Making sure your toddler gets enough sleep is essential to their physical and mental health, not to mention your own. Good sleep means fewer tantrums and a more restful day for you too. So when it comes to your little one’s comfort, you probably want to give them the best of the best. But although comfort is important, safety is even more crucial.
That means waiting until your child is the right age to let them sleep with a pillow. Learn about the dangers of giving your child a pillow too soon, and how you can make sure to introduce pillows to your toddler safely.
What are the dangers of letting my toddler have a pillow?
Around 3,500 infants die in the U.S. each year because of sleep-related issues. This includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation, and deaths due to unknown causes. Most sleep-related deaths are preventable, however, if you follow safe sleep practices.
Improper usage of pillows can make toddlers vulnerable to sudden unexpected death in childhood (SUDC), which is similar to SIDS. You should never put a pillow in your child’s crib, as the pillow could obstruct their breathing. Your little one may also try to use a pillow to escape from their crib, which could lead them to fall.
Also, just because your toddler has transitioned to a bed instead of a crib does not necessarily mean that they are ready to use a pillow.
When is it safe to let my child use a pillow?
Although the age your child should be ready to use a pillow varies, pillows should not be used for toddlers under 18 months of age. It’s better to wait until your little one turns 2 years old.
If you see your child doing the following, it may indicate that they are ready for a pillow:
- Using blankets, sheets, or stuffed toys to prop their head up in bed
- Tossing and turning, which may indicate they’re looking for extra comfort that would be provided by a pillow
How to choose the right pillow for your toddler
Don’t give your toddler an adult-size pillow. Make sure it’s relatively small and thin.
A firm pillow is better for toddlers because it provides enough neck support. Firm pillows also don’t carry as big a risk of suffocation as soft pillows.
Choose a pillow that retains its shape and provides adequate support to your toddler’s spine. Since your toddler’s bones are still developing, make sure not to choose a pillow that’s too firm or that tilts their head upward, as this could interfere with their spinal development.
Make sure the pillow is made with chemical-free and hypoallergenic materials to reduce the risk of rash and allergic reactions.
Avoid pillows filled with natural feathers as these may trigger allergies in some toddlers. Also, avoid using pillows filled with tiny pellets, as these can increase the risk of choking if there is any tear and leak in the pillow.
Pillow covers should ideally be made of cotton or other organic materials. Use mild, skin-friendly detergents when washing the covers.
You don’t need to buy expensive brands when it comes to your toddler’s pillow, but looking for certain certifications may be a good idea since companies typically use third-party testing to determine whether a product meets established standards. Certifications to look for while choosing your toddler’s pillow include:
- GREENGUARD Gold
The above certifications ensure that the pillow is free of harmful materials, including toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
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