When Can A Baby Use A Pillow?

Understanding the Right Time for Introducing a Pillow

Introducing a pillow for a baby is a milestone that should not be rushed. The general recommendation is that babies should not use a pillow until they are at least 18 months old. This safety guideline is in line with advice from pediatric experts and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to prevent the risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Once a child reaches this age, they have typically moved out of the crib and into a toddler bed where it is safer to use a pillow.

Why Delay a Pillow for Babies?

Potential Risks

While pillows can add comfort for adults and older children, for babies, they pose certain risks. The primary concern is the danger of suffocation because infants lack the muscle strength and coordination to move away from objects that can obstruct their breathing. Additionally, extra bedding like pillows could increase the risk of SIDS, a tragic occurrence where an apparently healthy baby dies in their sleep with no clear cause.

Developmental Considerations

Babies have different physical needs than older children or adults. Their spines and necks are developing, and sleeping flat provides the support they need without putting any strain on their bodies. Infants don’t require the cushioning of a pillow for comfort or spinal alignment, as their bodies are naturally supported.

Transitioning to a Pillow

Recognizing the Signs

When toddlers begin showing signs they can handle a pillow, such as consistently sleeping in a toddler bed without crib rails or when they lay their head on a blanket or stuffed animal for comfort, it might be time to introduce a pillow. It’s important to observe your child’s behavior and consider their individual needs.

Choosing the Right Pillow

Selecting the appropriate pillow for a young child is essential. The pillow should be firm enough to prevent sinking deep into it but soft enough to provide comfort. The size of the pillow is also crucial; it should be proportionate to the child’s body—neither too big nor too small. A flat and thin pillow is generally a good starting point to ensure proper neck alignment and safety.

Safety Measures for a Good Night’s Sleep

Safe Sleeping Environment

A safe sleep environment is crucial for babies and young children. Along with waiting until 18 months for a pillow introduction, make sure their sleeping space is free from loose blankets, stuffed toys, or any soft bedding that could increase the risk of suffocation or SIDS. Always place your baby on their back to sleep, which is the safest position.

Monitoring and Adjustments

Even after the proper introduction of a pillow, it’s important for parents to regularly monitor their child’s comfort and the pillow’s condition. Make certain it remains supportive without signs of wear that could affect its safety. Adjustments should be made as the child grows, potentially replacing the pillow with one that matches their changing size and support needs.

Other Considerations

Understanding SIDS

Becoming familiar with SIDS and its risk factors is vital for every parent. While the exact cause of SIDS is unknown, experts associate it with factors related to sleep environment and developmental stages. Keeping the baby’s sleep area minimalistic and ensuring they lie flat on their backs until at least one year old are among the preventative measures suggested.

Allergies and Materials

When a child is old enough for a pillow, consider hypoallergenic materials, especially if they have allergies or sensitive skin. Pillows made from organic fabrics or those designed to resist dust mites and other allergens can help provide a cleaner sleep environment.

Finishing Thoughts

The transition to using a pillow is one step among many in a child’s growth and development. While the eager anticipation to provide your baby with a plush, cozy pillow is understandable, patience is necessary until they reach an appropriate age for this enhancement of their sleep environment. Around 18 months is the recommended milestone to introduce a pillow, once the risk of SIDS decreases and the child develops enough to adjust their sleeping position as needed for comfort and safety. Ensuring the pillow introduced is firm yet comfortable, properly sized for your toddler, and made of hypoallergenic materials will set the stage for many peaceful nights of sleep. Always place emphasis on a safe sleep setup, less cluttered with unnecessary items in the crib or bed. And as with any parenting decision, staying informed and attentive to the child’s needs will lead the way in making the right choice when it comes to their bedding and overall sleep health.


  • Ashton Roberts

    I love learning and sharing everything about sleep. I am one of the energetic editors here at GoodSleepHub, where I talk about how to get a better night's sleep. When I'm not writing, I'm probably walking my dog Luna or trying out new sleeping gadgets. My goal is to help you sleep easier and better. Join me, and let's find simple ways to enjoy great sleep every night!

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