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Do Children Need Different Pillows?

Smaller people have different needs when it comes to their pillows

Do Children Need Different Pillows?

Let’s talk about pillows. They’re pretty much a necessity for any adult who enjoys a good night’s sleep, but are they really necessary for kids? Those sticky little ones are known to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere if they’re tired, after all, and often without a pillow (or even a blanket).

Well, believe it or not, children actually do need pillows, and not just the same ones as are on their parents' beds. Indeed, kids have specific pillow needs and requirements of their own.  Before we go any further, though, we need to be clear in saying that you should never put a pillow (or blanket) in a crib with babies under the age of 18 months. We’re talking about older toddlers and kids here.

That said, younger children who are of appropriate age probably need something comfortable behind their head at night to support their growing bodies, but they shouldn’t be using an adult-sized pillow, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Part of the reason young children shouldn’t be using a regular pillow is that these are designed with an adult’s head and neck in mind. Pillows—while something we use for comfort—were actually created to support your head and neck, and there are obviously pretty significant differences between a young child’s bone structure and the structure of an adult’s head and neck. If your child is using an adult pillow, it can lead to pain and restlessness, or even bad posture.

So, how do you know when your child is ready for a pillow? Let’s find out.

  • Your child has transitioned from a crib to a toddler bed, which is generally around the age of 18 months to 2 years.
  • Your child won’t fall asleep without their head propped up on their arms or a blanket.
  • You notice that your child is restless or appears uncomfortable during the night.
  • Your child lies their heads on other pillows, like the couch throw pillows or the pillows on your bed.

If you’re at the point where most (or all) of the above boxes are checked, well, it’s probably time to invest in a pillow for your little one. But how do you do that? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. A good toddler or child pillow is designed with your child’s proportions in mind, so you are probably pretty safe with any pillow geared specifically toward children. Still, if you’re looking for a bit more guidance, here are some things to look for:

  • Beware of allergens. If your child is sensitive to certain materials or fillers, make sure you check thoroughly to ensure there are no potential triggers contained within the pillow's filling or cover.
  • Figure out the firmness. This is probably going to be trial or error, but it’s important to figure out just how firm or soft you want your child’s pillow to be. Yes, kids’ pillows come in all sorts of varieties, and you’re going to want one that is firm enough to support their growing bone structure but soft enough that they won’t toss it off the bed in frustration.
  • Find a pillow with a good guarantee or warranty. Not all pillows (or anything else, for that matter) are created alike, and let’s be real here. Kids aren’t exactly gentle with their possessions, especially when they can be used as a (soft) weapon in a pillow fight. If you try to bargain hunt, you may end up paying more for that pillow when you have to replace it because the seams came apart or the material shredded.
  • Go organic on the pillow cover, if possible. As with fruits and veggies, going organic with the material on the outside of your child’s pillow will eliminate a lot of yucky unwanted additions like bleach, dyes, and pesticides. This part is important because your child will be breathing in whatever is next to their face all night, so you want to eliminate as many potential health hazards as possible.
  • Make sure it’s hypoallergenic. This may seem redundant, but kids are sensitive, and a lot of times parents are unaware that their child is allergic to something until, well, they react to it. So, to avoid a miserable child, make sure the pillow you choose is hypoallergenic to eliminate any possibility of a bad reaction.
  • Make sure it’s easy to wash. Remember how kids are messy? Yeah, that goes for their pillows, too. You’ll be washing that thing—a lot—so make sure it’s something you CAN wash, and that you can wash it easily. Otherwise, you’ll be the one who’s miserable.

Resources— Child Safety Experts, American Academy of Pediatrics