If you have just become a proud parent for the first time, you probably realise that you have a steep learning curve in front of you. You want to ensure that you raise your child carefully, of course, and that they are safe and comfortable at all times — and this is particularly important when they lie down to sleep. 

Still, many first-timers like you wonder whether they should add as many creature comforts as possible to their bedding arrangements. They often think that pillows, blankets and toys will make the environment more appealing. Yet this is not always the case, and you need to be aware of the risks associated with your action. So, when can a baby have a pillow and what should you do in the meantime? Read on to find out.

What Age Can You Let Your Baby or Toddler Sleep With a Pillow?

Most experts agree that you should not introduce a pillow of any kind until your toddler is at least 2 years old. There is simply too great a risk of suffocation and sudden death. In any case, your little one will be able to sleep comfortably without a pillow.

While they are very young, you should place them on their back and swaddle them for every sleep. After all, they will sleep a great deal when they are this age, of course — as much as 18 hours per day. When they rest, you will want them to be in their own crib, and you should place this in your bedroom for at least the first six months to keep an eye on them.

Make sure that you get a well-made crib and that the mattress fits snugly within. Move it away from any connecting cords or other obstacles, and make sure that there are no other objects (blankets, stuffed toys, and pillows) within the crib itself.

Once your toddler gets close to 2 years old, you can observe their sleeping habits. If they appear uncomfortable, or if you introduce a blanket and they try to put it behind their neck to sleep, then it may well be time for a pillow.

Many parents decide to wait until it is time for the baby to move out of the crib into their own smaller bed. Often, this is between 1½ and 2 years old and might be around the time that they start to crawl. In this case, you will want to choose a pillow that has been specially designed for their needs as they move on to the next stage in their development.

The Reasons Why It’s Not Safe for a Baby to Sleep With a Pillow

The main reason you should avoid giving your baby or toddler a pillow is associated with a terrifying event known as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Thankfully, this is in decline across the UK, but it can still be a significant risk for parents who are not aware.

While many have heard of SIDS, others may not be aware of a similar threat known as SUDI. Sudden Unexpected Death in Infants is another risk where there is no immediately apparent cause of death.

There are two differences between SUDI and SIDS. The latter is a lot more common and affects infants up to 1 year old. SUDI can occur between the age of 1 and 4 as well.

A baby can die from SIDS (aka “cot death)” at any time of the night or day and with no warning. The baby can often choke on an object (such as a toy or pillow). This is why experts recommend that babies sleep in a cot without any pillows, toys or other objects at any time.

Toddlers can easily become overwhelmed by even a relatively small object in the crib and may not be able to move out of danger. In this case, they may simply suffocate, and you should wait until a more appropriate time to introduce any type of pillow to aid with their sleep.

Remember, the main purpose of a pillow is as a comfort aid, but it is not necessary for a child of this age. After all, as a human being develops and their head and neck grows, it will be less comfortable to sleep without a support aid beneath their head. A toddler will not understand the proper use of a pillow and, rather than using it as a headrest, they may sleep beneath it or turn over and not be able to turn back.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Your Baby or Toddler

When you do decide to get a pillow for your young one, make sure that you size it correctly. You may think that an adult pillow will provide more support, but it needs to fit their neck and head properly.

You will want to choose a product that is comfortable and will help with their physical development. Remember, they’ll still be spending a lot of their time in bed and will be growing as they do so. Get a pillow that fits snugly, and bear in mind that you can always buy new ones to fit your growing youngster as time goes by.

And while you are choosing a pillow for your little one, make sure that it is not too soft either. Instead, get one that can provide optimal support while being flat and firm. As you may know, you can buy a vast range of pillows for a discerning adult, but don’t think that an exceptionally soft pillow will be more comfortable. Choose one that gives the correct amount of support beneath the neck and head. When you release pressure on the pillow, it should return to its original shape quite quickly.

You may not yet know if your child suffers from allergies. Alternatively, if they appear to be a little fussy, you may not know what they are allergic to. In this case, think about getting a hypoallergenic pillow that’s made with materials that are known to be neutral.

You may find some pillows that use natural ingredients, as there is certainly a trend towards this area in adult products. As a parent, you might like to be ecologically responsible and want to insist on natural filler, but your child may be more comfortable with a hypoallergenic example.

Safety First at All Times

You can never be too careful when it comes to the health and safety of your young one. While the incidence of SIDS and SUDI have thankfully decreased across the United Kingdom in recent times, there remains a risk, and you need to avoid this chance as much as possible.

Always follow the advice of experts, especially when your child is in his or her first year. Don’t introduce a pillow until it is time to do so, and when you do, ensure that you buy the most appropriate product for your child’s development. Take into account the amount of support they need for their head and neck, and be wary of any possible allergic reaction to the filler. 

If you’re in any doubt, our team at SleepSeeker can help you choose from the many different products available.