This post was most recently updated on June 6th, 2021
Infants generally sleep without any bedding in their crib other than a fitted sheet.
For many children, it continues this way until they’re ready for a toddler-sized bed – around 18 months to 3 years of age.
When the time comes for a toddler bed, a common question is: What type of pillow should I use for my toddler?
With so many types of pillows being available for adults (and grown children), there is some natural confusion regarding which type of pillow your toddler should sleep on.
The general consensus, however, is that the best choice is a toddler-sized pillow.
Toddler pillows are shorter in length and width – usually measuring 13″ x 18″ – and are shallower in depth too, so they accommodate the smaller dimensions of a toddler in comparison to an adult.
The main purpose of a pillow – besides providing a soft spot for your head – is to provide proper support for your neck by keeping your spine aligned.
Your dimensions – specifically the side of your head, and the distance between the edge of your shoulders to your head – are why a standard pillow has the dimensions that it does.
Standard pillows for adults are usually around 5-7″ in depth – which is entirely too big for a toddler. Toddler pillows have a depth of 3-4″, which is ideal.
Top it off with a toddler size pillowcase for a fun finishing touch.
Why A Toddler Pillow?
Toddler pillows are specifically designed for toddlers.
As your infant develops into the toddler stage, your growing baby may soon have difficulty sleeping through the night without a pillow.
Growing-infant or toddler-size pillows are uniquely structured to raise a small child’s head to the ideal position for sleeping soundly.
The use of a regular size adult pillow or a standard size pillow for a toddler is not healthy. This will raise the child’s head to a level much too high for comfort.
The use of a larger pillow can also place too much strain on your toddler’s neck and shoulders.
This may result in many restless or sleepless nights for you and your child and, eventually, poor posture for your toddler.
Toddler pillows are designed according to a developing infant’s physical proportions.
A toddler is a small-scale person, so it only makes sense to give them a smaller-scale pillow. It will provide the proper support for getting healthy rest from an early age.
When To Give Your Growing Infant A Toddler Pillow
There are different opinions concerning the ideal time to introduce your growing baby to a toddler size pillow for sleeping.
Many pediatricians, nurses and other child healthcare specialists recommend including a toddler pillow when you move your child from the crib to a toddler bed.
This is usually in the age range of 18 to 24 months.
However, every small child is different and may develop from one stage of growth to another at a different rate than expected.
Some parents report having their small child sleep with a pillow before the age of 18 months with good results.
There truly is no universal “right time” for young children to make the transition to sleeping with the support of an ideal pillow for toddlers.
Signs That Your Infant May Be Ready For A Toddler Size Pillow
Your growing baby will most likely show signs of needing a small pillow to sleep through the night.
If you pay attention to their body language and behavior, there are some non-verbal cues that it’s time to transition to a pillow.
Inability To Sleep
Your growing infant may begin to have difficulty going to sleep at night or during nap time. Especially if your child is tired, yet unable to sleep, this is a sign that he or she needs a small pillow.
Tendency To Rest Head On Objects
If your small child rests his or her head on a baby blanket or small stuffed animal – or something else that offers a raised platform – when sleeping, it is time to introduce your growing infant to sleeping with a toddler pillow.
Fascination With Regular Pillows
If your child rests his or her head on a standard size pillow for children or a regular size adult pillow when playing on the couch or on your bed, it is definitely time to give your growing baby a toddler pillow.
Observe your child while he or she is asleep. Their head should be level with the rest of their body – as if they were standing upright.
If sleeping on their back, does the crown of their head tilt down, while their chin tilts upwards? It’s time for a pillow.
If sleeping on their side, is their head parallel with the bed, or does it tilt towards the mattress? If it tilts, it’s time for a pillow.
Features Of The Best Toddler Pillows
Many experienced parents and child healthcare professionals today recommend choosing a down alternative toddler pillow for your growing infant.
Toddler pillows made of 100 percent ultra-soft certified organic cotton are ideal.
These types of pillows are 100% hypoallergenic, which is ideal since you probably don’t fully know what your child might potentially be allergic to.
As previously mentioned, size is the key component here. A proper pillow for toddlers will generally be around 18″ in length, with a height of around 4″.
Toddler pillows are almost always completely machine-washable. Those that are not, normally have a removable pillowcase or cover that is washable.
The best pillows for children will have a medium level of firmness and will hold their shape.
We would suggest not using a memory foam pillow for a toddler. Memory foam requires a bit of force to compress. The weight of your head is usually enough to generate suitable compression.
Since toddlers are smaller in size, their heads can’t generate enough force to compress the pillow, and it ends up being too firm – and uncomfortable.
When To Transition From A Toddler Size To A Larger Pillow
In general, most children are ready to graduate to the use of a larger standard-sized pillow for sleeping at the time that they move to a larger children’s size bed – usually a Twin or a Full size.
This transition will come sooner or later, but your child will probably let you know when the time arrives for a “big girl/boy” pillow.
Your young son or daughter may start placing a stuffed animal or blanket underneath or on top of the toddler pillow for comfortable sleeping.
If there are older children in your household, your growing toddler may start preferring to use their larger beds and standard size pillows at nap time.
As a general rule, however, if you think your toddler has become too big for a toddler pillow, measure the distance from the side of their head to the edge of the corresponding shoulder.
If the distance is more than 5″, it’s time for a bigger pillow.