Of course you want your baby to be as comfortable as possible when they sleep at night, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a pillow is a good idea. Putting objects like pillows, bumper pads or soft toys into a young baby’s bed can suffocate them and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Put simply, your baby doesn’t need a pillow to be comfortable and putting one in their bed will make them less safe.
To help you better understand the safe baby sleep habits of your little one, we are here to explain when a child can have a pillow and what you can do to make your little one safe and comfortable in bed.
At what age can a baby have a pillow?
There’s no single, recommended age for when a baby can sleep with a pillow. The NHS states that you shouldn’t use a pillow until they’re at least 12 months old. Some other groups recommend that you should wait until your child is 18 months old, whilst certain bodies in the United States say no pillows before they’re two.
To make sure you are keeping your baby safe, we recommend waiting until your baby has become a toddler until you introduce a pillow to their bed. A sensible time to add a pillow and bedding is when your little one moves out of their cot to their toddler bed, which most parents do around the age of 18 months to two years.
Safe baby sleeping habits to reduce the risk of SIDS
As well as not using a pillow before they’re one, the NHS recommends the following safe sleep habits to reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Have your baby sleep in the same room as you for at least the first six months of their life.
- Place your baby on their back to sleep.
- Lay them in the "feet-to-foot" position, with their feet touching the end of their basket or cot so they can’t slide down the bed any further and end up with a blanket covering their face.
- If you place a blanket over your baby, don’t place it any higher than their shoulders and make sure it can’t cover their face. Ideally, tuck a blanket under their armpits to keep it at chest level.
- Use a firm, flat mattress with a sheet that can be taken off to change, but that fits well and won’t come off the mattress by accident.
- Don’t place any other items into your baby’s bed, like a pillow, a duvet, cushions, bedding rolls or soft toys.
- Make sure your baby isn’t too hot or too cold as they sleep.
What sort of pillow is suitable for my toddler?
When your baby has grown into a toddler and you’ve judged they’ve reached the age to sleep with a pillow, don’t give them an adult size one. Adult pillows will be too big and are usually soft and squishy. This means they may still pose a risk of suffocation.
Instead, opt for a toddler pillow that’s:
- Made specifically for toddlers.
- Thin and firm.
- Small in size, so if it does cover your toddler’s face they can get out from underneath it easily.
- Hypoallergenic if your little one is prone to allergies or has sensitive skin.
The takeaway on pillows and babies
Don’t give your young baby a pillow. They don’t need a pillow to sleep comfortably, and it can increase the risk of suffocation and SIDS. Wait until they’re a toddler and have moved to their toddler bed before you introduce a pillow – this usually happens between 18 months and two years of age.
Even at that age, you may find your little one may move around a lot at night and that they regularly end up sleeping without the pillow or toss it out of their bed. There’s no rush with a pillow. If your toddler and you are happy for them to sleep without one, then let them sleep without one.
When you do introduce a pillow to your toddler’s bed make sure it’s a toddler pillow, is low and firm, not too big and won’t pose any risk to your sleeping child.