When our children are babies it is clear what the guidelines indicate when it comes to safe sleeping. The cot area should be clear (NO blanket, NO pillow, NO cot bumper), the mattress should be firm and breathable, and you should always put your baby down on their back.
When my daughter moved to a big bed close to 3 years of age, having never slept with anything except the sleeping bag and her taglet, I faced the Big Bed with confusion. The bed sure looks odd without a pillow? As our babies become toddlers (12+ months), is the fear of SIDS no longer a risk?
As I started looking for the answer, I realized it is not so clear. Most safe sleep guidelines only cover up to 12 months of age.
The recommended age to start introducing a pillow is the same age you move your toddler to a big bed/toddler bed or take the railing down on their cot, which is between 2.5 and 3 years. If your child is younger than this when they move to a big bed then they do not require a pillow, rather just use a safe sleeping bag.
When choosing pillows and duvets though, keep in mind that your toddler’s pillow and duvet will differ from yours initially.
When deciding on a pillow, rather choose smaller than too big. Choose firm pillows for your growing toddler who needs proper neck support.
The same goes for a blankets and duvets, choose one that is not to heavy or too big. Larger blankets/duvets can present suffocation risk that smaller blankets do not present, even if your child is over 12 months of age.
Toddlers easily adapt though to the pillow, not always staying on it all night but that is nothing to worry about. It is quite a different story though with your toddler and their blanket. Toddlers are busy sleepers and often kick their blankets off. Another reason to wait till 2.5 – 3 years to introduce the blanket and rather stick to sleeping bags before this age. But once they are using a blanket or a duvet, you want to encourage them to start using it independently. Make them practice putting the blanket or duvet on them, showing them how to pull it over themselves. This might take a while to perfect, but if you allow them to practice and not just do it for them, they will get the hang of it quickly.
Written by Jolandi Becker MD and Owner of Good Night Baby