Cribs usually come with beddings and pillows, so many parents automatically think that babies can use them. Actually, babies and young children do not need pillows when they go to sleep. Parents think that giving them pillows will make them more comfortable, but children don’t need them.
Many parents want to know when it is all right to give their children pillows. This is because many of them feel guilty when they see their kids sleeping on a mattress (or any surface) without support. However, a toddler who has never slept on a pillow does not know what he’s missing. Older kids don’t really need pillows too. Parents give their older children pillows, thinking that they need them, without realizing that they were doing fine without them.
Is it Safe to Give Babies Pillows?
New parents are naturally very concerned about their baby’s comfort. This is why many of them buy soft beddings and numerous pillows. However, all of these are suffocation risks for babies. Newborn babies have almost zero head and neck control. They are unable to move their heads away to breathe if a pillow or bedding suffocates them. Soft bedding and pillows can obstruct airways, causing babies to suffocate.
This is why new parents should swaddle babies instead of using blankets or pillows to make them more comfortable. The less possible obstructions in the crib, the safer it is for the baby.
Are Babies Uncomfortable Without Pillows?
During the first few years of your child’s life, you don’t have to worry about them being uncomfortable without a pillow. Many adults don’t feel comfortable sleeping without one, but the same is not true for babies and young children. Generally speaking, kids don’t need pillows until their shoulders are wider than their heads, particularly for when they sleep on their side.
Even though babies gain mobility as they get older, waiting until they are older to introduce beddings and pillows is safer.
What About Stuffed Toys?
The same is true for stuffed toys. They look cute in the crib, but if they fall on your baby’s face, it can cause suffocation.
Toddlers feel comforted when they sleep with a stuffed toy, but babies don’t need them. Anything plush can be dangerous to them. According to statistics, nearly 50% of crib deaths and 66% of bassinet deaths are caused by pillows, cushions, blankets and overcrowding of the crib space.
When is it Safe to Give Pillows to Kids?
Generally, it is better to wait at least 2 to 3 years before introducing blankets, beddings and stuffed toys to kids. Even then, it might be better to wait until they are old enough to move from the crib to a bed.
As kids get older, they develop better mobility and control of their head and neck muscles. They will also be able to respond if they feel suffocated in the sideways position by waking themselves or shifting positions.
Some parents introduce blankets at this time too. If you decide to give your toddler blankets, make sure they are thin. Better yet, use a sleep sack. They will keep your child warm and it won’t end up bunched on the bed.
It is also good to note that toddlers don’t need comforters or duvets at this age. They are too thick and can cause children to suffocate. If your kids complain that they feel cold using a thin blanket, it’s better to let them wear thicker sleeping clothes than using comforters and duvets at this age.
What Type of Pillows can Kids Use?
Toddlers’ and young kids’ bodies are small, so they don’t need adult pillows. For children aged 2 to 6, it’s better to let them use a small pillow, like the ones used by airlines. It’s around 30% the size of an adult pillow, so it’s less of a suffocation risk for them. A thin pillow is also better than a thick one.
Remember that your child has been sleeping fine without neck and head support for the last 2 to 3 years. They won’t need memory foam or contoured pillows just yet. At this age, it is better to choose a thin hypoallergenic pillow with a tight-fitting pillowcase. The pillowcase should be the type that uses a zipper to prevent your child from slipping his head inside.
Why are Pillows for Babies Dangerous?
During the first 6 months, your baby’s neck muscles are soft and floppy. They are underdeveloped and cannot support the weight of his head yet. At this age, he also has minimal control over how he can move his head from side to side. Even if he is laying on his back with his face on one side, he can still smother if he is using a soft pillow or bedding. This is why it’s better to forgo pillows and beddings at this stage of his development.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has also been attributed to the use of loose bedding materials, beddings and pillows. SIDS is also seasonal, with many incidents occurring during the winter months. This is mainly due to the overuse of beddings in an attempt to keep babies warm.
If this post is TLDR, the simple answer is to wait until the baby is at least 2 years old before giving him or her a pillow. This rule should also apply to their use of a blanket and stuffed toys. When kids are below 2 years old, parents should make sure that their beds are free from obstructions that can cause suffocation. This means no blankets, pillows and stuffed toys in their beds.
Once the baby is old enough to transition from crib to bed, pillows and blankets can be introduced. However, pillows should be hypoallergenic and thin. Blankets should be thin too to minimize the risk of suffocation.
Babies might seem uncomfortable without a pillow, but rest assured they are doing fine without them. Their neck muscles are still weak and developing, so pillows pose more of a risk and provide no benefit.