleep environment risks for younger and older infants found that in 69.2% of the cases of infant death studied in the US the child was sleeping with an adult.
For this reason never put a baby in a sleeping bag with you. A sleeping bag sized to the child is far safer. Safer too than loose blankets – more than 10% of the deaths in the above study could be attributed to blankets.
What age can a child get an adult sleeping bag?
Children aged 6 and over will be fine in an adult sleeping bag. Kids aged 3 to 5 should definitely be given their own sleeping bags sized to fit their bodies and babies under three should not be put into a sleeping bag other than specially designed baby sleep sacks.
Baby Sleeping Bags
If you are taking a baby aged up to 12 months camping then the type of baby sleeping bags you use at home will keep the child at a constant temperature.
There is no risk of the child getting tangled in them and as long as the armholes and neck fit properly the child won’t get their arms stuck inside the bag or head caught.
This one is a good example of a baby sleep sack. It is important to prepare for various weather conditions on your camping trip and take along a couple of baby sleeping bags of different tog weight.
The tog weight determines how warm it will be – so for warmer weather you’ll need a lightweight tog, compared to the standard tog of 2.5, and go to higher tog weights if you expect cold snaps. Also dress the child for sleeping in appropriate clothes – if the baby’s neck is damp from sweat then it is too warm.
Toddler Sleeping Bags
Technically a toddler is a child aged between 12 and 36 months and will still be sleeping in the baby sleeping bags appropriate for the child’s length and weight. Bags with a long zip are more secure.
Toddlers have clever little fingers and will figure out snaps and may get halfway out then become tangled – so once they are zipped in you should be fairly secure in the knowledge that they won’t escape and get cold. Babies and toddlers’ toes and fingers can get icy cold as all the blood is sent to the vital areas like heart and brain to keep those going.
For this reason they need to be securely fastened into their sleeping bags It is advised not to have their arms fastened in – just dress them warmly and put on baby mittens – most baby onesies now come with built in mittens that fold down when required.
This way if the child turns during sleep its arms are free to help it turn – if their arms are pinioned toddlers run the risk of suffocation.
Sleeping bags for a child aged 3 to 5 years
There is a whole range that you can find here.
At this stage kids will tend to get pretty dirty when camping and be prone to getting spills on their sleeping bags so probably go for darker colors and buy a bag liner to try keep the inside clean.
Be careful that you are buying a sleeping bag suited to camping rather than one used on indoor sleepovers as there will be a difference in the warmth provided and the quality of materials used.
You want to ensure you get snag free fabrics that are durable and that the loft of the sleeping bag will provide a comfortable sleep.
Sleeping bags are suitable for toddlers – but they must be specially designed with the toddler’s needs in mind and sized according to the child’s weight and height.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.