What To Look For In A Toddler Pillow For Your Little One

Kid hugging his toddler pillow

You never let your baby sleep with a pillow. You heard it could cause SIDS, so you weren't about to take any chances. But now that your little one is growing up, is it time to give them a toddler pillow?

To help you decide if your child is ready to rest their head on something besides their mattress, here's more information about safe sleep practices for toddlers and tips for choosing the best pillow for your growing child.

When Can Your Child Safely Start Using A Pillow?

 Toddler in her new bed

Many parenting experts say that it's OK for your toddler to sleep with a pillow once they turn one. Others recommend waiting until your baby is 18 months old or until you move them from their crib to a toddler bed.

If your child is sleeping well without a pillow, there’s no need to rush out and buy one. But if you notice your child is struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, a pillow might help make them more comfortable.

If you're trying to decide if your little one is ready to make the change, here are some signs you can watch for:

  • Propping their head up on a rolled-up blanket or toy
  • Restless sleeping with tossing and turning
  • Sleeping with their arm under their head

If your toddler displays any of these behaviors, a pillow might help. But if you’re still unsure, talk to your child’s pediatrician to get their professional opinion.

What Is A Toddler Pillow?

Once you decide your toddler is ready, look for the right toddler pillow. Unlike an adult pillow, these are smaller and designed specifically for kids.

Toddler pillows are typically more firm than soft. Though you might not think it feels as comfortable, this firmness level is vital to your child's safety. In addition, a firm pillow helps keep your child's head from sinking too far.

Why Can’t A Toddler Use An Adult Pillow?

If you have some extra pillows around the house, it might be tempting to give one of those to your toddler. But there are a few reasons why this isn't a good idea:

  • Size — Adult pillows fit adult-sized heads. Your little toddler won't need nearly that much space. Using too big of a pillow can pose a suffocation risk.
  • Softness — Many adult pillows are too fluffy for toddlers. If the pillow is too soft, your child's head may sink, and their airway could become blocked.
  • Materials — You don’t want your child’s head to come into contact with the materials used in some adult pillows.

It's best to buy a toddler pillow for safety. Then, when your child grows bigger, you can transition them to a full-sized option.

Features To Look For In A Toddler Pillow

 Young kid reading a book on his bed

Now that you know what a toddler pillow is, it's time to start shopping for the perfect pillow. Here are some features to look for.

Hypoallergenic Materials And Filling

We mentioned this briefly above, but choose the materials in your child’s pillow carefully. You don't want them using one that's going to off-gas at night or cause allergic reactions.

Always check the label on a pillow before you buy it. Look for one made from hypoallergenic materials. You want to ensure both the outer cover and the filling meet this requirement.

Organic cotton is a good choice for the outside of a toddler pillow as this material is soft and breathable. It'll help keep your child from getting too hot at night.

When it comes to the filling, you have a few options. Polyester fill is a popular choice because it's affordable and hypoallergenic. Memory foam is another possibility.

Some pillows contain buckwheat, hemp, and other natural materials. However, these aren't always a safe option for your child. If any of these small pieces of stuffing fell out, your toddler could choke on them.

Finally, since toddlers have potty-training accidents, it's also important to find a pillow that’s washable. That way, you can keep it clean and fresh. For the easiest maintenance, look for one that can go into the washing machine and keep a backup on hand.

It’s also a good idea to opt for a Waterproof Crib Mattress Pad and have Extra Crib Mattress Covers on hand for late-night accidents. Being prepared alleviates a lot of stress and allows you and your little one to get back to sleep as quickly as possible!


As we mentioned earlier, you don't want your toddler using a standard or queen pillow. Instead, look for a toddler pillow designed for smaller heads.

These are typically about 13 by 18 inches. That's just the right size for your little one.

Because of the small size, your regular pillowcases won't work on a toddler pillow. Instead, you’ll need to buy a special case. Look for one that fits snugly so there’s no extra material your child can get caught in.


 Young girl in her bed with her toddler pillow

A big reason you're buying a pillow in the first place is to help your child sleep more soundly. However, it's important to remember that your child’s needs are different from your needs. The comfort their little body is looking for doesn’t necessarily mean squishiness.

Remember they've been sleeping without a pillow for their entire life. They're used to resting on a flat, firm surface. So, when you purchase a pillow, look for one that is firmer than the one you use.

A good toddler pillow might even appear a bit flat. If you push your hand down into the pillow, you want it to quickly bounce back into shape. If it takes a while for the pillow to recover, it's too soft.

A firm pillow provides the support your child needs. It helps keep their neck and back in alignment, which can lead to fewer aches and pains in the morning. Pillows that are too soft don't offer this type of support.

Toddler Sleep Safety

Toddler pillows can be one element of a safe sleep environment for your growing child. But here are a few more tips to ensure they sleep soundly and safely through the night.

Sleep Positions

You diligently kept your baby sleeping on their back. But now that they're a toddler, do they need to continue sleeping in that position?

While it's best to keep putting your child to sleep on their back, it's OK if they reposition themselves during the night. By this age, the risk for suffocation has decreased dramatically, and many toddlers prefer sleeping on their sides or stomach.

Bed Or Crib Location

 Bright nursery with crib and a rocking horse

Toddlers are curious. If something interesting is within reach, they’ll grab it. That's why it's so important to position your child's bed in a safe spot.

Look around and try to see the world from their point of view. Are any cords dangling from the blinds or other window treatments within reach? If so, move the bed away from those hazards.

Are there any nursery decorations that hang down far enough your child could grab them? If there are, move them for the time being.

Is there a dresser or bookcase next to the bed? Make sure you don't keep anything heavy on top that your child could pull off. It's also important to shut each drawer completely. That way, your child doesn't empty the contents into their bed.

Continue checking around the room, looking for other potential dangers. This process will help you pick the best spot for your child’s bed.

Continue Using A Firm Mattress

Just because your child is getting older doesn't mean they're ready for a non-supportive mattress. It's best to keep using a firm mattress for as long as you can. They provide the support your child needs for a restful night's sleep and proper development.

Our Crib Mattress at Newton is the creme de la creme of toddler mattresses. The unique Wovenaire® Core is composed of 10% yogurt cup material and 90% air, making it very supportive. In addition, the soft, quilted cover helps your child rest comfortably.

It's also free of harmful chemicals and toxins, so you can sleep soundly knowing your child is safe.

Climbing Hazards

 Young boy climbing into a crib

While a toddler pillow can help your child sleep peacefully, it can be used for other purposes during the day. For example, if your child tries to use the pillow to escape their crib, it could lead to a fall.

If your child is still sleeping in a crib, consider removing the pillow until they transition to a toddler bed. You should also make sure the mattress is in the lowest position to make the crib harder to escape from.

Sweet Dreams, Little One

 Boy sleeping with teddy bear and toddler pillow

As your little one grows, the way they sleep and what they need changes. Your young child is no longer a baby, so it's much safer for them to use a toddler pillow at this age.

If your child is ready for the transition, use the tips above to find the perfect pillow. Then, when you tuck them into bed at night on their comfortable Crib Mattress, you won't have to worry about proper airflow or appropriate firmness.

While we can't guarantee that your child will magically sleep through the night, we know that they'll stay cozier all night long with the right pillow and mattress!