Mother and Baby

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

Section: Sleep
Toddler sleeping with a pillow

When your baby is a newborn and for several months after, 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?

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, and find them upside down, feet hanging off the edge and head 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 maybe aren’t moving around at night so much. Keeping your child’s bed as clear as possible from toys, bedding and cushions is the best approach for as long as possible.

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.

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

The best pillows for a toddler 2021

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. 

  • 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

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% hollowfibre while the cover is poly-cotton. It’s machine washable and you can tumble dry, too.

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

If you’re a green, eco-friendly mama, then choose this organic wool toddler pillow from Little Green Sheep. It’s naturally anti-allergy, temperature regulating and super soft. It moulds to your child’s head as they sleep, offering great support for the head, neck, and spine. It’s machine washable on a cold setting, but not to be tumble-dried.

  • Size: 40 x 60cm
  • Made from 100% wool
  • 100% cotton cover
  • Organic
  • Machine washable
  • Do not tumble dry

Significantly cheaper than the ClevaMama, this budget option comes from reputable brand John Lewis so you know it’ll be great quality. It’s lightweight and made from polyester, and the entire pillow is machine washable at 40C – you can also tumble-dry it too. The outer is made from microfibre for a soft feel. You can also buy a quilted pillow protector to fit the pillow, for added comfort and protection (that’s also washable). 

  • Size: 57 x 35cm
  • Machine washable
  • Tumble-dry
  • Polyester
  • Microfibre outer
  • 2-year warranty

Another option from John Lewis at a higher price, this toddler pillow is treated with anti-allergy and temperature-regulating properties is just right for giving them the best night’s sleep.

Made from a blend of soft cluster microfibre filling and modal, which helps wick moisture away from the body. The ideal choice if you think your baby might suffer from allergies or asthma.

  • Size: 57 x 35 cm
  • Machine washable
  • Tumble dry at low temp
  • 100% cotton cover treated with Micro-Fresh

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

  • Size: 45.7 x 33 cm
  • Machine washable
  • Tumble dry on low temp
  • 100% organic cotton cover
  • Cartoon cover

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.

  • Size: 45 x 25cm
  • Made from natural bamboo
  • Hypo-allergenic and anti-bacterial
  • Machine-washable cover
  • Memory foam
  • Author: Sophie Knight Sophie Knight
  • Job Title: Contributing Editor

Sophie is a journalist and mum of one, and previously edited before moving on to write about family cars for - now Sophie is Commercial Content Editor for M&B, Closer, Heat, Empire, Yours, Garden News, and 

She is passionate about raising awareness around postnatal depression and is a Mental Health First Aider.

Sophie studied History at the University of Sheffield and has been in journalism for 16 years. 

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