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When to Give a Baby a Pillow

Safe and Sound: When to Give a Baby a Pillow

When your baby was a newborn, you were advised to remove pillows, bumpers and stuffed animals from the crib to eliminate suffocation hazards. What about now? You want your baby to sleep soundly and safely; how do you know when it's okay to introduce a pillow?

For infants under the age of 12 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises not to use pillows and other soft bedding (including soft mattresses and stuffed toys) in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

However, as many Circle of Moms members have shared, if respiratory health issues develop, parents are sometimes advised by a pediatrician to allow their baby to sleep with a pillow before 12 months. As Crystal D. shares: "When my son was around 4 months he ended up getting a little head cold and couldn't breathe out of his nose. So to help him the doctor told us to put a pillow under his head so it could help him breathe better." Similarly, Aly T. relays: "My youngest (15 months now) had [a pillow] around 8-9 months old as he had a bad cold and needed propping up to breathe." 

But what if health issues aren't at stake and your child reaches age one. Can you introduce a pillow then? Maybe not.

As Cherie F. relays, suffocation may still be a risk with a pillow beyond age one: "The doctor said no pillow till 3 or 4 years old and even then it has to be very flat. They can become trapped under it or wedged against it, unable to breathe." 

Jenni J. agrees: "My plan with my son is to wait until about 3 years. Kids don't know the difference and are perfectly content without one. I believe it is the safest choice to make. Kids that young can still put their face in the pillow and not wake themselves when not getting enough oxygen."

Other Circle of Moms members say a good rule of thumb is to introduce a pillow when you switch your child to a toddler bed, somewhere around age two. As Casey G. shares: "I gave my kids a pillow when they were big enough to go into a toddler bed instead of a crib."

When you do introduce a pillow, the safest bet is a flat one. Susan H. recalls: "We gave [our son] one that is more flat than fluffy." And Jessica W. agrees: "We gave [our daughter] a really thin one that her head didn't sink into."

Image Source: Shutterstock
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CindiLivingston CindiLivingston 4 years
Neither of my children had pillows, blankets, or bumpers in their crib until they were over 12 months old. A couple times when they were sick and congested we elevated them-but not with pillows under their heads, we'd place something sturdy under the legs of the crib and make sure it couldn't move. My son started cuddling a small 'lovey' around 12 months that was a small stuffed animal (about 4 inches) with an attached small blanket (about 8 inches square). We allowed him to have that in the crib with him at that point, as he was completely mobile and also held it in his hand down by his side. He wore sleepers with extra layers under them and no blankets. When we moved him to a toddler bed he was 2 1/2 he then had a blanket but it was tucked it at the bottom. He also wanted a pillow for his big boy bed, we bought a 'travel' pillow, one of the half size pillows, and put it under the TV for a couple days to flatten it out a little. I had a relative cut down a standard pillowcase to fit it so he'd still have one that he liked. My daughter slept in a sleep sack which she really seemed to like, until she started climbing out of her bed-even in the sack-at 13 months. After a month of fighting numerous escapes and night wakings, we moved her to a toddler bed at 14 months. At that time she stayed in the sleepsack and had no pillow (and thankfully started sleeping all night again!). She also had a small lovey of the same type he did. When she was about 2 we could not find any sleep sacks long enough and switched her to a tucked in blanket and the same type small, flat pillow. Overall, I think a pillow is ok around age 2 or after, if they are in a toddler or regular bed. If they are still in the crib, wait till they are moved. Either way, a flat, firmer pillow would be safer than a big fluffy one. It think it can also depend a little on how they sleep-very soundly, do they move around a lot, do they sleep hunched up or streched out and how their head is typically positioned when they sleep.
CrissiParry CrissiParry 4 years
I gave my oldest son a pillow at around 2 years old after sleeping in his toddler bed for almost a year without one, because I felt he was more than ready, and a restless sleeper. Originally it was because he had a cold, but it stayed after the cold was gone. After he got a pillow, he slept like an angel through the night. My youngest son got one at around 15 months, because he'd coslept until then, and was always hogging my pillow in our queen bed. So when I moved him to his own bed, to make the transition easier, I gave him my old pillow (that smelled like me and was familiar) and got myself a new one. He too, slept through the night in his own bed almost instantly. I figured, after a year, he was strong enough to get away from a pillow if it migrated around in the bed, and he could even get up and make a rucus if he was mad about it.
JoniMartin JoniMartin 4 years
I really think it is up to the parents deciding when it is best for their children to receive a pillow. With all my children, they first started out with a flat pillow at a young age. They have done great and had no problems with it. God is in Control of my children lives and mine. So I will protect them with God's help and do the very best for my children on this earth.
KateDavies98404 KateDavies98404 4 years
I put a flat pillow under the sheet to give the comfort without the risk.
louisemacnamara louisemacnamara 4 years
Hi I Still have my toddler in a cot bed and he has an ordinary pillow, but I didn't give it to him until he was two. he wont be 3 until September. I will be putting him into a big bed soon and he will still have the pillow on it. I think when your child turns two it is right to give them a pillow. There are for and against giving pillows but its up to yourself i think to decide when your child is ready for a pillow.
AngelaWhite84252 AngelaWhite84252 4 years
My daughter has had a pillow since she moved to the big bed at 15 months - when she was big enough to move it and it wasnt at risk of getting stuck in the side of (for example the cot) and suffocating her, although she has never been a wiggly sleeper so I would base it on the child rather than the age as such... However I can't believe these doctors that are recomending pillows at only a few months!! my oldest has health problems due to being born early too but we went the logical and sensible way about raising her head... and put phone books under the end of the cot to put the angle in - I would never ever have considered a pillow when she was teeny tiny!
JENNIFERBrown73765 JENNIFERBrown73765 4 years
we gave our babies the breathe easy pillows... its the flat sqaure ones with holes in. we even gave one to our grandson when he was born 6months ago.. i think they are the safest.
elsiegilmore elsiegilmore 4 years
i am havin the same problem my baby girl is 19 months an she wiggles loads in her sleep by time my other children were her age they had pillows i just dont no wot to do help
Vanessa96947 Vanessa96947 4 years
I would not give an infant a pillow. I however gave my son a pillow when he was a little over 1. I don't agree that they don't know to wake up to breathe. I understand as infants but as toddlers I think the body is more equipped to handle that situation. As long as the child is healthy it would seem to me that they can't forget to breathe as last I checked breathing was involuntary. You don't get enough oxygen you pass out. This is the body's way of fighting to force oxygen in the body. Suffocation can happen at any age, but I think waiting till they are 3 or 4 is a bit much. With all of these regulations we have now it is a wonder that any of us have survived. Lol
NaomiM96128 NaomiM96128 4 years
My son had a pillow from 2 months on. H was born with GERD and the docs suggested it and highly recommended it. Now being 2 1/2 he still uses his pillow, but the pillow has been a "flat" pillow and doesn't suffer much from his GERD symptoms unless he's sick with a cold or the flu. My son was never a tummy sleeper either, so the pillow at infancy wasn't a bad thing and helped him a lot. I always say it's best to research and ask the pediatrician, but the biggest thing is what you as their parent feels comfortable with
CarmenSchnider CarmenSchnider 4 years
My baby boy was 10 weeks prem and when he came home from Neonatal icu, he was birth minus 7 weeks, so really tiny still. We were told we absolutely need an angel monitor and this and that...we just resorted to no electronic gadgets at all and safety pillow and mattress. They have large holes and small holes intervowen in a special way so there is no way a baby could suffocate. I was worried about that because premmies seem to often just stop breathing....luckily not ours. They also put them often on their bellies to sleep in the neonate icu, and our baby boy now toddler, still sleeps mostly on his belly. When he crawls from his cot into our bed, about 3 in the morning, he sleeps on our normal pillows, wedged between us. We never had a problem. If you do some research on vaccines, you might be surprised how many sudden death syndrome babies just had been given a vaccine, so I would worry more about that than a pillow. Just my two cents.
CoMMember13625995338411 CoMMember13625995338411 4 years
Our second son has had a pillow since he was around 6 months old, and so did our first son. We started them when they got their first serious cold to elevate them a bit for better breathing, plus they really add comfort in the cold months - there's no heating Australian houses though it gets quite cold. However, we use a special flat infant pillow with less density, which my parents sent us from Germany, not the big and quite high standard pillows. Both our kids have never slept on their tummies.
SophieT3809 SophieT3809 4 years
My daughter is 2 and a half and she has been sleeping just fine on a pillow well before she was 1. But i did go and by a tea-tree pillow when she was younger. She sleeps on a normal pillow now and will not sleep with out it. If i had any concerns at all i would have taken the pillow away from her but she understands how to lay on it. She also sucks her thumb and has to hold the pillow case in her hand to fall asleep so i have no worries at all that she would smother herself :)
veramilner veramilner 4 years
My 22 month old uses his pillow pet dragon. He loves it. He sees his 9 year old brother use one and loves his. The doctor said to use one months ago when he was sick.
TaraHaroon TaraHaroon 4 years
Like Angela, we have always been told to elevate the mattress rather than put a pillow in the cot.
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