Can an 8-month-old sleep with a pillow?

As babies grow and develop, their needs and behaviors evolve, prompting parents and caregivers to adapt and respond. One question that frequently emerges, especially as infants near the end of their first year, revolves around sleep comforts: Can an 8-month-old sleep with a pillow? The issue is not just about comfort but, more critically, about safety. Let’s delve into the guidelines and considerations surrounding this topic.

Guide: Can an 8-month-old Sleep with a Pillow?

  1. Understanding the Risks:
    • At 8 months old, babies are still at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against any soft bedding, including pillows, for babies under 12 months. This is primarily because of the risk of suffocation that pillows can pose.
  2. Physical Development:
    • At this age, while some babies might already be showing signs of mobility such as rolling or crawling, they may not consistently have the motor skills to move away from objects that could obstruct their breathing.
  3. Sleep Position:
    • Babies are often advised to be placed on their backs to sleep, which is the safest position to reduce the risk of SIDS. At this position, there’s no need for a pillow, and introducing one can be counterproductive.
  4. Pillows and Overheating:
    • Babies regulate their temperature differently than adults. Introducing a pillow could increase the risk of overheating, another factor associated with SIDS.
  5. Recognizing the Signs:
    • While you should avoid using a pillow for an 8-month-old, it’s good to recognize when they might be ready for one in the future. Typically, toddlers around the age of 2 might start showing signs they could benefit from a pillow, such as resting their heads on toys or bunching up blankets.
  6. Alternative Comforts:
    • If your baby seems uncomfortable, there are other methods to ensure their comfort without compromising safety. Ensuring a fitted sheet on a firm mattress, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and dressing the baby in appropriate sleepwear are all essential aspects of a safe sleep environment.
  7. Consistent Monitoring:
    • Whether you’re considering any changes to your baby’s sleep environment or just maintaining the status quo, regular monitoring is crucial. Baby monitors can be a useful tool to keep a close eye on your infant during sleep.

Does Your Baby Need a Pillow?

When considering the comfort and safety of a baby’s sleep environment, the question of whether a baby needs a pillow often arises. Here’s a detailed look at this topic:

  1. Safety Considerations:
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly advises against the use of pillows for babies under 12 months of age. This recommendation stems from concerns related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the potential risk of suffocation that soft bedding items, including pillows, can pose.
  2. Physical Development:
    • Infants have different physiological proportions compared to adults. Their heads are relatively large in proportion to their bodies, and lying flat is typically the most anatomically appropriate position for them. Introducing a pillow can disrupt this natural alignment.
  3. Mobility Concerns:
    • Babies, especially those younger than 6 months, often lack the motor skills to adjust their position if they face breathing obstructions. Even as they grow and gain more mobility, there’s a risk they might roll or shift onto a pillow, which can pose a suffocation hazard.
  4. Overheating Issues:
    • Besides suffocation risks, soft bedding items, including pillows, can lead to overheating. Overheating has been identified as a factor that increases the risk of SIDS.
  5. Developmental Signs:
    • As babies transition into toddlerhood, some might begin to show signs they could benefit from a pillow, such as resting their heads on soft toys or bunching up their blankets. However, these signs often emerge closer to the age of 2, and even then, not all toddlers will necessarily require or want a pillow.
  6. Selecting the Right Pillow:
    • If, after the age of 2, you decide to introduce a pillow, ensure it’s one designed for toddlers. These pillows are typically firmer and smaller than standard adult pillows, offering appropriate support while minimizing potential risks.
  7. Seek Expert Advice:
    • When in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a pediatrician or child safety expert. They can provide insights based on the latest research and guidelines, as well as specific advice tailored to your child’s unique needs.

While pillows are integral to adult comfort during sleep, they aren’t necessary for babies and can introduce potential risks. It’s essential to prioritize safety and adhere to expert guidelines when setting up your baby’s sleep environment. As children grow, their needs will evolve, and there will be an appropriate time to introduce such comforts.

Top 3 types of pillows for babies

When it comes to introducing pillows for babies or toddlers, safety and comfort are paramount. If you’ve determined with the advice of a pediatrician that it’s time to introduce a pillow, you’ll want to select one designed specifically for young children. Here are the top three types of pillows suited for babies or toddlers:

  1. Organic Cotton or Hypoallergenic Pillows:
    • Made with organic cotton or hypoallergenic materials, these pillows are designed to reduce the chance of allergic reactions. Given that babies have sensitive skin, a hypoallergenic pillow can prevent irritations. Moreover, organic cotton ensures no harmful chemicals or pesticides come into contact with the baby.
  2. Flat Head Pillows:
    • These are specialty pillows designed to help prevent or address plagiocephaly (also known as flat head syndrome). They come with a concave center that supports the natural shape of the baby’s head, ensuring even distribution of pressure. While they can be useful for younger infants during supervised awake times, they should not replace the firm, flat surface recommended for safe sleep.
  3. Toddler Pillows:
    • Specifically sized for toddlers, these pillows are smaller and firmer than regular adult pillows. They provide just the right amount of support for a toddler’s neck, ensuring proper alignment. When choosing one, look for a pillow with a removable and washable cover to ensure hygiene, as toddlers can be prone to spills or accidents.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is it safe to introduce a pillow into my baby’s sleep environment?

Most pediatricians and safety experts recommend waiting until at least the age of 2 before introducing a pillow to a child’s sleep setting. Before this age, pillows can pose risks related to suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Always consult with your pediatrician before making any changes to your child’s sleep environment.

My toddler keeps resting their head on stuffed toys. Does this mean they’re ready for a pillow?

While this behavior might suggest that your toddler is seeking some elevation or softness for their head, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need a pillow for sleeping. However, if your child is over 2 years old and consistently shows such behavior, you can consider introducing a toddler-specific pillow. Ensure that the pillow is firm, thin, and an appropriate size for a toddler.

Are there special pillows for babies with flat head syndrome?

Yes, there are pillows designed to help address or prevent plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome). These pillows typically feature a concave center to support the baby’s head shape. It’s important to note, however, that these pillows should be used during supervised awake times and not as a replacement for safe sleep practices. Always consult with a pediatrician before using any specialty product for your baby.


While the softness of a pillow might seem like a comforting addition to an 8-month-old’s sleep environment, safety guidelines firmly advise against its use at this age. As babies grow and transition into toddlerhood, there will be opportunities to reassess their sleeping needs. Until then, the emphasis should remain on creating a sleep space that prioritizes the safety and well-being of the infant. Always consult with healthcare professionals when making decisions about your baby’s sleep environment.

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