Steiger helps others with weighted blankets and more

June De Wit | Staff Writer

Vanessa Steiger of Boyden and her oldest son, Peter, displayed many of the projects she has made as specialty items for babies with special needs. Steiger holds a weighted blanket on her lap, shows off two burp cloths and a taggie beside her, while she holds a teething ring in one hand. (Photo/June De Wit)

Vanessa Steiger was inspired to make weighted baby blankets after talking to a neighbor whose daughter had a sensory processing disorder. The family had been urged to try a weighted baby blanket, but the blankets were expensive, so Steiger offered to help.

“I’ll try to figure out how to make it,” she told her neighbor. She enjoys sewing, which she taught herself a couple years ago when she bought a sewing machine. She’s enjoyed making specialty items such as burp cloths, teething rings, taggies and double minky blankets.

The weighted blanket became her next challenge.

Weighted blankets can benefit various special-needs children. The coverings help calm them when they’re overwhelmed or too excited. These situations might include too much (or not enough) noise or bright lights, or when a child seems to be bouncing off the walls. Steiger explained, “It keeps them warm … safe … it feels like a hug.”

After some research, Steiger found information on Pinterest. Her blankets are made with two rows of channels that form squares to hold various amounts of weight. She fills each pocket square with plastic weighted beads. “There’s a lot of measuring. It’s a little bit time-consuming,” Steiger explained.

Each blanket fits the child’s body, not their bed. The child’s height and weight determine the size, so not all blankets weigh the same. It takes math skills to get the right amount of beads to make the correct weight for each blanket. Therapists recommended the blankets should weigh 10 percent of a child’s body plus 1 or 2 pounds. Steiger adds a pound of weight if the child is growing.

The blankets can be washed and dried in the dryer because the beads used inside are plastic pellets. Steiger’s blankets weigh anywhere from 4 to 11 pounds.

She’s had parents come back for a second  or even a third blanket just to have an extra or one for a sibling. The blanket works wonders to calm the child down. Once they use it, she said, they’ve told her, “My kid actually slept. It was amazing!”

Now Steiger has taken on another challenge. One family at Hope Christian Reformed Church of Hull, where Steiger is part-time secretary, has a daughter with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. With a heart surgery scheduled, they were looking for clothing to accommodate the wires and tubes.

“What if I make you something?” Steiger asked. “So I started making these baby hospital gowns.” She found and adapted a pattern for NICU babies. The gown has plastic snaps that don’t interfere with hospital machines. The specialty baby items have been catching on and Steiger has kept relatively busy sewing them as others request the gowns.

Steiger’s sewn teething rings are a wooden ring with a fabric flap-type piece attached. Taggies are a 12×12-inch piece of fabric with ribbon loops that are easy for children to hold, sleep with or fidget with. Her burp cloths are made different than most; they’re cloth diapers covered with a fun fabric. They work well as a changing pad too and are absorbent. Minky blankets are made with some soft, slippery fabric that is “very cute, but also very expensive,” Steiger explained. Car seat blankets and children’s ponchos help avoid wearing bulky winter coats in a car seat. Steiger hopes to make more of these with the winter months approaching.

There are even some adult items Steiger makes, like hot/cold packs with rice filler. Some are a nice shape for a neck compress or as a smaller square.

Most items are sold through her Facebook page, “Pleasant Kids Boutique,” or by word of mouth. Taking orders allows the child or parent to choose the fabric and color of items.

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