When Should I Introduce A Pillow?

When To Give Toddler A Pillow - Header Image

Key Points

  • Toddlers are usually ready to start using a pillow at around 18 months of age – the same time that they transition from a cot to a toddler bed.
  • Toddler pillows are perfectly safe, provided they are of the right size and thickness to suit your child.
  • There is no standard size for toddler pillows, making it important that you buy toddler pillowcases at the same time that you buy the pillows.
  • Not all children will be ready to use a pillow at the same time. Take your cues from your child, as they will soon let you know when they would be more comfortable resting their head on a pillow.

You've safely navigated those often worrying baby years, and you now have a confident toddler, full of imagination and increasingly ready to explore the world.

While common infant concerns like sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are no longer a worry, toddlerhood brings new questions and considerations to mind. It is widely accepted that babies should sleep without a pillow due to the risk of suffocation, but now that your baby has transitioned into toddlerhood, you're probably wondering when to give a toddler a pillow.

When is the right time to give a toddler a pillow? The best time to give a toddler a pillow is when they move from a cot to a toddler bed at 18 months.

In general, the right time to introduce a toddler pillow is approximately the same time that your child transitions from their cot to a toddler bed. Of course, this begs the question of when to transition to a toddler bed .

While some children will be ready to say goodbye to their cot earlier than others, children on average stop sleeping in a cot when they are a year and a half. The best time to give a toddler a pillow is when they move from a cot to a toddler bed at 18 months.

Are Toddler Pillows Safe?

While you're wondering when to give a toddler a pillow, you may find yourself feeling concerned about the safety of toddler pillows. Provided your child is sufficiently old enough and that the pillow and its pillow-case are of an appropriate size, toddler pillows are perfectly safe.

Toddler sleeping on mattress without pillow

It's always a good idea to choose organic cotton fabrics to ensure that your little one doesn't have a reaction to any harsh chemicals or fillers.

Even though your child is no longer a baby, it's still important to ensure that their sleeping area is safe and free from hazards. Ensure that their toddler bed is away from curtains, blinds, and electrical cords. While it's is now acceptable for your child to have a blanket and some soft toys in their bed with them, keep blankets lightweight and soft toys small and light for now.

What Is The Right Size Toddler Pillow?

While most adult pillows are roughly the same size, there is no standard size for toddler pillows. A typical toddler pillow will be 30 to 40 centimetres by 40 to 50 centimetres (12 to 16 inches by 16 to 20 inches) . Despite there being no uniform size for toddler pillows, any pillow roughly around these dimensions and of a suitable height can be just the right size for your toddler.

What Is The Best Height For A Toddler Pillow?

You can probably remember how uncomfortable it can be to sleep on an unfamiliar pillow – perhaps at a friend or relative's house, or at a hotel. For most people, sleeping on a pillow that is too high or too hard can cause you to wake up with a sore, stiff neck or a headache in the morning.

Toddler playing with pillow in bed

The same is true for toddlers. At the most, the pillow should be no higher than 5 to 7.5 centimetres (2 to 3 inches). A pillow this thin may seem too small, but when you compare the size of your toddlers’ neck and head compared to your own, you realise that anything thicker could place undue strain on your child's neck muscles, making sleep uncomfortable or potentially even painful.

How Do I Choose A Toddler Pillowcase?

Since toddler pillows do not come in a standard size, it can be difficult to find toddler pillowcases to match. Unfortunately, an ill-fitted pillowcase can be a hazard to your toddler, as it can introduce the risk of suffocation. With such variance in the size of toddler pillows available, it's best to assume that you won't be able to find a perfectly fitting pillowcase from another store.

Instead, plan to purchase the toddler pillowcases from the same store and at the same time that you purchase your toddler pillow. In the future, if you need to purchase replacement pillowcases, be prepared to purchase a new pillow at the same time.

When choosing a pillowcase, keep your child's allergies and sensitivities in mind . Remember that some people can be allergic to wool and even some to synthetic fibres.

Instead, choose organic cotton fabrics – the perfect way to reduce your child's exposure to dyes, bleaches, and other harmful toxins. While buying organic will usually cost a little more, remember that your child's delicate little face will be in contact with this pillowcase for hours on end.

You only need to purchase two or three pillowcases to accompany your toddler pillow, so it's worth the initial added expense to choose an organic cotton fabric.

What Are The Potential Hazards Of Using A Toddler Pillow?

In general, if you choose an appropriately sized pillow that is not too thick, and buy matching pillowcases in an organic cotton fabric that perfectly fit the size of the pillow, and you ensure that your child is of an appropriate age and developmental stage to use a pillow, there are no potential hazards associated with transitioning your child to using a toddler pillow.

Hazards only occur when a pillow is too large (for example, by giving your child an adult-sized pillow), too thick (this can cause pain or discomfort to your child's neck), is too small or too large for its pillowcase (which can create a suffocation risk), is not made from organic cotton fabric (other materials can introduce allergens or harmful dyes or bleaches to your child's skin) or if your child is too young to begin using a pillow (causing a potential suffocation risk).

If you wait until your child shows that they are ready to use a pillow, and you choose the toddler pillow and its pillowcase carefully, your child can enjoy the comfort of sleeping with a pillow without any potential hazards or risks.

Regardless of how old your child is, the question of when to give a toddler a pillow isn't the same for everyone. Not all children will be ready to start using a pillow when they're 18 months old, nor will all children be ready to move out of their cot at that age.

Some children prefer the comfort and safety of their cot and are so used to sleeping on a hard surface that they have no need for a pillow. Many children will toss their brand-new toddler pillow out of bed when it's time to go to sleep.

Other children will make it very clear that they would be more comfortable sleeping with a pillow. If you find your child increasingly restless at night or taking the initiative to prop their head up on a soft toy or blanket, take that as a sign that a pillow could be just what is needed to make them feel comfortable and help them sleep soundly throughout the night.