Techniques for Transitioning Toddlers to Pillows
Raising babies is one big flurry of milestones, each marked by new questions and big decisions. One of the biggest decisions you will face regarding sleep milestones is when to allow your child to use a pillow and how to make that transition. When making the decision to give your toddler a pillow, there is alot to consider … from their comfort, physical development, and most importantly, safety. Because we love babies and sleep here at Dreamland, we are here to help you learn how to transition your toddler to a pillow, safely.
Keep reading to learn how to transition your toddler to a pillow, when it’s safe to make that transition, and what the risks are of making the transition too early.
What age is it safe for a toddler to use a pillow?
While each child certainly develops at their own rate, and that should be taken into consideration as well, the official recommended age to introduce a pillow according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is 24 months, or two years old. Although, there is some debate as the Consumer Product Safety Commission has set their recommendation for introducing toddler pillows at 18 months.
If you have any questions about the safety of your toddler transitioning to a pillow for sleep, check in with your pediatrician. Each child hits developmental milestones at their own pace, and there is no one-size- fits all parenting handbook . . . although we all wish there was!
When should I introduce a pillow to my toddler?
What we know for sure is that any loose soft objects in your little one’s sleep area, including blankets and stuffed animals, should definitely hold off until they are at least 1 year old. It’s even better to wait until your toddler has transitioned out of a crib and into a toddler bed before introducing these objects. Once your tiny dreamer is in their very own “big kid bed,” the risks of suffocation go down dramatically. Most babies transition into toddler beds between the ages of 18-36 months, so this might be a good time to introduce a pillow.
Here are a few tips to keep your little one extra safe once they’ve transitioned to a toddler bed with a pillow and blanket:
- Bed position: Keep their new bed positioned far enough from any windows, cords, strings, and heaters.
- Back is still best: When laying your toddler down for sleep, continue to place them on their back. If they reposition themselves into a stomach sleeping position, that is okay.
- Toddler proofing: Yep, it’s not just for babies. Toddlers are wild, and a bed that they can crawl out of is an invitation for chaos to ensue. Secure furniture to walls, remove choking hazards, and cover outlets in their sleep space.
Should a toddler sleep with a pillow?
There are no rules stating that your toddler needs a pillow. In fact, many are quite comfortable without one. If you’ve ever seen a toddler sleep, you may come to the conclusion that they may not remain on that pillow throughout the night anyway.
We could tuck them into the coziest cocoon with the most comfortable pillow, and they could still wake up with their feet at the head of the bed with one sock on. There may be some signs, however, that indicate your toddler might sleep more comfortably with a pillow:
- Sleeping with their arm propped under their head: While this may be adorable, it could indicate that your toddlers neck is uncomfortable as they sleep.
- Bundling a blanket to lay on: If your little MacGyver is finding clever solutions to support their head as they rest, it may be time for a toddler pillow.
- Adopting your pillow when they climb into your bed to snuggle: They may either be scent seeking (because they love you that much), or be ready for a pillow of their own.
- Excessive tossing and turning during the night: There are many things that could cause excessive night movements, but if medical concerns have been ruled out, they may just be trying to get comfortable.
What type of pillow is best for a 2 year old?
While your little pillow thief may seem completely content while snuggled into your plush queen sized down feather pillow, it is not the best choice for them to sleep with. Not only is an adult sized pillow much too large for a small child to sleep with for safety reasons, but it is also much too thick for proper neck and spine development.
The average toddler sized pillow measures around 12”x16”, which is about half of the size of an adult pillow. A pillow that is too thick may cause unnecessary strain on your little one’s neck, leading to bad posture among other issues. Your toddler is doing a good chunk of growing as they sleep, which means proper head, neck, and spine support is crucial for their physical development. Experts recommend choosing a firm toddler pillow with a thickness of 2.5”-3” for proper head and neck alignment.
Additionally, the cover to your toddler’s pillow can be just as important as the pillow itself. Choosing a natural fabric such as cotton or bamboo for your child’s pillowcase can help cut down on sweating during sleep as well as prevent rashes or irritations on your little one’s sensitive face.
Why are pillows important for toddlers?
Just as a pillow that is too thick or fluffy can be detrimental for your toddler’s posture and alignment, not having a pillow can be equally harmful if your child is developmentally ready for some head and neck support while laying down. Pillows can be a great source of comfort for many young children, and the more comfortable they are - the better they will sleep.
For an extra cozy sleep for your toddler, pair the perfect toddler pillow with a Dream Weighted Blanket for toddlers over 3, or a Dream Weighted Sleep Sack for your tiny tot. Founded by a formally sleep-deprived parent, Dreamland strives to make every night’s rest as peaceful and as safe as can be.