Whether your toddler has just made the move from crib to big boy’s bed, or he’s simply growing up fast, it’s completely natural as a parent to wonder when the best time is to give your baby a pillow. Giving a small baby a pillow can pose serious hazards and can result in suffocation. So, it is important to hold out and only give your toddler a pillow when it is no longer dangerous to do so.
It is never recommended to give a small infant a pillow, as there is always the risk of suffocation. According to Doctor Maria Melendres, a pediatric sleep apnea specialist at John Hopkins, this risk continues until your baby is a toddler, although the risk is less than with a small infant. For toddlers who are healthy and who are developing at a normal rate, it is safe to introduce a pillow around 2 years of age.
Of course, it is not mandatory to give your two year old a pillow. In fact, if your child is sleeping fine without one, there really is little or no reason to introduce one.
Certified family and child sleep consultant, Carolina Romanyuk, reminds us that pillows are given to toddlers for added comfort at bedtime, but for many young children, sleeping without a pillow will not mean they are uncomfortable; the opposite is often the case.
According to Romanyuk, if you are considering when your child should be able to use a pillow safely, you should take note of how your two year old sleeps with a blanket or stuffed animal.
“If it appears that your child is resting his head on a stuffed animal or a blanker you give them, he’s probably ready to use a proper pillow”
So, if you think it is time to make the transition and to give your toddler a pillow, here are 6 potential toddler pillow hazards, and how to avoid them, ensuring your toddler sleeps both comfortably and safely at night.
Using a Pillow that’s Too Big
This really is common sense. The first pillow you give your toddler should not be adult-sized. Would you give your toddler a pair of shoes that were designed for an adult? Of course you wouldn’t.
According to Doctor Jen Trachtenberg, creator and author of “Pediatrician in your pocket,” your toddler’s first pillow should be a small kid’s pillow, and one that supports their neck and fits their head properly. To decrease the risk of suffocation, choose a pillow that is not fluffy or thick, and always ensure that the pillowcase is a snug fit and cannot be removed easily.
The Safer Bet: A Little Pillow Company Toddler Pillow
This pillow is perfect for travel and for preschool-age kids. It is the perfect size to be used in a toddler bed or whilst on the move, and what’s more, it’s washable and will dry quickly.
Where to Buy: The “Little Pillow Company Toddler Pillow” is available on Amazon at just $12.95.VIEW ON AMAZON
Using Pillows that Contribute to Allergies
If you thought that all pillows have the same type of stuffing, then it’s time to rethink.
Romanyuk states that before transitioning your toddler to a pillow it is important to be aware of any allergies they have. When choosing a pillow for a toddler, it is important to check what material is used for both the covering and pillow filling. As adults, we may love natural feather pillows, but these are not recommended for toddlers, as they are known to trigger allergies.
The Safer Bet: “KeaBabies Hypoallergenic Pillow for Toddlers”
Advice from Trachtenberg says that it’s always a better bet to invest in a pillow for your toddler that is hypoallergenic. This is because young children and toddlers are more sensitive to allergens than adults and older children.
Where to Buy: The “KeaBabies” Pillow is available on Amazon for just $22.VIEW ON AMAZON
Using a Pillow that is Too Soft
As an adult, you will have a pillow preference, and will often sleep badly in a hotel as the pillows aren’t to your regular choice. But, when it comes to your smallest loved one, the pillow you should choose should be firm and flat.
Romanyuk recommends a pillow that is firm but soft, to provide optimal support for your toddler.
To test a pillow to see if it is firm enough for your toddler, place your hand in it. If you see an indent of your hand print form on the pillow, check to see that once you release your hand, your pillow goes back to its original shape. If the pillow remains indented, then it’s too soft.
The Safer bet: “Little Sleepy Head” Original Toddler’s Pillow
What’s the very best part of this awesome toddler pillow? It comes with a guarantee, “love your pillow’s fluff or we will replace it”
Where to Buy: This Original Toddler’s Pillow is available on Amazon and costs $19.VIEW ON AMAZON
Putting a Pillow in a Crib
It doesn’t matter how old your child is, if she is still sleeping in a crib, you shouldn’t give them a pillow. This is the same for a child who is 2 or even 3. A child’s pillow is simply not designed to be used with a crib. Although by the time your child is 2 or 3, there is very little suffocation risk with using a pillow, having a kid’s size pillow in an infant crib can disrupt in the same way as putting in other objects such as blankets can.
According to certified gentle sleep coach and social worker Linda Szmulewitz, the problem that arises from giving a toddler in a crib a blanket or a pillow is more behavioural than a suffocation hazard. When you give an older toddler a pillow or blanket in a crib, he or she will often make a game of throwing the pillow out of the crib and onto the floor, refusing to settle until the parent returns it. This game can become extremely tiring for parents, especially when it is repeated throughout the entire night!
So, unless your toddler has specifically asked for a pillow, don’t give his one, especially if he or she is still sleeping in a crib. Once they move into a bed, don’t feel like you immediately have to give them a pillow; wait until they ask or until you deem it necessary.
Giving your Toddler a Pillow When they are Too Young – Even if they are Already Sleeping in a Big Bed.
As babies and toddlers transition from crib to bed at different ages, it is not possible to say that your toddler will need a pillow the first night he sleeps in a big bed.
Certified New Jersey sleep consultant Jennifer Gilman recommends holding off until your toddler is at least before giving them a pillow, even if they are already sleeping in a bed. Toddlers and infants are used to sleeping on a surface that is firm, flat, and bare, so transitioning to a bed without a pillow won’t cause any harm and it will ensure that your toddler’s sleep environment remains safe.
What this ultimately means is that you can make the move from crib to bed for your toddler without the need for a pillow straightaway.
According to Gilman, an adult’s perception of comfort is very different to that of a toddler. As your infant will always have slept without a pillow, it is not possible that your toddler will be uncomfortable unless he has a pillow.
Also, in the beginning, when you introduce a pillow, there’s a good chance that your child won’t even use it in the way intended and won’t keep their head on it during the night.
As adults, we enter into a deep sleep known as the stage of paralysis, where we stop moving around. Young children don’t enter into this type of sleep, and won’t do until they are 3 or 4. What this means is that your child will move around a lot, remove blankets, and not use their pillow at all. If you have ever co-slept with your toddler you will be well aware of just how much they move around.
Pillows with Dangerous Fillings
When selecting the best pillow for your toddler, avoid pillows that are filled with seeds, grains, millet, or buckwheat.
Pellets and small particles can present a potential choking hazard for your toddler. According to Trachtenberg, you should always opt for a pillow that is fibre-filled instead.
In general, pillows that are filled with grains are only found in adult-sized, and are marketed for eco-minded individuals. So, to avoid this mistake, simply stick with a toddler size pillow.
The Safer Best: Celeep Baby Pillow Set with 100% Natural Cotton Cover
This pillow is made of 30% Tencel fibre and 70% recycled polyester. The pillow is free from small parts and particles, making it a safe bet for your toddler. Its cover is made from 100% organic cotton, making it the perfect choice for eco-friendly parents.
Where to Buy: The Celeep Baby Pillow Set with 100% Natural Cotton Cover is available exclusively from Amazon and currently retails at $19.99.VIEW ON AMAZON
Potential Toddler Pillow Hazards: The Bottom Line
No matter how old your toddler or child is, many kids don’t need or won’t take to using a pillow when you first introduce one.
Romanyuk warns that when you first give your child a pillow, you will often found it discarded and thrown on the floor. Your child will ultimately start using a pillow when they are ready and really want to.
Ready to buy a toddler pillow? Check out six of the best toddler pillows here.