Lying flat on a mattress is not at all comfortable for the majority of adults. Also lying without a pillow for hours more often leave adults with a stiff neck in the morning. That is why many mothers wish to know if their baby will sleep more comfortably with a pillow and when can a baby sleep with a pillow.
However, in fact, it is always better to have a baby sleep naturally. After all, the babies won’t know of missing anything until they discover the comfort of a fluffy headrest. It is always better not to let the baby find the comfort of a fluffy pillow until toddlerhood.
Pillows and other soft bedding items can potentially increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Therefore, against one reason of helping the baby to lie down comfortably, there are ample good reasons not to introduce the baby to pillows before they are old enough.
When To Introduce A Pillow To Baby?
According to NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), providing pillows for babies under one year old increases the risk of SIDS. According to experts in NHS, babies under one year old won’t be able to push the pillow away from their face thereby, increasing the chances of suffocation.
However, this does not mean babies can sleep with a pillow as soon as they turn one year. Even though the risk of SIDS spectacularly gets reduced once the baby turns one year old, it is a good idea to wait until the baby turns two years to make him sleep with a pillow for health and safety reasons.
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One of the suggestions is to wait until you safely move your child out of the crib and either into a toddler bed or onto a mattress on the floor. Even after the baby becomes old enough to sleep with a pillow, it is always better to avoid a fluffy adult-sized pillow. Instead, go for a small, firm toddler pillow.
You can take a cue from your baby’s behavior if it is time for the baby to sleep with a pillow. For example, if you notice your toddler is lying with his head on a plushy, a stuffed toy, or even a blanket, then that usually means he is ready for a pillow.
Why Pillows Are Banned For Newborn Babies?
Your baby’s comfort is of prime importance to you. Parents, especially first-time parents want to do everything possible to keep newborns comfortable. That’s why many new parents want to know if their newborn can use a pillow. Well, it is a big no when it comes to the pillow for a newborn baby.
Pillows are not recommended for a newborn because newborn babies lack proper neck and head control. It takes around six to seven months for them to control their neck and turn it according to their wish.
This means, if your baby’s nose or mouth may get covered with a pillow or any other soft bedding material accidentally, the child may not be able to move his head away. This increases the risk of suffocation.
Besides, the newborns could easily develop allergic reactions to things like such as feathers, dust mites, etc. that more often comes with the pillows.
Is It Safe To Use Pillows For Babies Under 12 Months?
No, it is not safe to use pillows for babies under 12 months. Pillows, just like blankets, and stuffed toys can potentially pose a choking hazard to a baby less than one year. That is why SIDS, where the baby dies suddenly during sleep, due to suffocation is very high among kids under one year.
According to studies, unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of accidental death among newborns. Out of this, around the majority of cases happens due to soft bedding and other accessories like pillow and blanket.
Even though sleeping with a pillow seems comfortable for the baby, there is an increased chance for a baby’s face to press up against it while sleeping. This way, pillows can potentially obstruct a baby’s nose and mouth.
This can suffocate the baby. Older babies or toddlers can pull themselves out of the pillow if it suffocates them. However, this is not the case for babies under one-year-old. As they don’t know to pull themselves away from the pillow when their nose gets blocked, there is an increased risk of sudden infant death due to suffocation.
When is Pillow Recommended For Babies Under Two Years?
Even though babies do not require pillows, some medical conditions necessitate using pillows. If the baby contracts an ear infection or chronic cold, to ease the pain and to relieve a blocked nose it’s important to lift the baby’s head a little while lying down.
Similarly, if babies experience reflux issues, it will interfere with their sleep. To ease this issue, the doctors may suggest using reflux pillows. These pillows are designed to lift the newborn’s head to reduce severe reflux issues in babies.
However, even if you are instructed to let the baby sleep with a pillow, you should be vigilant at all times and monitor the baby to make sure the pillow accidentally does not cover the baby’s nose or mouth.
Precautions And Risks When A Baby Sleeps With A Pillow
Of course, the best way for your baby to sleep is without a pillow. You can lay them in their bassinet or crib, with nothing but a sheet on the mattress. Even if your little one starts to sleep on a bed before they are two years old, do not introduce them to a pillow.
If you want to elevate your baby while sleeping you can consider elevating the head of the crib by placing a firm pillow or neatly fold bed sheet under the mattress.
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However, at one point, you might need to allow the baby to sleep with a pillow. There are some precautions, safety rules to follow while allowing the baby to sleep with a pillow. Also, it is important to be aware of the risk associated with a baby sleep with a pillow.
Precautions To Take When A Baby Sleeps With A Pillow
Once the baby turns out a toddler there will be no risk of SIDS anymore. However, still there are some important things to remember to ensure the safety of the child while sleeps with a pillow.
1. Never use adult pillows for babies
Always choose small pillows specially designed for babies rather than making the baby sleep on one of your pillows. Unlike adult pillows, baby pillows properly fit the head and neck of the baby.
Similarly, if the baby still sleeps in a crib although old enough to get a pillow, buy a small and compact pillow that fits entirely in the crib. Also, never buy pillows with scented stuffing. As babies are more prone to allergies the chemicals in the scent can potentially trigger allergic reactions.
2. The pillowcase should be tightly fit
Use cotton, light-colored pillow covers. Soft cotton fabric will be friendly on baby’s skin and lighter colored warn you at the right time when they get dirty.
3. Clean baby pillows regularly
Hygiene is very important when it comes to the health of the baby. Pillows are often breeding grounds for infection. Lingering dust and remains of milk, sweat or oil from the head and even dampness can contribute to the accumulation of germs. Wash the pillow frequently after strictly following the care instructions. Also, ensure that it is completely dry before use.
4. Understand the fillings
It is important to make out the filling of the pillow before buying it. Never buy
- Pillows with microbead fillings. If the pillow tears the beads may come out. There are increased chances the baby could swallow the microbeads. This increases the risk of choking hazards and other complications
- Feather pillows for your baby. Though feather pillows are soft and comfortable, they can potentially trigger allergic reactions in babies. Always try to invest in a Hypoallergenic Toddler Pillow
5. Invest in a firm toddler pillow
Choose a soft, yet firm pillow designed for babies. This will provide optimal support for the neck and back of the baby. You can test the firmness by pressing hard on the pillow. Once you release your hand if the pillow is firm and of good quality, it will go back to its shape relatively fast
Risks When A Baby Sleeps With A Pillow
1. Increased risk of overheating
Small babies snuggling against a pillow can be subjected to overheating. Overheating is another potential cause of SIDS. More often to make the baby pillows more attractive, they are covered with synthetic fabrics. This blocks the air circulation and increases the heat beneath the head.
If the baby continuously lies down in the same position for some time, it can lead to temperature fluctuations followed by excessive sweating. The little one will not be strong enough to adapt to these temperature fluctuations. This can lead to a fatal condition called hyperthermia.
In this context,a baby side sleep pillow, a pillow that helps the baby to sleep on his back is also not recommended by experts. Even though the baby side sleep pillow provides a comfortable sleeping position and helps to prevent the baby from falling down there is an increased risk of overheating
2. Risk of fall
Giving a pillow for a toddler who still continues to sleep on a crib instead of a toddler bed can increase the risk of falls. The toddler may use the pillow as a step to climb out of the crib. You can’t underestimate the curiosity and experimenting mentality of a toddler.
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3. Physical pressure
Sleeping on a pillow tends to apply constant pressure on the back and neck which is not good. Maybe a baby sleeping on a pillow can be bad for the back and neck.
Now you understand why pillows are not recommended for babies until the age of two. Young babies (that is, infants and toddlers) are accustomed to surfaces that are flat and bare. This is easily the best place for them to sleep.
Even when your baby is old enough and does not like using a pillow never force him to use it either. And since they do not even know how to sleep on a pillow, you don’t have to worry about them being uncomfortable.
However, once the child outgrows the toddler age, you can definitely allow the sleep with a pillow. But make sure you are still careful and take care of all the points noted above while choosing a pillow for your baby.