The right environment can contribute to a more restful sleep for toddlers. For some toddlers, a familiar blanket or pillow can provide comfort during naps or at night. While there is some debate about when to start using pillows with toddlers, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recommends avoiding pillows until children are at least 2 years old. Use these tips to purchase a safe and comfortable pillow for your toddler.
Evaluate whether your toddler is ready to use a pillow. Do not use pillows in cribs, where they can be a suffocation hazard. The best time to introduce your toddler to a pillow is when the child begins sleeping in a bed. Once a child's shoulders are wider than the head, the child usually will be more comfortable sleeping with a pillow.
Observe signs that your toddler is ready to use a pillow. The child may rest the head on a stuffed animal or blanket, or lay down on a pillow in an older sibling's room.
Select a pillow with firm and comfortable support. Press in the middle of the pillow to evaluate how quickly it regains its shape. If the pillow does not move (or moves only slightly) when you press it, it is too soft and unsafe for toddler use. If the pillow takes several minutes to regain its shape, it may be too firm and uncomfortable for your child.
Determine which size is most appropriate for your toddler.
- Consider a toddler pillow. Several manufacturers offer pillows designed specifically for toddlers. Toddler pillows are smaller than standard pillows, with dimensions around 12 inches (30.5 cm) by 16 inches (40.6 cm) and a thickness of about 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm). The smaller size eliminates the excess fabric that may be a suffocation hazard. The pillows also are firmer than typical adult sized pillows.
- Select a standard-sized pillow if a toddler pillow is not available. A standard pillow, which is the most common size, measures 20 by 26 inches. Do not allow your toddler to sleep with more than one standard pillow at once. If your toddler sleeps in a double bed, remove extra pillows so there is only one pillow in the bed during sleep times.
- Avoid king, queen and euro-sized pillows. Their large sizes make them unsafe for toddler use.
Assess the content of the pillow. Pillows can be filled with natural or synthetic materials.
- Choose 100% cotton filling for its soft fabric and breath ability. Cotton filling creates a flatter, firmer pillow that is ideal for toddlers. However, natural fabrics like cotton may cause allergy issues and are not as durable as synthetic fabrics.
- Consider a pillow made of hypoallergenic foam. Sometimes referred to as posture pillows, foam pillows help to align the spine and neck to promote healthy posture while sleeping.
- Avoid feather or down pillows because they are typically too soft and unsafe for toddler use. They also can contribute to allergies.