Thursday, January 23, 2014

When can I give my child a pillow to sleep with?

12x16 Personalized Toddler Pillow
We get asked this question a lot - when is it okay to give my child a pillow?  With all the safety concerns regarding soft bedding items in cribs, you have to sift through a lot of changing opinions, but most of the official guidelines pertain to infants under 12 months of age (from organizations like The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) . So does that mean I can give my 13 or 14 month old a pillow at night?  Maybe, but maybe not.

We typically recommend our toddler pillows for 1½ to 2 years and up, and even then, it's best to check with your pediatrician first. Your child's pediatrician will be up to date on changing safety recommendations but more importantly, they will also know your child's heath history including any issues that may impact sleep: allergies or asthma, muscle tone and neck/head control, etc. Many leading child developmental experts agree that it's best to allow young children to sleep on a flat surface. When you do introduce a pillow, choose one that is firm, yet flat (not too poofy or fluffy even though they may look cozy!). Pick a small pillow that is the right proportions for a child - a standard size is a 12 x 16 toddler pillow. If you think about it, giving a small child an adult sized pillow is the equivalent of giving an adult a pillow the size of a twin or crib mattress!

What is the perfect age for a child to start using a pillow? Many children are ready to start using a pillow around 1½-3 years of age but check with your pediatrician first and educate yourself on the current safety recommendations and pros and cons.  According to, "parents can safely start using pillows for children who are 1½ years old, about the same age at which parents can safely move children out of the crib and either into a toddler bed or onto a mattress on the floor."

How to use a toddler pillow to help transition from the crib to toddler bed

Introducing a pillow is a great transitional item when the child is converting from the crib to a toddler bed or twin bed - but it all depends on age. Most kids are ready to leave the crib when they start potty training, especially at night since they may need to get out of bed frequently.  With my two children, I waited as long as possible to move them out of the crib and it was usually around 3 - 3 1/2 years old. However I have friends with "climbers" who have moved their kids out of the crib before their first birthday. I also have friends with 2-3 year old children who had frequent ear infections or sinus problems and their pediatricians recommend the use of a small pillow to help elevate the child's head. I've had many customers also tell me that they knew their child was ready when he/she bundled up blankets under his/her head at night to sleep on, or slept on a stuffed animal. But PLEASE check with your child's doctor first.

Other uses for toddler pillows

If your child or baby is not yet ready for a pillow, our toddler pillows still have a ton of other great uses for your toddler (see our website for even more uses for older kids and adults!):
  • Children enjoy cuddling up with toddler pillows during playtime. If they can become attached to the pillow or familiar with it during the daytime, it is more likely that they will accept it to cuddle up with at night - just like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. 
  • Using it for a "seat" to make that wooden chair more comfy
  • Playing house with dolls
  • Watching movies or during story time
  • Toddler pillows also make great travel pillows (even for adults!). I took one to the hospital with me during labor and delivery - great to put behind your lower back or neck for extra support. I also used mine frequently during nursing. Toddler pillows are the perfect size for traveling as they squish up easily inside a suitcase, can be carried on a plane, and great for making the car seat ride more comfortable - both for kids and adults. 

How to buy a toddler pillow

My child seems ready to sleep with a pillow, how do I find a good toddler pillow?  Here are some tips:
  • Choose a toddler pillow that is in proportion to your child (12"x16" is perfect!), and not overly filled.  Overfilled, fluffly pillows may seem cozy to adults and look nice on the bed, but your child is actually better off with a flatter, less filled pillow. 
  • Choose a quality made pillow with strong seams that will withstand machine washing and  possible rough and tumble daily use by a toddler - you don't want anything delicate or dry clean only!
  • Made in the USA - it's always great to support local manufacturing!
  • We recommend a pillow filled with high quality polyester fiberfill - it's non-allergenic, easy to wash, comfortable yet supportive, and keeps its shape.  
  • We also recommend a high quality cotton fabric for the covering - some cheaper pillows are covered with very thin gauze like material - make sure you opt for thicker 100% cotton.
  • Pick out some fun printed pillowcases that will allow your child to get attached to the pillow and make nighttime fun! Don't be so concerned with matching your child's bedding or room theme  - pick a design that your child really enjoys to make it more likely he/she will cuddle with the pillow. 
  • If your child has dust mite allergies, consider one of our allergen pillowcases.  It also offers an extra layer of protection between the pillowcase and the pillow to make washing easier.
A quick note on pillowcases: While I like the looks of many modern fabrics with plain and clean geometrical designs, your child won't connect to those designs in the same way as a fabric with pictures of their favorite animals, trains, trucks, daisies, fish, or fairies, etc.  Young toddlers like to point and name the animals and/or objects and colors - make it fun and conversational for your child! If you really have a problem with mix and match, go for a solid or small print and have the pillow embroidered with your child's name.
I can't tell you how may parents have told me that our toddler pillows have helped restless sleepers (which is great for the child and the parents!). Before introducing a pillow to your child at nighttime, check with your pediatrician and try to find a high quality, machine washable pillow that is in proportion to your child's head/neck.  Don't forget to make it fun and colorful too!