Advice For Parents

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

October 13, 2022   By Danielle Herrera

Being a new parent is tough.

For the first time, 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 into a young child. The sleep chapters in the first year are particularly important because they impact your sleep and the baby’s sleep. 

With your new responsibilities, you’re probably thinking about cribs, swaddling, scheduling naps, and getting enough sleep yourself, aside from other concerns like prams, mobiles, soft toys, etc. We know it can be overwhelming and confusing.

We created a short guide on when to introduce bedding and sleep objects to a baby and how toddlers should sleep. Practicing baby-safe and toddler-safe sleep promotes child health and helps the whole family apply safe sleep habits as well. 

What Do Newborns Need for Baby 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 for 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.

How Can You Protect Your Baby from SUDI or SIDS?

Placing your baby on their back is the safest sleeping position to decrease the risk of SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy), which necessarily includes SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and fatal sleeping accidents.

In turn, SIDS 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, although SIDS affects children from 1 to 12 months of age.

The risk of sudden infant death syndrome also increases if you introduce a pillow too early, no matter how soft it is. Same goes with bumpers, padded edges, soft toys, and sleep aid. These sleep products may lead to suffocation if the infant rolls over and the baby’s face is blocked.

So, you don’t need it for a baby’s head in the early period of his or her life. Australian government guidelines suggestthat no sleep products should be inside a baby’s sleep environment, except the cot mattress or portable cot.

Choose Your Cot and Sleep on the Back

However, the best way to reduce the risk of SIDS is by placing the baby on his or her back during sleep. When a baby is placed on their tummy to sleep, as previously mentioned, there’s the risk of restricting his or her oxygen flow and of choking from reflux. Instead, 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.

In addition, the crib mattress should be firm and should fit tightly against the inside of the crib. For example, the Ecosa cot mattress provides a firm and supportive sleep surface for the baby. It also has a washable, hypoallergenic cover and core. As a result, the mattress passed Red Nose Australia’s product safety standards back in 2021.

When Can Babies Sleep with a Pillow?

Now, you can stop swaddling a baby at about two months old when you notice the baby squirming or trying to roll over. Again, there shouldn’t be a pillow in the crib because of the risk of suffocation or SIDS. 

After the swaddle phase, continue to lay your baby on his or her back with no pillows until about two years of age, as advised by Red Nose Australia. This is the time to transition your child to a toddler bed.

Along with the toddler bed are kids’ pillows. Your child’s first pillows shouldn’t be too big or too fluffy. Instead, it should be small and firm, without pillowcases.   

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 his or her 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, so the little one could 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 any toys out of the cot. Pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals aren’t safe for babies to sleep with, as previously mentioned.

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 he’s or she’s big enough for a big bed, you can introduce thin blankets, toddler pillows, and stuffed animals, as these objects pose much less of a risk.

When the time comes to choose a mattress, invest in a supportive single, long single or king single bed. Ecosa’s mattresses are 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.  

Up Next

What Time Should Kids Go to Bed?

September 29, 2022   By Clarisa Mcdonald