What kind of pillow should you get for your child? We weigh in on what will best fit your little one’s needs.
There is much debate about when you can start giving your little bundle of joy a pillow. Some experts say that the right time is when your little one transitions from the crib to a bed, (around 18-24 months), others say she can start enjoying some support when her shoulders are wider than their heads.
Ask parents, and their answers may be very different too, as each baby grows and develops differently, and some toddlers may be unable to sleep without their heads being propped up.
What is generally agreed upon, though, is that little heads need little pillows. They have their own unique needs due to their size and still-developing bodies, and should not use the same pillows as adults as this will cause unnecessary neck strain and discomfort.
So, resist the urge to simply place a standard adult-size pillow in your child’s bed. Here is a guide to navigating some of the available options to help you make the best choice for your child’s health and comfort.
Consider your child’s age.
A pillow appropriate for a toddler may not be as comfortable for an older child, and the younger they are, the more age-specific their head support needs to be.
If your child is between 0-12 months: you may consider the Infant Pillow, which is medium-firm, and allows your littlest one’s head to be elevated very slightly to improve breathing and comfort.
If your child is between 3-24 months: the Baby Donut offers the perfect all-rounded support. It helps prevent plagiocephaly and promotes development of a rounded head. A ‘crater’ in the middle relieves pressure on Baby’s soft head, preventing the “flat” or misshapen skull that infants develop from constantly sleeping on their backs.
If your child is between 2-10 years: the softly contoured Junior pillow (available in S and M sizes) is your child’s best friend. It gently cushions the head and cradles the neck to provide comfortable support throughout the night.
Determine your child’s sleep position.
To check out your child’s sleep position, it’s best to take a peek into her bedroom at night, as children are commonly unable to correctly self-report how they most often sleep. The favoured position will help determine the best choice of pillow for your child – the aim is to keep the neck neutral at all times! It would also help to re-assess his pillow height yearly, to ensure he gets the support he needs.
If your child is a back sleeper: he may not need a pillow until he’s 24 months. After this, he may benefit from a thin pillow that’s about 4-6 cm thick, but be sure to bring him to the store with you and let him try them out himself.
If your child is a side sleeper: when she starts sleeping on her side, she can do with a pillow. It should be slightly thicker, around 5-6 cm, depending on your child’s size. How to tell when the pillow is too low: if your little side sleeper is placing one arm under her pillow to prop it up.
If your child is a stomach sleeper: this is an absolute no-no, especially during Baby’s first year. To discourage this, try introducing a bolster to him once he starts to turn.
Know your child’s allergies and sensitivities.
If your child has known allergies, it goes without saying that you wouldn’t get a pillow made of a material he or she is sensitive to. However, dust mites, mould and chemicals can all trigger allergies. Pillows made from synthetic materials, such as memory foam; down, and feathers can also aggravate allergies and asthma. Hence, if your child has a sensitive nose, or has been sneezing just a wee bit too much recently, you may want to consider a pillow made from natural materials like latex or organic cotton to reduce allergens. Certified natural latex is a great choice because it is not only free from toxins, it is also naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
Even if your child doesn’t have any known allergies, getting him a pillow made of natural, non-toxic materials would be wise. He spends up to fourteen hours sleeping and will be healthier and more comfortable with a pillow that doesn’t contain potentially harmful materials.
Balance the firm vs. the soft.
You’ll also need to strike a fine balance between comfort and support. Press down on the pillow and if it doesn’t regain its shape, it’s too soft. However, if it doesn’t respond to pressure at all, it may be too hard for your child’s comfort.
Down and feathers will almost always be too soft for children, presenting a suffocation risk in babies and not providing enough support for the older ones. In most cases, something with more firmness will be needed, such as memory foam or latex, which provides natural support while still being soft enough for comfort.
Help them manage heat.
Many children are not vocal about their sleep comfort – but if it’s too warm for you to sleep, it’s the same for them. Choosing a pillow material with good heat management or even cooling properties can help alleviate unpleasant hot feelings when sleeping. Memory foam tends to retain heat and may not be the best choice for warm climates or children who feel warm while sleeping. Latex provides natural cooling properties and is ideal for such situations. Superb breathability means that latex doesn’t hold in heat as other synthetic materials can.
Beat the noise.
Pillows made from some synthetics contain tiny pieces of material that can shift around while a child moves during sleep making sounds. Light sleepers should avoid these types of pillows as well as buckwheat-filled pillows that can also be noisy.
Memory foam and latex are noiseless options that won’t wake children, even if they move around as they sleep.
Make it easier on yourself.
Many toddler pillows are washable and designed to be used without covers. For the older ones, look for pillows that are machine washable, together with high-quality covers to make cleaning easier. one that is made of safe, hypoallergic materials free of toxins. Our bamboo covers (which are composed of over 45% natural fibre) are four times more permeable than cotton, and are innately anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and odour-resistant.
A high-quality latex pillow should last for years, but cheaper foam or synthetic models may have to be replaced sooner. Be sure to replace the pillow when it becomes dirty, too small for the child, or loses its shape.
And when your child has outgrown her baby pillow? There’s no need to throw it out – it’s the perfect size for a travel pillow for an adult. *hint hint*