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For most parents, the first year with their baby means a crib that’s devoid of anything during sleep.

That means no blankets, no pillows, no bumpers, and no toys — at least until your baby can safely roll over by themselves.

As your child transitions into the toddler stage and as you think about transitioning them from a crib to a toddler bed, it seems only natural that your bub’s little bed should have a little pillow, too.

This article explores if you need a toddler pillow, and if so, what the best options are.

Toddlers may not need a toddler pillow to sleep comfortably.

That being said, adults technically don’t need a pillow to fall asleep either!

That doesn’t mean toddlers can’t use a pillow, though. Rest assured you won’t be a bad parent whether you decide to introduce one or not.

If you decide to purchase a toddler pillow, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends not to introduce one before a child is 18 months old.

After 18 months, the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is dramatically reduced. Before 18 months, there’s a risk that a pillow can block your baby’s airway, leading to suffocation.

After 18 months, parents may begin transitioning their child from a crib into a toddler bed if the child is ready.

Readiness to move to a bed varies from child to child. Some parents start just after 18 months, while others wait until around the 30 to 36 month (2.5 to 3 years old) mark.

Don’t feel like you’re behind if your little one stays in their crib longer.

Safety warning

It’s recommended that your baby sleeps without anything in their crib until they’re at least 18 months old. This means no pillows, blankets, loveys, or other items that may pose a choking or strangling hazard.

While it’s safe to give a toddler a pillow, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Size. Ensure the toddler pillow isn’t too big for your child. It’s best not to use a standard adult-size pillow. Instead, opt for a smaller one specifically designed for toddlers.
  • Allergens. Just like adults, children can be allergic to certain pillow materials like down feathers. It’s best to err on the side of caution and pick a toddler pillow with a down-alternative filling, like cotton or polyester.
  • Firmness. Even if you love a soft pillow, first-time pillows for toddlers shouldn’t be overly plush. Instead, pick something that’s soft but still firm enough to provide proper support. Look for fiber-filled options that retain their shape immediately after pressing down on them.

Now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to consider what you want in a toddler pillow:

  • Size. Pick a pillow designed for toddlers. Smaller pillows are best, since a full-sized pillow may not properly support your toddler and be too large for their bed.
  • Filling. Look for a low allergen option that’s firm enough to provide proper support and won’t go flat quickly. For instance, you can find great options made with memory foam. Whichever filling you choose, ensure that the pillow can retain its shape and isn’t too soft.
  • Maintenance: Considering the busy lives of parents, look for toddler pillows that are machine-washable and don’t require special cleaning. In the case of a memory foam pillow, look for zippered cases that are easy to clean.
  • Durability: Pillows should be replaced every 18 to 36 months, depending on the material. Make sure that the pillow can withstand both being slept on regularly as well as the typical antics of toddlers — pillow fight, anyone?

Picking a toddler pillow is a lot like picking a pillow for yourself, but with a few more safety considerations required.

To create our recommendations, we looked at the filling material, how easily it can be cleaned, the size, cost, and reviews from real parents.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = $16–$25
  • $$$ = over $26

Best-rated toddler pillow

Little Sleepy Head Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: polyester cluster fiber
  • Dimensions: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable, dryer-safe
  • Pros: hypoallergenic construction, ergonomic design for neck support, 100% cotton cover
  • Cons: can be too small for active sleepers who might slide off the pillow, some parents noted that this pillow falls flat fairly quickly

If your little one is a bit like Goldilocks and needs a pillow that’s not too soft and not too firm, this pick from Little Sleepy Head is perfect.

With rave reviews on Amazon, most parents say it’s just the right size and firmness for their toddlers.

This pillow has a 100 percent cotton shell and a polyester fiber filling that’s designed to hold its shape over time.

Keeping this pillow clean is a breeze since it’s another machine-washable and dryer-friendly option. One negative, however, is that it doesn’t come with a pillowcase.

Best memory foam toddler pillow

Coop Home Goods Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: memory foam/microfiber blend
  • Dimensions: 19 x 13 inches (48.3 x 33 cm)
  • Washable: the entire pillow, including the fill inside the cover and case, is machine-washable
  • Pros: CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified, removable memory foam, ergonomic support, medium-firm fill
  • Cons: may require extensive airing out when it first arrives to remove a chemical smell, more determined children may be able to access the hidden cover zipper and get to the fill

If you’re a fan of memory foam pillows, you’re going to like this toddler-friendly version from Coop Home Goods.

Instead of a solid block of memory foam, this pick is made from cross-cut foam that’s certified by CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold. That means it’s free from toxins and is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

As a bonus, the entire pillow is machine-washable — not just the cover. You’ll also like that the cover has a hidden zipper to keep little hands from playing with it.

Best cooling toddler pillow

VAlinks Contour Memory Foam Cooling Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: memory foam and cooling gel
  • Dimensions: 19.7 x 11.8 inches (50 x 30 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable cover, spot-clean only for pillow
  • Pros: incorporates a cooling gel layer, ergonomic design for neck support, slow rebound memory foam core, and is ideal for back, stomach, and side sleepers
  • Cons: only the pillow cover is machine-washable

Just like adults, some children sweat in their sleep. If this applies to your child, opting for a cooling toddler pillow is a smart investment.

The VAlinks Contour Memory Foam Cooling Toddler Pillow is ideal because it combines supportive memory foam with a built-in layer of cooling gel to keep your little one comfortable while they snooze.

The ergonomic design is perfect for back, side, and stomach sleepers, ensuring that their necks are properly supported. While the pillow isn’t machine-washable, it does come with a protective cover that can be tossed in the laundry for easy maintenance.

Best organic toddler pillowcase

My Little North Star Organics Sweet Dreams Toddler Pillow and Pillowcase

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: polyester cluster
  • Dimensions: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable
  • Pros: organic cotton cover and pillowcase, machine-washable pillow, hypoallergenic fill
  • Cons: some parents claimed the pillow wasn’t made in the United States even though the product description makes this claim

Even though many companies call their products organic, we had a hard time finding organic toddler pillows certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

This option from My Little North Star Organics gets a skeptical glance from us for its somewhat misleading use of the term “organic,” as the pillow is filled with polyester fiber.

Still, the accompanying pillowcase is GOTS-certified organic, so if you’re looking for a semi-organic pillow and pillowcase bundle that doesn’t break the bank, this might be a good fit for you.

Best organic toddler pillow

Naturepedic PLA Pillow with Organic Fabric

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: PLA batting (non-GMO sugarcane), 100% organic outer fabric
  • Dimensions: 20 x 26 inches (standard and standard low fill)
  • Washable: not recommended
  • Pros: 100% organic cotton, cooling materials, no harmful chemicals or smells, Greenguard Gold certified
  • Cons: high price point, the pillow cannot be washed, some reviewers said the pillow was too thick for their child

Indeed, finding a truly organic toddler pillow can be a struggle. With the price tag so high, it’s not hard to imagine why. But a truly organic and eco-friendly pillow may be a good investment.

This Naturepedic pillow boasts of creating its own PLA (polylactide), or synthetic fiber, repurposed from a non-GMO renewable resource: sugarcane! Because its synthetic fiber is non-GMO, there are no toxins or harmful chemical smells that come off the pillow.

In addition to being Greenguard Gold certified, the outer fabric is 100 percent organic cotton and comes in two fill sizes: standard and lower.

Best wool toddler pillow

Woolino Wool Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: wool
  • Dimensions: 14 x 19 inches (35.6 x 48.3 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable pillow and cover
  • Pros: hypoallergenic, breathable, naturally moisture-wicking, made from 100% Australian merino wool, both cover and pillow are machine-washable
  • Cons: cannot be put in a dryer and must be air dried to avoid damaging the filling

This pick is worth mentioning as it has a 100 percent cotton exterior and an OEKO-TEX 100-certified 100 percent wool interior.

Wool has natural thermoregulatory and moisture-wicking properties and is antimicrobial and fire-resistant.

Fans of this toddler pillow say that it’s just the right thickness for their kiddo. They also found comfort knowing that the materials are natural

It’s machine-washable, and a few folks who reviewed it post-wash said it held up well. The manufacturer still recommends that you use a washable cover to reduce the number of overall wash cycles.

Best travel toddler pillow

Biloban Baby Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: polyester
  • Dimensions: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable
  • Pros: easy maintenance, cotton cover, hypoallergenic polyfill, provides ergonomic support
  • Cons: some children may not like the ultra-flat design

Technically speaking, any toddler pillow makes for a sensible travel pillow because of its small size. Yet, this option from Biloban is even better since it’s a little flatter than many alternatives on this list.

This pillow measures 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm) with a thickness that ranges from 1.9 to 2.5 inches (4.8 x 6.4 cm).

It features an OEKO-TEX certified cotton shell and poly-cluster fiber filling, so it’s also ideal if you’re concerned about allergies.

Best kid-friendly toddler pillow

Sesame Street Cookie Monster Super Soft Sherpa Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $
  • Filling type: polyester
  • Dimensions: 15 x 15 inches (38.1 x 38.1 cm)
  • Washable: spot-clean only
  • Pros: adorable Sesame Street characters, travel-friendly size, soft fleece texture
  • Cons: can only be spot-cleaned, not made from any natural fibers

If your child is obsessed with Sesame Street, this Cookie-Monster-themed sherpa pillow will be a great addition to their bedding.

Both the case and filling of this square 15 x 15-inches (38.1 x 38.1-cm) option are made from polyester. While it withstands spot-cleaning only, reviewers say that the joy it brings their little one is worth it.

It also comes in an Elmo design which is equally adorable.

Best flat toddler pillow

ClevaMama ClevaFoam Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: foam
  • Dimensions: 20 x 12 inches (50.8 x 30.5 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable cover only
  • Pros: the flat design is ideal for stomach sleepers, hypoallergenic foam fill is ideal for children with asthma, machine-washable cover, ergonomic design
  • Cons: the fill is not machine-washable and is spot-clean only

For parents concerned about a too thick pillow, this flatter pillow from ClevaMama is a good option.

It has a slightly larger overall footprint at 20 x 12 inches (50.8 x 30.5 cm), yet it’s only 2 inches (5.1 cm) tall.

This breathable memory foam pillow has a lot of great reviews, though a handful of reviewers warn that while the pillow cover is machine-washable, the pillow itself is not. Opt for a waterproof cover instead.

Consider the ABCs

Creating an environment that helps little ones drift off to sleep can help them develop healthy sleeping behaviors.

If your child has entered the toddler years, you’re likely aware of safe sleeping basics for babies — also known as the ABCs of sleep, or the Safe Sleep Campaign from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP).

These policies aim to ensure that infants are sleeping:

  • Alone
  • on their Backs
  • on a firm surface, usually a Crib, that’s free from any other objects except a crib mattress covered in a fitted sheet

In other words, this means your baby’s crib should be free from items like pillows and blankets. Once your child reaches toddlerhood, the rules get a bit relaxed.

Although not necessary, when they enter toddlerhood, you can introduce a toddler-friendly pillow and blanket or top sheet if your child prefers to be covered while they sleep.

Prepare the room

Beyond eliminating obvious dangers like hanging cords and exposed power outlets, preparing a sleep-friendly room means minimizing exposure to stimulants, like blue light from devices such as phones or tablets.

Blue light can keep your child awake when they should be snoozing.

While darker settings are ideal for inducing sleep, it’s not uncommon for toddlers to be uncomfortable sleeping in the dark. Rest assured that it’s OK to include a nightlight in their room. Just be sure to avoid blue light if the bulb has adjustable colors.

You can also make sure the room’s temperature isn’t too warm or cold. Experts recommend setting your thermostat between 66 and 70°F (18.9 and 21.1°C).

Toys can be OK

Unlike infants, toddlers can sleep with a comfort toy, like a lovey or stuffed animal. For some kids, this can help reduce separation anxiety if they sleep in a separate room.

However, avoid leaving the bed cluttered with toys, as this can reinforce the idea there’s no difference between bedtime and playtime.

Do doctors recommend pillows for toddlers?

Experts strongly discourage the use of a pillow for children under 2 years because of the risk of suffocation.

In most cases, it’s recommended to wait until your child is at least 18 months before introducing a pillow into the nighttime routine.

From then on, there’s no strict rule within the medical community stating that a toddler must use a pillow. Ultimately, it’s up to your and your toddler’s preferences.

Can toddlers use pillows in a crib?

Experts warn against introducing a pillow until your toddler is at least 18 months of age.

For many parents, this means their baby is still in a crib. Their child might not yet be ready to transition to a regular bed or convert an ages-and-stages crib into a toddler bed configuration.

This means you can use a pillow in a crib provided that your child is old enough.

Can a toddler use a regular pillow?

Toddler pillows might seem like a frivolous purchase, but they’re not.

While a regular pillow from your linen closet might seem easier, they’re usually too large for a child. Plus, they’ll often lack the proper firmness and support needed to prevent neck discomfort.

Additionally, adult pillows can contain unsafe materials for children. For instance, they may still be off-gassing (releasing chemicals into the air) as well as releasing harmful VOCs into the environment that your child could inhale.

When is it safe for a toddler to use a pillow?

The AAP recommends waiting until your child is around 18 months before introducing a toddler pillow into their bedtime routine.

Experts recommend waiting until your child is at least 18 months before introducing a toddler pillow into their bedtime routine.

At this point, your child should have the control to move obstructions from their face — even when they’re sleeping.

While toddler pillows aren’t a necessity, we understand why parents might want to introduce one to their child’s bedroom.

As long as you aim for a non-allergenic option that’s easy to clean and appropriately sized, there’s no reason not to let your child who’s over 18 months old get cozy with pillows.

Browse this article for our recommended picks and to learn which factors to consider when choosing your toddler’s first pillow.