5 Signs Your Toddler Needs a Pillow on Their Bed

Picture of Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP

signs your toddler needs a pillow

It was not so long ago that your child was itty bitty in their crib, with no blankets, toys, or pillows since, for infants, “bare is best.” But now that they're bigger, you’re wondering when to start phasing these comfort items in and are on the lookout for signs your toddler needs a pillow.

In this article, we’ll tell you the 5 signs your toddler is ready for a pillow on their bed so they can get their much-needed zzzs in comfort!

Table of contents

What is a toddler pillow?

A toddler pillow is simply a smaller pillow than the one you’d use on your bed. They’re 13 inches by 18 inches, as opposed to a twin pillow that is 20 inches by 26 inches. A toddler pillow is generally flatter as well in order to accommodate younger children and not strain their necks.

Toddler pillows are intended for little ones who have full mobility so that the danger of SIDS is no longer a concern.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), that magic age is about 18 months, although for other reasons, many experts suggest waiting until your child is at least two years old.

At two, your little one is likely starting their transition to a toddler bed or a twin bed. Once you determine it’s safe to use a toddler pillow, keep in mind that you don’t have to transition right away. It’s best to follow your little one’s cues.

5 signs your toddler needs a pillow

toddler snuggling a stuffed animal

What are those signs your toddler needs a pillow, you ask? The following cues are our top five to look out for.

1) Tossing and turning

The first sign your little one might need a pillow is if they’re showing signs of discomfort by tossing and turning when trying to get some shuteye. If they’re having trouble sleeping, this can impact their mood, and they may end up fussy or cranky during the day.

A pillow could help them find a body position where their spine is aligned and there’s no uncomfortable pressure on their neck, back, hips, or any other body part.

All that tossing and turning may be telling you that they need a little cushiony help.

2) Using a stuffie as a pillow

Another sign that your toddler’s ready for a pillow is if they’re using their teddy bear as a stand-in. If they’re reaching for something to help them sleep, they’re better off with an actual pillow made specifically for the purpose.

Their little stuffed animal companion could have plastic eyes or strange contours that may comfort them without improving their needed sleep.

3) Transitioning to a toddler bed

Generally, toddlers will transition to a toddler bed between two and three years old. This is a great time to start thinking about getting a pillow for their bed, as by this age they should have the musculature as well as the maturity for the additional item.

Keep in mind if they go straight from their crib to a twin bed, you don’t want to get a twin-sized pillow as that will be too big. Instead, stick with the toddler pillow for now.

4) Expressing interest in a pillow

Your little one might have a big brother or sister or might like how your bed looks with the extra cushions. If they express interest in a pillow, it’s a good time to have the conversation.

5) Side sleeping or sleeping on their arm

If your little one is a side sleeper a pillow will definitely help with their comfort. When sleeping on their side, it’s important that they have their shoulders and head aligned in a comfortable position, keeping their spine straight.

In general, side sleepers should not sleep without a pillow, and, in case you’re wondering, an arm is not a good substitute. Sleeping on their arm is just asking for “pins and needles” from cutting off circulation. A toddler pillow is a much better bet!

How to choose the right toddler pillow

toddler laying on her back

Now that you know the signs your toddler needs a pillow, you’re going to want to brush up on how to choose one. Here are some of the things to consider.

Size

As we said, you’re going to want to choose a pillow that is a “toddler size” rather than a twin size (or larger). Toddler pillows are made in proportion to the toddler and the toddler bed.

Even if your child is moving to a bigger bed, stick with the smaller pillow as it’s more supportive of their growing body.

Support

The best filling for a toddler pillow is just right: not too firm and not too soft. It can’t be too fluffy as that can make it harder to breathe if they sink into it. But if it’s too firm, it might not be comfy and they might end up not using it at all.

So take a note from Goldilocks and make sure your chosen pillow is “just right.”

Filling

Even though a down pillow is luxurious, it can trigger allergies. Also, some eco-friendly fillings have small pieces and could pose a choking hazard.

When choosing a toddler pillow you’re going to want to opt for hypoallergenic fillings, like memory foam, latex, or polyfill.

Cover

The pillowcase is also an important part of the equation, as this is what’s in direct contact with your child’s face. Organic cotton is a good choice for your pillow cover, as it will be chemical-free.

Cleaning

Of course, as in anything to do with kids, choose a pillow that’s easy enough to clean. No muss and no fuss!

Tips on getting a good night’s sleep

signs your toddler needs a pillow

We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep, and the right pillow at the right time is only part of it. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your toddler’s shuteye, whether for a nap or at night, so they can awaken well-rested and ready to face the day!

1) Make the most of the day.

One thing that will improve your child’s sleep is if they spend their days outside (at least partially) in the fresh air. They should run, play, and enjoy!

By the time they get home, all of that activity will tire them out and make bedtime a snap.

2) Pay attention to their sleep environment.

Ensuring that your toddler has a proper sleep environment is key.

Their room should be dark with no outside light seeping in. Blackout curtains can be a good choice. If this makes them nervous, add a nightlight that can just give them enough light to see if they need to get up.

In addition, temperature is an important factor for sleep as well. Set the thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

3) Keep outside noise outside.

It’s also important to make sure that their room is quiet, and that there is no outside noise to distract them. Although you’re tip-toeing around your own house, you have little control over what goes on outside.

One way to deal with this is by getting a white noise machine. These produce a consistent neutral noise that will block anything else happening outside the room.

4) Choose a comfortable, breathable mattress.

We’ve all heard the story about the princess and the pea. There’s nothing worse for sleep than an uncomfortable mattress.

Although crib mattresses tend to be firm, some, like Newton Baby’s Essential Crib Mattress, offer two stages, allowing toddlers a cushiony side designed for comfort.

If your little one is in a twin bed, our Kids’ Twin Mattress is an excellent option. It’s not only comfy but also 100% washable and breathable, thanks to our Wovenaire ® technology. On top of that, our mattresses are GREENGUARD Gold Certified.

5) Maintain a consistent bedtime routine.

Part of a good night’s sleep is having a consistent bedtime routine. This can be almost anything, so long as it’s relaxing. Consider including a bath, a bedtime story, some soft music — and most of all, a little extra together time.

6) Avoid screen time before bed.

The one thing that should be nixed from your bedtime routine is anything that involves a phone, computer, or tablet. These emit blue light that will interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Goodnight, sleepyhead!

 toddler laying in bed with stuffed animal

Now you know what a toddler pillow is and the signs your toddler needs a pillow on their bed. You even know what to look for when shopping for your child’s new pillow.

Make sure they get the rest they need with the Newton Baby breathable and washable mattresses coupled with the perfect pillow. Don’t forget to add a 2-pack of our Breathable Organic Sheets as well.

Newton Baby is here to make your evening hours as comfortable as possible so everyone in the family can enjoy a good night’s sleep!

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