When Can Toddlers Sleep With Pillow?

When Can Toddlers Sleep With Pillow?

We, as parents, are all inundated with safe sleep information from so many different sources. So much so, that it becomes difficult to wade through what is accurate and important. We all want the best for our babies, and keeping them safe requires a bit of research. Que the sigh of relief - because we’re here to help navigate safe sleep concerns by breaking down recommendations from reputable sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). One of the biggest concerns when it comes to safe sleep for babies and toddlers is. . .when can toddlers sleep with a pillow? 

Keep reading as we break down all there is to know about safely introducing a pillow to your little one’s sleep space. 

When can toddlers start using a pillow? 

As tempting as it may be to introduce pillows early on, babies should not have any soft bedding or loose articles in their sleep space whatsoever until they are older than 1. 

Even beyond the age of 1, the AAP does not recommend introducing a toddler pillow until your little one is at least 2 years old. But, we want them to be comfortable, right? Babies actually require a firm and flat surface to sleep on; for safety and comfortability. 

Sleeping with a pillow before the age of 2 could put your child at risk of positional asphyxia, blocking their airway and resulting in suffocation. Additionally, babies  are actually more comfortable without a pillow than they would be with one due to their delicate body structures. Remember, all babies and toddlers hit milestones at different rates, and two years old is just the minimum age of readiness for pillow introduction. Keep an eye out for other signs of readiness aside from age. 

What are the signs that a toddler is ready for a pillow?

There are several signs that may indicate your child (2 years or older) is ready for their very own pillow. Yes, this is another one of those “my baby is getting big” milestones that may require tissues. 

1. Seemingly uncomfortable in their sleep

If your toddler is regularly tossing and turning at night, they may be more comfortable with a pillow. Of course, rule out illness and/or pain as a cause for restlessness at night first. 

2. MacGyver pillows 

If your clever little one has begun to ball up blankets, stuffed animals, or even their arms to form their very own pillow, it may be safe to say they’re ready for the real deal. 

3. Toddler bed

Last but certainly not least, your child will not be ready for a pillow until they have transitioned to a toddler bed. Pillows and other loose bedding should never be used in a crib. These items could become entrapped in the sidewalls of four sided cribs, creating suffocation hazards. 

What type of pillow is best for a toddler?

For safety and an easy transition, the AAP recommends toddler pillows that are relatively small, firm, and on the flatter side. A plush adult pillow would not be safe - or comfortable - for a small child. Additionally, only pillows that are constructed of breathable fabrics and materials should be used in toddler’s sleep spaces. Luckily for parents, there is a market for toddler-specific pillows. These pillows will be smaller than standard pillows and typically constructed with preferred materials. 

How can using a pillow benefit a toddler?

Allowing your toddler to use a pillow for sleeping can be a big step. To ease your mind, there are some pretty major benefits. Let’s review. 

1. Promotes better spine alignment

A pillow that is appropriately sized for a toddler can aid in keeping  your little one’s spine in the proper position for healthy development. 

2. Pain prevention

Before introducing a pillow, your toddler may be using their arm as a prop for their head as they sleep.  This position can lead to some pretty awful shoulder pain. A toddler pillow would spare their arm, which may help them wake more rested. 

3. Comfortability

Just as pillows bring us adults comfort, your not-so-little one’s body may be more comfortable with a pillow too. This can help them, and in turn help you, get more sleep. 

4. Inspire independence 

All toddlers want to be like their parents. Having their own pillow, just like mom and dad, can foster independence and make them feel pretty special.

Are there any risks associated with toddlers using pillows?

As we briefly touched on above, there can be risks associated with toddlers using pillows. As long as you remember the essentials, there are minimal risks associated with pillow use. Let’s recap.

  1. Find the proper size
  2. Pay attention to the firmness
  3. Child friendly, breathable materials (especially if your toddler struggles with asthma or allergies) 
  4. No pillows in cribs
  5. Minimum age requirement of 2 years old

For any further advice, concerns, or questions regarding pillow use that may be more specific to your child, ask their pediatrician. 

What are the characteristics of an ideal toddler pillow?

We’ve covered size, firmness, and ideal fabric qualities; what are some other characteristics of an ideal toddler pillow? This one is big. . . durability. Afterall, your child may become pretty attached to their pillow. Plus, we all know (all too well) that toddlerhood comes with mess, spills, bodily fluids, and more. Keep an ample amount of pillow cases on hand and ensure that your toddler’s pillow is machine washable. Many parents even choose to keep a spare pillow for their toddler in the linen closet, if your child will let you substitute their special pillow. 

How can you ensure the pillow is safe for a toddler?

Choosing a pillow that is specifically marketed for toddler use and from a trusted brand is the best way to ensure that any specific pillow is safe for a toddler. There don’t seem to be any current standards for which pillows can be marketed for toddler use, so remember to double check all of the qualities of a safe toddler pillow that we touched on above. 

What is the best way to transition a toddler to using a pillow?

Many parents choose to introduce toddler pillows for naps only at first. Others choose to let their not-so-little one take the lead on introducing their pillow and simply make it available for use if they want it. Children can be different so talk to your child and find what works best. 

Are there alternatives to pillows for toddlers?

It’s not recommended to use any alternatives for a toddler pillow. Blankets and towels could come unfolded and pose suffocation risks, and other items may not provide proper spinal positioning. 

As your once tiny baby grows out of their crib, into a big kid bed, and starts sleeping with a pillow, they may still need help sleeping. You can transition your baby to sleeping with a pillow and a toddler bed with our Weighted Toddler Blanket to offer them a sense of calmness and familiarity (if they enjoyed a weighted sleep sack as a baby). 


When can toddlers start using a pillow? no soft bedding until older than 1


When can toddlers start using a pillow? No pillows (AAP)


When can toddlers start using a pillow? Suffocation from pillow

What type of pillow is best for a toddler?


What are the signs that a toddler is ready for a pillow?


How can using a pillow benefit a toddler?


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