Mother and Baby

When is it safe to use a baby sleep pillow?

baby sleeping in bedside crib

The health and safety around the use of baby pillows is a debate with mixed views. While many parents are none the wiser about these soft products, many choose to use them when their child experiences 'flat head' syndrome.

What is a baby pillow?

A baby pillow is a cushion which similar to adult pillows, sits behind and supports your baby’s head. These are marketed as a tool to help prevent ‘flat head’ syndrome. 

When can I use a baby pillow? 

The NHS and experts from the Lullaby Trust recommend that pillows should not be used under the age of one. This is for safety reasons as babies under this age are too small to push away the pillow if their face gets smothered, leading to suffocation. 

Kate Holmes, Support and Information Manager at The Lullaby Trust told us: “We advise parents against the use of pillows for babies under one year. Babies should not have anything soft around their heads when sleeping as this can lead to overheating. The chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is higher in babies who get too hot. Pillows also carry a risk of suffocation if they block baby’s mouth and nose.” 

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So what should I use instead of a baby pillow?  

At such a young age, your baby doesn’t actually require much to be able to sleep soundly. “The safest place for a baby to sleep is on a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a good condition and with firmly tucked-in sheets or a baby sleep bag,” The Trust explained. 

Can a baby pillow help ‘flat head’ syndrome? 

Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly, more commonly known as two different types of ‘flat head syndrome’ is where a baby’s head is molded into a slightly different shape when he or she is born. It's more common than you think too, affecting 1 in 5 babies at some point. Many parents are interested in baby pillows as these are quite often marketed as a way to prevent 'flat head' syndrome. 

What can I do to help ‘flat head’ syndrome? 

It's understandable you want to do anything you can to assist if your youngster is experiencing 'flat head syndrome' 
but the use of a baby pillow is not needed as your baby's head will naturally start to round off as he grows and starts to move around. “This usually resolves itself within a year and there are techniques that can help such as giving baby plenty of tummy time when they are awake to reduce time spent on their back,” reassures Kate from The Lullaby Trust. “Also avoid letting babies sleep in harder contained sleep environments such as car seats and other travel systems. Alternating the position your baby sleeps in (the direction of their head whilst asleep on their back or alternating the end of the cot) is also beneficial." 

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  • Author: Emily Thorpe Emily Thorpe
  • Job Title: Digital Writer

Having worked for Mother&Baby magazine for four years where she wrote news and product pages, features and  interviewed celebrities such as Paloma Faith, Fearne Cotton and Alex Jones, Emily now works as Digital Writer for Mother&Baby online.

A fondness for travel, chocolate and her sausage dog Luna, in her spare time. Emily also runs the lifestyle blog, Musings & More.


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