Babies should sleep in their cribs with just a thin blanket. Pillows, thick comforters, crib bumpers and stuffed animals pose safety hazards. Your child isn't doomed to sleep without a pillow forever, however. As she gets older, a pillow will help her sleep more comfortably and peacefully. Having a general age guideline in mind will help you know when to purchase your little one her first pillow.
Many crib bedding sets come with pillows, but your child shouldn't sleep with a pillow until she reaches her second birthday. Before the age of 2, children are perfectly content and comfortable without a pillow, and they're safer, too. Of course, always speak to your pediatrician about when it's right for your child to start using a pillow. He can help you make the right choice, based on your baby's development and sleep habits.
Pillows and Safety
The reason that pillows aren't recommended before age 2 is because they pose a suffocation hazard, and also increase your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. In fact, an average of 32 babies die each year because they were suffocated by a pillow, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. One way to drastically reduce your baby's risk of SIDS is to keep pillows, as well as other soft bedding and stuffed animals, out of her crib.
Choosing a Pillow
When your child is ready for a pillow at sometime after age 2, choose a fairly flat one. Many stores stock pillows specifically made for toddlers, and they're usually small and flat. Any pillow you put in your child's bed should be firm, as well. Soft pillows are more likely to contribute to suffocation than firmer ones. Don't give your child down or feather pillows because her head can sink inside and increase her risk of suffocation. Also, the pointed end of the feather, called the shaft, can poke through the pillow and can prick your child's face. It is uncomfortable and it could break the skin. Feather pillows can become dirty quite quickly, (which can contribute to allergies and asthma) so that's another reason to choose a synthetic.
Considerations and Tips
Once you decide to introduce a pillow to your child's sleeping environment, start out by letting her have it at nap time. That allows you to monitor her to ensure that she's staying on the pillow and not moving around so much that it covers her face. If she ends up moving off the pillow, put it away for a few weeks before trying again. When your child is sleeping well on the pillow, she can start using it at bedtime, too.