When your toddler outgrows their crib, it’s time to look for a “big kid” bed. You’ll probably spend some time buying a new mattress and bedding, but what about a toddler pillow? Does your child need one, and if so, what kind?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents avoid putting any soft bedding, including toddler pillows, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals, in an infant’s sleep environment.1 If your child is moving into a bed, though, they’re more than old enough for a toddler pillow—but that doesn’t mean finding one that’s the right size and fit for your toddler’s head is always an easy task.
If you’re making over your child’s bedroom to welcome them to the world of big kid sleep, here’s what you need to know about toddler pillows for toddlers, from whether or not they’re really necessary to how you can shop for the best one for your child.
Does Your Toddler Need a toddler pillow?
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), parents can usually introduce a toddler pillow to their child’s bed around 18 months of age.2 Before that, soft surfaces and overcrowding within a child’s sleep environment can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).1
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
When an infant under one year of age dies unexpectedly without a clear cause, it’s known as sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Most cases happen during sleep, so while experts don’t know exactly why it happens, an unsafe sleep environment is often assumed to have been a contributing factor.
Babies are at a higher risk of SIDS if they:3
SIDS Risk Factors for Babies
Sleeping on their stomachs or sides
Premature birth or low birth weight
Becoming overly warm during sleep
Born to a mother who smoked during pregnancy
Having a recent illness
Sharing a bed with a family member
How Parents Can Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
After 18 Months
But just because you can introduce a toddler pillow when your child is 18 months doesn’t mean you need to. Many toddlers sleep just fine without one, and if your child seems comfortable at night there’s no reason to force them to use a toddler pillow. It may seem odd to us as adults, but remember that your child has never slept with a toddler pillow in their life, so they don’t know they’re missing out on anything!
That said, if your two- or three-year-old is having trouble getting comfortable in their bed, complaining of aches and pains in the morning, or is frequently sleeping with their head on a rolled-up blanket or large stuffed animal, those are signs that you might want to try offering a toddler pillow.