Wondering when to give baby a pillow to sleep at night? You might feel like lying on a flat mattress all night could lead to a stiff neck in the morning - it would for you, right? This leads to the question of whether your baby might sleep better with a pillow and is it safe to give them one.
Though you might have the best intentions when considering a soft, plush headrest for your baby, it may not be the right time yet. Your baby does not know what they are missing out on, and it's probably better that way until toddlerhood arrives. Pillows and similar soft items in bed actually create a risk of suffocation for babies.
Essentially, there is no rush to give your baby a pillow to sleep on. And there are lots of good reasons to put it off as long as possible. Read on to learn when to give baby a pillow and when not to.
Is there guidance on when to give baby a pillow?
The guidance is that babies should not sleep with a pillow until they become toddlers. It is safest for babies to sleep on a firm, flat surface. No pillows or blankets until at least 12 months, though preferably not until 18 months or more. During the first year of a baby's life, all that is needed is a simple fitted sheet
Research has not come up with a 100% safe age to introduce a pillow or other soft object into the crib. For safety's sake, it is wise to hold off until your child makes the transition to a toddler bed. This typically happens between the ages of 18 months and 3½ years (the later, the better). Waiting as long as possible minimises the suffocation risk and provides the added bonus of not introducing a potential tool to use for climbing out of the crib.
Baby does not know what a pillow is, and they have absolutely no problem sleeping without one. You can keep holding out until your child starts showing an interest in having a pillow. When that time does arrive, look for something small and simple. A firm baby or toddler-sized pillow is vastly preferable to a full-size adult one, and don't add a pillowcase into the mix.
Why is it dangerous for a baby to use a pillow at night?
Though no one likes to think about it, you will have heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pillows, loose bedding and other soft items in the crib increase the risk of this occurring. A pillow may seem like a comfy addition to the crib, but if baby's face presses into it during sleep there is a risk of suffocation.
Snuggling up with a pillow may also cause a baby to overheat - another risk factor for SIDS. Even beyond the age of 1, there is plenty of reason to delay introducing a pillow until the transition to a toddler bed. A pillow could be used as a stepping stone by a curious toddler to climb over the edge of the crib and possibly fall. Also, children that age move around so much at night that the pillow would probably end up down by their feet.
Blankets and cuddly toys should be treated much the same as pillows. Keep them out of the crib until 12 months old at the very earliest. If possible, wait until the 18-month point or when they transition to a toddler bed.
What about mobiles and crib bumpers?
Mobiles are fine for newborns as long as they are no less than 16 inches from the crib's surface so baby can't grab hold of anything. When they reach 4-5 months, it might be time to get rid of the mobile because baby may be able to manoeuvre into a position to be able to reach for it.
Bumpers, on the other hand, should have no place in your baby's crib. Before 12 months, they carry the risk of suffocation or strangulation. After that, they could be used to climb over the side of the crib and set up a dangerous fall.
What kind of pillow is suitable for a toddler?
When your little one reaches toddlerhood, don't simply take a pillow from your bed and put it in the crib. It is far safer to take a smaller toddler model that is firm and flat - adult pillows are large and squishy. Remember that pillows are by no means essential for toddlers until they have started sleeping in a bed and shown an interest in having one.
You may feel like baby can't possibly be comfortable sleeping in a crib that has no pillow. But not only is your little one perfectly comfortable - they are also much safer than they would be with a pillow in the crib. When the time comes as described in this post, you can give your child their own little pillow to sleep on. At this point, you can have the peace of mind of knowing that it doesn't pose any kind of risk.
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