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Behold, our picks for the best toddler pillows to help your little one get a snoozy and safe night’s sleep — so you can, too.

According to expert guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby’s crib will be pretty boring for the first year. Just a simple, firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet is safest for infants.

While Insta-worthy photos of cribs styled with all kinds of cute and comfy bedding may look inviting, it is safest for your baby to sleep in a crib free of blankets, bumpers, pillows, or stuffed animals for the first full year of their life. (You can read more about SIDS research and prevention here).

However, as your baby moves into the toddler years and out of their crib, you may find yourself finally in the market for a pint-sized pillow and blanket.

As you think about transitioning them from a crib to a toddler bed, you may be wondering whether you need a toddler pillow or not. If you choose to use a pillow for your toddler, we’ve rounded up some of the best options for your little one.

Safety warning

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics 2022 policy statement on safe infant sleep, it’s recommended that your baby sleeps without anything in their crib until they’re at least 12 months old. This means no pillows, blankets, loveys, or other items that may pose a choking or strangling hazard.

In a previous AAP publication from 2007, it was recommended that pillows not be given to children until the age of 2 years old, as even children in the 12–24 month range can still be at risk for suffocation or entrapment by a pillow (particularly if the pillow is large and fluffy or the child has any existing risk factors).

If your child has any underlying medical condition or you are concerned about whether a pillow may be safe for your child, it’s worth a call to your pediatrician just to be sure.

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Picking a toddler pillow is a lot like picking a pillow for yourself, but with a few more safety considerations required. For instance, toddler pillows should be smaller, thinner, and firmer than adult pillows (we know this might not seem comfy, but it’s better for their small necks and helps reduce safety concerns such as suffocation).

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 $25
  • $$ = $25–$35
  • $$$ = over $35

ProductsFillFeaturesPriceWashing recommendation
Little Sleepyhead Toddler Pillowpolyester fillhypoallergenic, chemical-free$machine washable and dryable
Coop Home Goods Toddler Pillowmemory foam/microfiberCertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified$$machine washable
VAlinks Memory Foam Toddler Pillowmemory foam, cooling gelergonomic design, stays cool for sweaty sleepers$$$machine washable cover, spot clean only for pillow
My Little North Star Organics Toddler Pillowpolyesterhypoallergenic, organic cotton cover and pillowcase$machine washable cover and pillow
Naturepedic Toddler Pilloworganic PLA battinghypoallergenic, organic pillow and cover, Greenguard Gold certified, certified vegan$$$not washable
Biloban Baby Toddler Pillowpolyestersmall and thin, easy maintenance$machine washable

If you decide to buy a toddler pillow, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends not to introduce one before a child is 12 months old.

After 12 months, the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is dramatically reduced. Before 12 months, there’s increased risk that a pillow can block your baby’s airway, leading to suffocation. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidance stating no pillows before one year of age, as well as guidance stating no pillows before 2 years of age. The safest call is no pillows before 2 years of age. If you decide to use a pillow, select one that is smaller and thinner than an adult pillow to help reduce risk of suffocation.

Between 18 and 24 months, parents may begin transitioning their child from a crib into a toddler bed if the child is ready. Some parents choose to use a small pillow once their child transitions to a toddler bed, although many toddlers sleep just fine in a bed without a pillow until they are 2–3 years old.

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 mark (2.5 to 3 years old).

Don’t feel like you’re behind if your little one stays in their crib longer – each child and family situation is unique.

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. You can also purchase allergy covers for your toddler’s pillow to reduce dust mites and other allergens.
  • 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. Toddlers have much smaller necks and heads than adults, and it’s actually better for their spine to use a flatter pillow (in addition to being a possible safety benefit).

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?

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°F and 70°F (19°C 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 (particularly plastic or electronic toys, or gigantic stuffed animals), as this can reinforce the idea there’s no difference between bedtime and playtime.

What age should a toddler have a pillow?

Toddlers may not need a toddler pillow to sleep comfortably. Adults technically do not need a pillow to fall asleep either.

That does not mean toddlers can’t use a pillow, though. It’s your choice whether you decide to introduce one. If you do, experts recommend waiting until after 1 year of age and sometimes 2 years of age.

Can toddlers use pillows in a crib?

Experts warn against introducing a pillow until your toddler is at least 12 months of age. One publication from the AAP states not to give toddlers a pillow until 2 years 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, although this is often unnecessary. For most people, adding a pillow for their toddler coincides with the move to a toddler bed.

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?

Experts recommend waiting until your child is at least 12 months old, if not 24 months old, before introducing a toddler pillow into their bedtime routine.

At this development stage, your child will likely be able to move obstructions from their face — even when they’re sleeping.

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

If you’re aiming for a nonallergenic option that’s easy to clean and appropriately sized, you can let your toddler get cozy with a pillow. If you have any questions about whether a pillow is safe for your child, talk with their pediatrician.