When to Give a Pillow to Toddler

By
Kathryn Walsh
- December 21, 2017

Sleep Safety for Your Little One

When to Give a Pillow to Toddler
g-stockstudio/iStock/GettyImages

If your pillow could give advice and pour wine, you might just declare it your best friend. You're always happy to see it, and it cradles your head and neck just perfectly, so you can get a comfortable night's sleep. So when you look down at your toddler lying flat on his firm crib mattress, you might feel a pang of guilt that he doesn't have the same support. Worry not. A toddler who has never slept with a pillow before doesn't know he's missing out on anything, so there's no rush to give him one until he's ready.

At What Age Can My Toddler Have a Pillow?

Babies shouldn't be given pillows for the same reason they shouldn't be given blankets, stuffed animals and other soft items to use in their cribs. Anything plush poses a suffocation risk for infants. If your sleeping baby were to roll so his face pressed into a soft pillow, he may not be able to pull his mouth and nose away. A baby can also suffocate if his head gets stuck inside an open pillowcase.

Those risks diminish as your baby grows into a toddler. Some experts say it's safe to give your child a pillow when he's around 18 months old, but it's best to wait until he's at least 2. Even then, you might decide to hold off until he either asks for a pillow or moves from a crib to a bed. Offering an exciting new "big kid" pillow can help make that transition more appealing to a toddler who's resistant to leaving his cozy crib behind.

What Kind of Pillow Should My Toddler Use?

His body is small, so your toddler doesn't need an adult-size pillow. Look for one that's about the size of the pillows that airlines provide. They're typically no more than half the size of a typical bed pillow.

The right pillow is firm and fairly thin. Especially if your toddler is a very heavy sleeper, a thick, soft pillow still poses a small suffocation risk. And remember: He's been sleeping comfortably with no head support at all, so he doesn't need a plush feather or memory foam pillow as you might.

Choose a hypoallergenic pillow and cover it with a tight-fitting, hypoallergenic protector. Cover that with a zipping pillowcase so your toddler can't get his head wedged inside the case.

When Can He Have a Blanket and Stuffed Animal?

It's usually safe for a child to start sleeping with a blanket or duvet at around the same age that he can sleep with a pillow. By 2, he should be able to safely sleep with a blanket in his bed, provided it's small and thin. Your toddler doesn't need a comforter or fluffy duvet yet. Many parents find that sleep sacks make a better alternative to blankets, anyway. A cozy sleep sack will keep your child warm all night, as opposed to a blanket that may end up bunched at the foot of the mattress. A sleep sack also can prevent your mischievous toddler from climbing out of his crib.

Use common sense when it comes to letting your infant sleep with his favorite stuffed animal. A big fluffy lovey that's as big as he is? Keep it out of the bed. Other cozy stuffed animals are generally safe to introduce into his bed around age 2, but limit him to one to minimize the risks.

About the Author

Kathryn Walsh has more than 20 years of experience working with children and has been writing about children and parenting topics for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared on sites including TheBump, Working Mother and Mamapedia.