Healthy Sleep

When Can Babies Sleep With Pillows? Safe Sleep Habits for Babies and Toddlers

Being a new parent is tough. All of a sudden, you’re in charge of someone else’s life, and it comes with a huge learning curve and responsibility. In preparation for a new addition to the family, you’ve probably read everything there is to know about raising a baby. The sleep chapters are of particular importance because it impacts both yours and the baby’s sleep

As a new parent, you’re probably thinking about cribs, swaddling, scheduling naps, and getting enough sleep yourself. We know it can be overwhelming and confusing. We created a short guide on when to introduce bedding and sleep objects to a baby to help the whole family practice safe sleep habits. 

What do newborn babies need for sleep?

Newborns are kind of like koalas as they spend about 16 to 17 hours of the day sleeping (the rest of the time they’re feeding). It is essential to their growth and functioning to practice safe sleeping habits. 

Newborns don’t need much for sleep. They should be swaddled snuggly and placed on their back in a crib or bassinet. This helps the baby feel as safe and secure as it did in the womb. Swaddling also prevents the baby from sudden movements such as flailing their arms, which is a startle reflex.

Placing your baby on their back is the safest position to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is also known as “cot death” because it’s an unexpected and unexplained death of a baby that usually occurs when they’re sleeping. Most SIDS related deaths typically happen within the first three to four months of a baby’s life. 

The best way to reduce the risk of SIDS is by placing the baby on their back when they sleep to prevent suffocation or choking. When a baby is placed on their tummy to sleep, it restricts oxygen flow and increases the risk that they might choke from reflux.  There should be no pillows, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, blankets, or duvets in the baby's sleep environment. The crib mattress should be firm and fit tightly against the inside of the crib. 

When can babies sleep with a pillow?

You can stop swaddling a baby at about two months old when you notice the baby squirming or trying to roll over. There should not be a pillow in the crib because it increases the baby’s risk for suffocation or SIDS, which usually happens during sleep. 

After the swaddle phase, continue to lay your baby on their back with no pillows until they’re about two years old. This is the age at which you might transition your child to a toddler bed. Your child’s first pillow shouldn’t be too big or too fluffy. Instead, it should be a small, firm pillow without a pillowcase. 

Babies should sleep on a flat surface with a tightly fitted sheet. Worried about their comfort? Don’t be! Pillows and blankets aren’t necessary for babies. Opt to place your baby in a sleeping bag-like sack that will help them stay cozy and minimise the risk of suffocation or strangulation. 

Less is more when it comes to safe sleeping practices for infants and toddlers. As your baby continues to grow, you’ll be able to introduce new objects to their environment. 

When can babies sleep with blankets or stuffed animals?

Blankets increase the baby’s risk for suffocation and SIDS, but also, young toddlers can get tangled in a blanket when trying to stand up, which could cause them to fall. Try not to over bundle your baby in clothes if you think they might get cold at night — overheating is another risk factor for SIDS. Make sure the room is at a comfortably cool temperature, and your little one should sleep soundly.

You can introduce a blanket to a baby when they are about two years old. When your toddler starts to sleep with a blanket, opt for one that’s small, thin, and lightweight. 

Stuffed animals are perfectly fine for your baby to play with when they’re awake, but if they’re under two years old, keep it out of the cot. Pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals aren’t safe for babies to sleep with, as it increases the risk of SIDS. The most reliable sleep setup for your little one is in a cot with a simple fitted sheet — and nothing else.

What are the characteristics of a safe and comfortable toddler bed? 

When your baby is over two years old, they’re no longer at risk for SIDS. You can safely transition them into a regular bed and practice a new set of safe sleeping habits. Create a safe sleep environment by positioning the bed away from window blind pulls, electrical cords, or curtains. Once they’re big enough for a big kid bed, you can introduce thin blankets, toddler pillows, and stuffed animals as these objects pose much less of a risk.

When it comes time to choose a mattress, invest in a supportive single, long single or king single bed. Ecosa’s mattress is supportive for a growing child and has a 15-year warranty! It comes with adjustable firmness options so that your child can choose and optimise their comfort preference as they get older.