Toddler Pillows: The Risks Every Parent Should Know About

A toddler with a pillow.

The first few years of your little one’s life are filled with exciting and magical moments, but they can also bring anxiety and fear to new parents. Worrying about your baby is only natural, but certain risks need to be carefully addressed to protect the life of your child. One such problem area for many recent mothers and fathers is the sleep of their child, as nights are notoriously troublesome in the first year of an infant’s life.

Aside from the near-constant sleep deprivation due to hungry mouths and nappy changes, SIDS is enough to terrify any parent into wakefulness. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a serious danger for the first few years of your child’s life, something most parents are acutely aware of. Protecting your infant when they should be sleeping soundly is vital, so read on to find out about the risks every parent should know. 

When Can a Toddler Have a Pillow?

We know that when children are young, it’s best for them to sleep without a pillow. That’s because pillows, blankets, and other crib decorations can pose a risk of suffocation. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the name given to this phenomenon, where newborn babies die unpredictably in their sleep, often with no warning signs beforehand. While SIDS is less common than it was 20 years ago, thousands of children still die from it each year. 

Prevention for SIDS is simple but paramount. You should never let an infant sleep on their tummy, as it decreases your baby’s access to fresh air. It also increases the risk of overheating, and both of these are risk factors for SIDS. Some infants sleep much better on their stomachs, so it can be tempting to allow it. However, even a short nap on their tummy can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Side-sleeping isn’t safe either; just always put your baby to sleep on their back. Once they’re old enough to roll over themselves, the risk of SIDS from this cause decreases. However, there is more than one way that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can occur. 

The complete unpredictability of SIDS is terrifying to new parents, so it’s important to know everything you can about risks and prevention. One vital element to protecting from SIDS is not giving your little one a pillow before they are ready. Official recommendations say that 18 months is enough time for your child to be ready for a pillow, but the case is different for every person. So when can a toddler have a pillow? 

Most children will sleep comfortably and soundly in their crib until the age of two. Before this time, babies are too young to protect themselves from suffocation. The mobility in their neck and development of their brain means there’s no need to add a pillow to your child’s crib before they need one. If your toddler is still comfortable sleeping without a pillow, there’s no need to add anything to their bed. 

However, once your little one is past the age of two years, they may need a chance of sleeping arrangements. Now is the time they may outgrow their crib, and need to sleep in a toddler bed instead. Around this period, watch out for signs that it might be time for your kid to sleep with a pillow. The risk for SIDS drops significantly after the first year of life, and after the second is practically eliminated entirely. At this point, you can think about introducing pillows and blankets will complete peace of mind. 

There are certain indicators that tell you when a toddler needs a pillow to sleep properly. As humans grow older, we require support for our heavy heads and necks during rest, so that all muscles can relax. Once your child is ready to sleep in an open bed, keep an eye out for these signs that they need to be more comfortable:

  • Making their own pillow: If you see your toddler using a blanket, soft toy, or their arm to support their head during sleep, it might be time to give them a pillow. The fact that your little one is making their own make-shift support for their head and neck means that they need more bedding. It’s time to support their growing head like an adult with an appropriate pillow. 
  • Sleeping poorly: If your toddler is cranky and seems tired, it could be a sign they aren’t getting enough sleep. If this is the case, and the other risk factors are eliminated, it might be the right time to give your baby a pillow so that they can be more comfortable at night.
  • Pain complaints: In a much more concerning indication to parents, complaints of morning aches and pains are a sign that a pillow could be needed. Particularly if they are located in the neck area, this is a possible sign that more support is needed for comfortable sleep. 

These potential signs of impaired sleep for your toddler mean that it could be time to give them a pillow. Always ensure the risks for SIDS are eliminated before adding pillows and blankets to your child’s bed. Remember, there is no reason to add pillows to your toddler’s crib if they don’t need it. This risk is completely unnecessary if your child is already comfortable. If you do decide that it’s the right time to introduce pillows, read on to discover what you need to know. 

Getting your toddler a pillow could be a great addition to their stuffed animals.

What are the Risks of Toddler Pillows?

After the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has passed, there are still several hazards regarding toddler pillows that every parent needs to know about. Even something as simple as a pillow can pose a threat to your child if the conditions happen to be right. However, all you need to do is avoid a few easy mistakes, and you and your little one can sleep soundly. Here’s what to look out for when you give your toddler their first pillow:

  • Using an adult pillow: Regular pillows are much too large for toddlers to use. Their heads and necks are smaller and so the pillow needs to fit properly, in order to provide the right amount of support. Thick and fluffy pillows pose a risk of suffocation, to the best choice is a firm and correctly sized toddler pillow. 
  • Using a pillow that’s too soft: Adults develop a preference over time as to how soft they like their pillow, but kids don’t get a choice. Using any smaller sized pillow won’t cut it for your youngster, rather specialist toddler pillows are better. These are flat and firm, ideal for providing support without risking suffocation. 
  • Using a pillow made from common allergens: Make sure you know what materials are used in both the stuffing and the filling of your toddler’s pillow. For example, natural feathers can trigger an allergic reaction in many young children, so are not often recommended for your little one’s first pillow. 
  • Using a pillow made from hazardous materials: Some pillows are stuffed with grains, seeds, beads, and other small particles. These pose a serious choking hazard and are not suitable for use by children in any way. Always make sure your choices are officially approved as toddler-safe. 
  • Using a pillow in a crib: No matter their age, if your child still sleeps in a crib, they can’t use a pillow. Although the risks of suffocation are reduced, using bedding in cribs can still disrupt sleep. Pillows should only be introduced after the child has moved to an open bed, and even then it’s not necessary straight away. 
  • Using a pillow before your toddler is ready: Even if you’ve made the move from crib to bed, that doesn’t mean you need a pillow. Children don’t sleep as deeply as adults until they reach the age of three or four, so sleeping on a flat surface is perfectly comfortable. If your child hasn’t expressed any need for a pillow, then there’s no need to rush. Until a time when using a pillow is necessary, it’s perfectly safe and healthy for your toddler to sleep without. 

What Toddler Pillow Size is Right?

The standard size for a toddler’s pillow is around 13 by 18 inches, much smaller than your standard pillow. Adult bodies can be comfortable using a range of different pillows, but toddlers need a more specific type. Using the right size and type of pillow will promote safe sleeping, and help stop any sleeping problems for your little one. Also, it’ll fit better in their big kid bed and help them feel all grown up, so bedtimes will be easier too. 

What are the Best Toddler Pillows?

When choosing the best pillow for your toddler, there are a number of elements to keep in mind. These will help decide which product works best for you, as well as eliminating any which aren’t up to scratch. These are the most important things to watch out for if you want your toddler to sleep safely and soundly. 

What to look for When Shopping for a Toddler Pillow:

  • Materials: The outer case of a toddler’s pillow should be 100% cotton; soft, comfy, and free of chemicals. Any young ones with allergies or environmental sensitivities should sleep with a hypoallergenic pillow. These are specially designed to reduce and limit bacteria and mold growth on the pillow.
  • Size: As we mentioned, a full-sized adult pillow is much too large for toddlers. Smaller heads are happy on a pillow around 13 by 18 inches in size, the perfect amount of comfort and support. 
  • Stuffing: The filling inside many pillows is now made from eco-friendly materials like buckwheat and hemp. While they are a greener choice, they pose a choking hazard for toddlers. Natural down feathers can also trigger allergies in young kids, so synthetic materials are best for your child’s first pillow. Look for a pillow filled with synthetic fibers or memory foam. 
  • Support: Children need a fairly firm pillow for their first, to provide stable support for the head and neck. Softer pillows and stuffies may be comfortable, but they don’t provide enough support to your toddler. 

We’ve selected a few of the very best toddler pillows for your consideration, and here we’ll share a bit of information on them. Each of these pillows would make a great first choice, but by reading you can select the ideal pillow for your toddler’s needs. Read on to discover a few of the best toddler pillows. 

1. KeaBabies Toddler Pillow

We love the KeaBabies “My Little Dreamy Pillow” because it’s ergonomically designed. The most important thing your little one needs from their pillow is support, and this especially tested pillow promises the best spinal comfort. The natural cotton case is soft and machine washable, easy to clean and refresh. This toddler pillow is the perfect size for your little one to take anywhere, always promising a sound and safe sleep. 

2. Dreamtown Kids Toddler Pillow

Unlike the previous toddler pillow, the Dreamtown Kids is made from a poly/cotton blend. Although we usually prefer 100% cotton for pure softness, this material is easier to machine wash and 100% hypoallergenic. This toddler pillow is the perfect size to offer optimal support to your child’s head, it’s actually recommended by chiropractors for optimal spinal development. 

3. A Little Pillow Company Toddler Pillow 

The Little Pillow Company Toddler Pillow is one of our favorites because it’s made in the USA, and even uses recycled materials! The eco-friendly stuffing of this pillow is made from 100% recycled BPA-Free plastic bottles, and it’s completely child safe. The outer case is untreated 100% cotton to ensure no exposure to nasty chemicals. Ideally sized for toddlers from 2-3 years of age, this greener option for your child’s first pillow is hard to beat!

4. Little One’s Pillow

The Little One’s Pillow goes the extra mile to make sure that your toddler sleeps as soundly as possible. If your pillow isn’t the perfect fit for your little one to sleep comfortably, the company will send you a replacement pillow with an increased or decreased amount of filling. Said stuffing is made from hypoallergenic polyester, while the case is organic cotton. This pillow was designed with the help of top pediatricians so you can be sure it’s one of the best toddler pillows.

It’s important to make sure you find the right pillow size and not give a toddler an adult pillow.

Toddler Crib and Pillow Safety Tips

Introducing your little one to their “big kid bed”, along with their first pillow, is an exciting time. However, there’s a lot that parents need to know about this transitional time. From preventing the risk of SIDS to general sleep safety, we’ll share some important advice and tips about creating the perfect sleep environment. 

When it’s time for your little one to move out of their baby’s crib, and into a larger bed, it’s important to choose a bed of an appropriate size. Many people think this process should happen quickly, at only one year of age. However, you can let your baby sleep in a crib with a low set mattress until the age of three. You shouldn’t introduce a pillow before then, as you could risk strangulation and improper toddler pillow safety. 

As your little one starts to find their feet, they might find it hard to resist curiosity. Climbing and pulling at furniture and pretty much anything else is common among toddlers, so you need to take some precautionary steps. Secure furniture to the walls so it cannot topple, including dressers, TV stands, and bookcases. You may also want to add protection like crib bumpers to any sharp corners, to prevent any accidents from happening. 

Another part of “toddler-proofing” is removing all strangulation hazards, just like with too large of a pillow. Any blind cord, electric lamp, or fragile object should be removed or placed out of reach. Any sort of tangle, suffocation, or choking hazard needs to be removed from your child’s environment. 

Toddler Pillows: The Bottom Line

The primary risks when giving your toddler a pillow stem from one of two mistakes; give them a pillow too soon, or using one that isn’t the right size. Until your little one has moved out of their crib (up to age 3) they should never be given a pillow. Even then, if your kid sleeps comfortably then there’s no reason to introduce more bedding. 

Once your child is ready for a pillow, including expressing the need and sleeping in the right bed, it’s important to make an appropriate choice. You need a toddler-sized pillow, offering adequate support for comfort and safety. Additionally, you may prefer a hypoallergenic pillow to reduce allergy risks. Any of the best toddler pillows we listed would make an excellent choice. 

Once your toddler begins to communicate, you can explain to them all about bedtime. They will be able to tell you about their comfort, while you can inform them about important safety issues. Opening communication about safety issues with young children is a vital part of raising them. All of your efforts to protect your little one are worth it to bring about the bright future ahead of them. 

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