Toddler pillows – when can you use one and which ones are best?

Toddler sleeping on pillow

by Lily Anderson |

When your baby is a newborn and for several months after, the official advice is not to use a pillow. Not only does your baby’s head develop in a way that means a pillow isn’t required while they sleep, but there’s also the risk of suffocation from having a pillow in their cot.

NHS advice is not to use a pillow under the age of one year; while the Lullaby Trust advises: ‘Pillow use alone has been shown to increase the chance of SIDS occurring by up to 2.5 times.' Having a pillow in your baby’s cot not only creates a risk of suffocation but also overheating.

But once your little one becomes a toddler, and moves into a cot bed or toddler bed, you might find they’re more comfortable with a pillow. Plus, lots of toddler bed sets come with a duvet cover and pillowcase – so is it the right time to give your toddler a pillow to sleep with?

Parenting expert and founder of TheRegularParent.co.uk, Fi Star-Stone says little ones really don’t need pillows like we do, "They’re perfectly comfortable (and safer) without one until they’re ready to move to a big bed (between 18 months - 3 years).

"Until then, quilts and pillows can cause a threat of suffocation or overheating. So, keep these items out of your little one's sleep routine. The emptier the crib or cot, the safer the sleep."

At what age should my toddler use a pillow?

As adults, we can’t imagine going to bed without tucking up with a comfy pillow. But we know how much a toddler moves during their sleep. How often do you nip into their room to check how they are only to find them upside down, feet hanging off the edge and head at the opposite end of the bed from where they started?

If you’re going to introduce a pillow, manage your expectations. Your toddler might not sleep soundly in one position with a neatly placed pillow all night long.

It’s best to wait as long as possible before giving your toddler a pillow – wait until they show interest in one and aren’t moving around so much at night. Keeping your child’s bed as clear as possible from toys, bedding and cushions is the best approach for as long as possible.

Remember, when your little one transitions to a bed, you don’t need to use a pillow right away. "In fact, to make the transition from cot to bed easier, use their sleeping bag or blankets that they are used to so they feel familiar and settled.

"When they’re comfortable with their new bed, choose quilts and pillows that conform to British safety standards." Says Fi. "Toddlers don’t need a standard size pillow, instead, choose a pillow that is small, offers support, and retains its shape so as not to pose a suffocation risk.

"Think about investing in an anti-allergy pillow or pillow protector and keep an eye on how your toddler gets along with it. If they’re throwing the pillow on the floor - don’t worry! As long as they’re sleeping then they’re comfortable, so don’t worry that they don’t use it."

When you decide your little one is ready for a pillow, you can keep the bedding to a minimum by not using a pillowcase, or looking for a pillow with a built-in washable cover instead. And there’s no need for an adult-sized pillow – buy a specific toddler pillow that’s smaller and firmer.

The best toddler pillows 2022

Below we've found the best toddler pillows available to buy online, and outlined their key features.

ClevaMama ClevaFoam Toddler Pillow

Best toddler pillow
toddler-pillows

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This toddler pillow is made from ClevaFoam, the creation from ClevaMama. It’s breathable and hypo-allergenic, with an open cell structure to support your little one’s head, neck and spine during their sleep.

It’s also PH balanced meaning it’s ideal for children with asthma or allergies. You can remove the cover to machine wash it – the zipper is reversed to protect your toddler’s face from catching on it. You can also buy it as a set with a cotton pillowcase to match, too.

Key features:

  • Removable, washable cover
  • PH balanced
  • Open cell structure
  • Made from ClevaFoam
  • Size: 50.4 x 34.9cm
  • Pillow is hand wash only
  • Do not tumble dry

Silentnight Safe Nights Anti-Allergy Cot Bed Pillow

Best Silentnight toddler pillow
toddler-pillows
Amazon

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You will have heard of the Silentnight brand, and it’s a reputable company to put your trust in for a toddler pillow. Designed to be comfy for your little one’s sleep but also anti-allergy, giving you extra peace of mind if your child has any allergies. The inner is 100 per cent hollowfibre while the cover is poly-cotton. It’s machine washable and you can tumble dry, too.

Key features:

  • Size: 40 x 60cm
  • 100 per cent hollowfibre
  • Machine washable
  • Tumble dry
  • Anti-allergy

KeaDreams Toddler Pillow with Pillowcase

Best toddler pillow with pillowcase
toddler-pillows
Amazon

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An ergonomic pillow designed to look after your toddler’s spine, neck and head. It’s made from 100 per cent cotton and both the pillow and pillowcase (which comes included) are machine washable; it’s recommended to air dry this pillow, not tumble dry and it is made out of microfibre fill. The cover features cute animal characters that your little one will love.

Key features:

  • Size: 41 x 32cm
  • Machine washable
  • Microfibre fill
  • 100 per cent organic cotton cover
  • Cartoon cover

Slumberdown Little Slumbers Toddler Super Soft Pillow

Recommend toddler pillow
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Made from 100 per cent polyester with 100 per cent recycled polyester filling, this super-soft pillow by Slumberdown is perfect for little tots. As well as being anti-allergy, it's machine washable and tumble dry friendly. We love how affordable and comfortable it is. It's a great quality pillow with reduced fill, giving great support for little heads.

Key features:

  • Size: 40 x 60cm
  • 100 per cent polyester cover
  • Machine washable at 40°c
  • Tumble dry
  • Anti-allergy

John Lewis Wool Filled Cotton Junior Pillow

Best wool-filled pillow
John Lewis Wool Filled Cotton Junior Pillow

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A soft and comfortable place to rest their little heads, this John Lewis pillow has a 100 per cent cotton cover to help your toddler have a good night's sleep. It's filled with natural wool, which has a resistance to bacteria, meaning it's hypo-allergenic and temperature regulating.

Key features:

  • Size: 57 x 35cm
  • Medium to firm firmness
  • Machine-washable and tumble dry at low temperature
  • Cooling cotton cover
  • Filled with 100 per cent natural wool

Panda Kids Memory Foam Bamboo Pillow

Best sustainable toddler pillow
toddler-pillows
Amazon

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A memory foam option, which you might have as your own adult pillow. It’s designed to mould to your child’s head and keep the neck and spine aligned during sleep (although that only works if your toddler doesn’t wriggle around and come off the pillow!).

Bamboo is naturally hypo-allergenic and anti-bacterial, resisting mould and dust mites, so it’s ideal if your little one has asthma or allergies. It’s also anti-static so it’s super comfy against your skin. This pillow cover is machine washable, and bamboo dries quicker than cotton; you can’t machine-wash the foam pillow, but you can wipe it clean.

Key features:

  • Size: 45 x 25cm
  • Made from natural bamboo
  • Hypo-allergenic and anti-bacterial
  • Machine-washable cover
  • Memory foam

Baby Works Toddler Pillow with Bamboo Pillowcase

Best breathable toddler pillow
Amazon

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A great starter pillow, this Baby Works pillow is made from memory foam and comes with its own hypo-allergenic cover is machine-washable and tumble-dryer friendly. With airflow treated technology, it's made from breathable, cooling material that your little tot can sleep soundly on.

Key features:

  • Size: 50 x 30cm
  • Airflow treated open-cell memory foam is breathable
  • Hypo-allergenic fitted pillowcase made using rayon from bamboo filters
  • Machine-washable and dryer-safe cover
  • Memory foam
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