To avoid the risk of SIDS, experts recommend waiting until after your child is at least 18 months old to let them sleep with a pillow. There are also other things to consider to help keep your child safe while they sleep.

Your sweet child means the world to you — and when you put them to bed at night, you may find yourself wanting to literally wrap them in comfort.

But despite that desire, the same comfort items adults enjoy — like fluffy pillows and soft blankets galore — can be direct threats to your child’s health and safety while they’re sleeping, depending on their age.

Though this may be sad to hear, it’s important to understand all the risks and what you can do to make your child comfortable while keeping them as safe as possible. This includes waiting until the right age to introduce certain items, such as pillows, into their sleeping environment.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends waiting to introduce pillows to your little one’s sleep routine until they reach 1 1/2 years old (18 months).

This recommendation is based on what experts know about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and its cousin, sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC).

SIDS is generally used for babies up to 12 months, and SUDC is used for toddlers older than 1 year of age. SIDS is a lot more common than SUDC.

Although the risk of sudden unexplained death drops dramatically once your baby turns 1 year old, it’s still a concern in terms of what you place in the crib for a little while longer.

Toddlers up to 1 1/2 years old (or even older — not all kids develop at the same rate) may still become overwhelmed by objects in their crib and face suffocation.

So while a pillow is safe and comfortable for you, this isn’t the case for babies and young toddlers.

The recommended age for pillow introduction is around the same time children can move from sleeping in a crib to sleeping in a toddler bed with a safety rail — or even a mattress placed on the floor — but consult your pediatrician about your child’s specific readiness.

Testing and observation are essential for you to figure out the optimal time to give your child a pillow during sleep.

There’s a big difference between your toddler using a pillow as a headrest and your toddler squeezing it close to their little face or positioning themselves underneath it while sleeping.

The same soft blankets and pillows adults enjoy while sleeping can be dangerous for babies and possibly into early toddlerhood. Follow these safe sleeping tips to keep your child safer through the night.

Choose the right pillow

First things first: Find a pillow that adds comfort and is safe for your toddler. When shopping for the right pillow, avoid choosing a pillow that’s too big — this may help decrease the risk of suffocation. A firm pillow also is better for still-developing necks and spines.

If your child has allergies, make sure that the pillow’s material won’t cause any reactions. Hypoallergenic pillows can reduce that risk.

Back sleeping

The “Back to Sleep” campaign was introduced in 1994 as a collaborative effort between the National Institute of Child Health and Development and the American Academy of Pediatrics to reduce SIDS.

Both organizations recommend placing your baby on their back to go to sleep for every sleep. For safety, continue to do this until your toddler is about 12–18 months old. However, it’s fine if your toddler repositions themselves onto their stomach or side.

And once you transition to a toddler bed or mattress on the floor, your toddler may start crawling into bed themselves — and they can put themselves to bed in whatever position they’re most comfortable.

Crib or bed location

Though you shouldn’t bed share with your baby, experts recommend that you have their crib in your room for the first 6 months to lower the risk of SIDS.

In fact, the CDC even suggests that room sharing until 12 months may be ideal in terms of safety and convenience — but other experts acknowledge that it can make for a much harder transition to independent sleeping in toddlerhood.

When you do make that transition from your room to theirs, make sure that the crib is placed far from any objects with ties or strings, such as curtains or electrical cords. Other objects that your toddler may pull from the crib or bed, such as frames, heavy books, or mobiles, should be set far away as well.


In general, keep not only pillows but also all other bedding products — like blankets, sleep positioners, and stuffed animals — out of your child’s sleeping area until they’re 18 months old.

Safety note

For infants, sleep positioners and wedges are not recommended while feeding or sleeping. These padded risers are intended to keep your baby’s head and body in one position, but are not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration due to the risk of SIDS.

Was this helpful?

Pillows and blankets may seem like harmless items that can only keep your child warm and comfortable while they sleep.

However, these are items you don’t want to introduce too soon — infant deaths occur during sleep every year as a result of strangulation or suffocation by pillows, blankets, and other bedding material.

Following the guideline of waiting until your child is 1 1/2 years old, or until they move out of a crib, to introduce a pillow to their sleeping arrangement will help keep them safer during sleep.