Can a newborn sleep on a pillow?

A newborn’s safety and well-being are among the top concerns for every parent. Sleep is a crucial component of a newborn’s life, as they can sleep up to 16-20 hours a day during the first few weeks. Creating a safe sleep environment is paramount, and there are many guidelines parents should be aware of. One of the frequently asked questions is whether it’s safe for a newborn to sleep on a pillow. In this guide, we’ll delve into this question, providing insights, expert recommendations, and safety tips.

Guide: Can Newborns Sleep on a Pillow?

  1. Understanding the Risks:
    • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): One of the primary concerns regarding newborn sleep is SIDS. Soft objects, including pillows, in a baby’s sleep area increase the risk of suffocation and SIDS.
    • Breathing Difficulties: Pillows can obstruct a newborn’s tiny nasal passages or can lead to re-breathing exhaled air, leading to reduced oxygen intake.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations:
    • The AAP advises against placing pillows, blankets, toys, or any soft objects in the crib with an infant younger than 12 months.
    • Babies should always be placed on their back for sleep. This position has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS significantly.
  3. Appropriate Sleep Surface:
    • Firm and flat: It is recommended that babies sleep on a firm and flat surface, such as a safety-approved crib or bassinet mattress covered with a fitted sheet.
    • The mattress should fit snugly in the crib, with no gaps between the mattress and the crib sides.
  4. When Can Children Use Pillows?:
    • As children grow and the risk of SIDS decreases, typically after the first year, the introduction of pillows and other bedding can be considered. However, it’s essential to ensure that any pillow introduced is age-appropriate and not overly fluffy.
  5. Alternatives to Pillows for Comfort:
    • Instead of pillows, consider using a wearable blanket or sleep sack to keep your baby warm and cozy.
    • Ensure the baby’s sleeping area is free of drafts or excessive cold or heat. Adjust the room temperature accordingly.
  6. Stay Updated: As with all parenting recommendations, it’s important to stay updated with the latest guidance. Regularly check with pediatricians and trusted child health organizations for any new research or suggestions.
  7. Final Thoughts:
    • Your baby’s safety is the utmost priority. When in doubt about any sleep-related item or practice, always consult with your pediatrician.
    • Regularly inspect the sleeping area for any potential hazards, and ensure that everyone involved in the baby’s care is aware of the safe sleep guidelines.

Remember, while pillows can provide comfort for adults, they pose a significant risk for infants. Prioritizing your newborn’s safety will give you peace of mind and promote a safe sleep environment for your little one.

Why can’t my baby sleep with a pillow?

Babies are at a developmental stage where their sleep safety needs differ significantly from adults. Introducing a pillow or other soft bedding materials into an infant’s sleep environment can pose several risks. Here’s why it’s not recommended for babies to sleep with a pillow:

  1. Risk of Suffocation: Newborns and young infants don’t have the muscle strength or coordination to move their heads away from obstructions effectively. If a baby’s face becomes buried in a pillow, the risk of suffocation increases.
  2. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): The presence of soft objects, including pillows, in a baby’s sleep area increases the risk of SIDS. SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old.
  3. Rebreathing Carbon Dioxide: Pillows, especially soft or fluffy ones, can create a pocket around a baby’s face where they end up rebreathing their exhaled air (carbon dioxide). This can lead to carbon dioxide buildup, depriving the baby of fresh oxygen and potentially leading to carbon dioxide poisoning.
  4. Neck Strain: Babies’ neck muscles are still developing. Sleeping with a pillow might force their neck into a position that’s unnatural and uncomfortable. This can lead to strain or injury.
  5. Overheating: Pillows and other soft bedding can trap excessive heat around the baby, raising their body temperature. Overheating is another risk factor for SIDS.
  6. Delay in Motor Development: It might seem counterintuitive, but a flat, firm surface is ideal for babies as it allows them to move freely and develop their motor skills. A pillow could restrict some of these movements.

Given these risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm sleep surface void of any soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, or loose bedding until at least their first birthday. It’s always essential to prioritize the safety of your baby. When in doubt, always consult with your pediatrician or a child health expert about sleep-related concerns or any other baby care questions.

What kind of pillow should I gave my child when they are toddler?

When your child transitions from infancy to the toddler stage, their needs and abilities change. It’s during this time that many parents consider introducing a pillow to provide added comfort. However, when choosing a pillow for your toddler, it’s essential to prioritize safety and suitability. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Size: Opt for a small, toddler-sized pillow. It should be just the right size for your toddler’s head and neck without being excessively large or bulky.
  2. Firmness: The pillow should be relatively firm. Overly soft, fluffy, or thick pillows can pose suffocation risks and may not provide the right kind of support for your toddler’s neck and spine.
  3. Hypoallergenic Material: Consider pillows made from hypoallergenic materials, especially if your child has allergies or sensitive skin.
  4. Pillowcase: Ensure the pillowcase fits snugly over the pillow and is made of breathable material. Like the pillow, opt for hypoallergenic materials if your child has sensitivities.
  5. Washable: Toddlers can be messy. Whether it’s drool, spilled milk, or the occasional accident, it’s beneficial to have a pillow that’s machine-washable or at least has a washable cover.
  6. Breathable: A pillow with breathable fabric can prevent overheating and offers a more comfortable sleep.
  7. Avoid Pillows with Extras: Steer clear of pillows with added components like tassels, decorative beads, or other small parts that could be a choking hazard.
  8. Safety Certifications: Check if the pillow has any safety certifications or meets specific standards for children’s products. For instance, a certification from organizations like CertiPUR-US for foam products indicates that the foam is made without harmful chemicals.
  9. Transition Slowly: When you first introduce the pillow, monitor your toddler to see how they react to it. Some toddlers might not take to a pillow right away, and that’s okay. Every child is different.
  10. Regularly Check for Wear and Tear: Regularly inspect the pillow for any signs of wear and tear. Replace it if you notice any loose threads, holes, or other potential hazards.

Remember, the primary goal is to ensure your child’s safety and comfort. It’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician or a child health expert about any sleep-related decisions or concerns.


When is the right time to introduce a pillow to my toddler?

While the specific age can vary, many experts recommend waiting until a child is at least 18 to 24 months old before introducing a pillow. Always monitor how your toddler responds to the pillow and ensure they’re using it safely.

How can I ensure my toddler’s pillow is safe?

Choose a pillow designed specifically for toddlers, which is typically smaller and firmer than an adult’s pillow. Check for safety certifications and ensure there are no loose or decorative components that could pose choking hazards. Regularly inspect for wear and tear, and replace the pillow when necessary.

What if my toddler doesn’t want to use a pillow?

It’s perfectly okay! Every child is different. Some might embrace the comfort of a pillow immediately, while others may show no interest. It’s essential to follow your child’s cues. A pillow is for comfort, and if they’re comfortable without one, there’s no need to push it.


Selecting the right pillow for a toddler is a decision made with safety and comfort at its heart. As your child transitions from infancy, their needs change, and introducing a pillow can be a step in ensuring they get restful sleep. However, it’s vital to remember that every child is different. Whether they take to a pillow immediately or show no interest, the key is to stay attentive to their responses, prioritize safety, and consult with child health experts whenever in doubt. A well-informed decision can provide your little one with a cozy and secure sleeping environment.

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