Toddler sleeping in bed, head on pillow, holding a stuffed bear

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The first year with a baby is when most parents put their crib in a state of sleep.

Until your baby can roll over on their own, no blankets, pillows, bumpers, or toys are allowed.

As your child transitions into the toddler stage and as you think about transitioning them from a crib to a toddler bed, it seems only natural that your bub’s little bed should have a little pillow, too.

If you need a toddler pillow, this article will show you what the best options are.

A toddler may not need a pillow.

That being said, adults technically don’t need a pillow to fall asleep either!

“That doesn’t mean toddlers can’t use pillows. You won’t be a bad parent if you introduce one or not.”

If you decide to purchase a toddler pillow, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends not to introduce one before a child is 18 months old.

After 18 months, the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is dramatically reduced. Before 18 months, there’s a risk that a pillow can block your baby’s airway, leading to suffocation.

If the child is ready, parents can begin transitioning their child from a crib to a toddler bed after 18 months.

Child to child readiness to move to a bed varies. Some parents start after 18 months, while others wait until around 30 to 36 months.

“If your child stays in their crib longer, you won’t feel behind.”

Safety warning

It is recommended that your baby sleeps without anything in their crib until they are at least 18 months old. No pillows, blankets, loveys, or other items that may pose a choking or strangulation hazard will be allowed.

There are some things to keep in mind when giving a toddler a pillow.

  • Size. Ensure the toddler pillow isn’t too big for your child. It’s best not to use a standard adult-size pillow. Instead, opt for a smaller one specifically designed for toddlers.
  • Allergens. Just like adults, children can be allergic to certain pillow materials like down feathers. It’s best to err on the side of caution and pick a toddler pillow with a down-alternative filling, like cotton or polyester.
  • Firmness. Even if you love a soft pillow, first-time pillows for toddlers shouldn’t be overly plush. Instead, pick something that’s soft but still firm enough to provide proper support. Look for fiber-filled options that retain their shape immediately after pressing down on them.

Now that you know what to avoid, it is time to think about what you want in a toddler pillow.

  • Size. Pick a pillow designed for toddlers. Smaller pillows are best, since a full-sized pillow may not properly support your toddler and be too large for their bed.
  • Filling. Look for a low allergen option that’s firm enough to provide proper support and won’t go flat quickly. For instance, you can find great options made with memory foam. Whichever filling you choose, ensure that the pillow can retain its shape and isn’t too soft.
  • Maintenance: Considering the busy lives of parents, look for toddler pillows that are machine-washable and don’t require special cleaning. In the case of a memory foam pillow, look for zippered cases that are easy to clean.
  • Durability: Pillows should be replaced every 18 to 36 months, depending on the material. Make sure that the pillow can withstand both being slept on regularly as well as the typical antics of toddlers — pillow fight, anyone?

Picking a toddler pillow is a lot like picking a pillow for yourself, but with a few more safety considerations required.

We looked at the filling material, how easy it is to clean, the size, cost, and reviews from real parents to create our recommendations.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = $16–$25
  • $$$ = over $26

Best-rated toddler pillow

Little Sleepy Head Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: polyester cluster fiber
  • Dimensions: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable, dryer-safe
  • Pros: hypoallergenic construction, ergonomic design for neck support, 100% cotton cover
  • Cons: can be too small for active sleepers who might slide off the pillow, some parents noted that this pillow falls flat fairly quickly

If your child is like Goldilocks and needs a pillow that is not too soft and not too firm, this pick from Little Sleepy Head is perfect.

Most parents say it is the right size for their toddlers, with rave reviews on Amazon.

The cotton shell and polyester fiber filling on this pillow are designed to hold its shape over time.

“It is easy to keep this pillow clean since it is machine-washable. It doesn’t come with a pillowcase, that’s one negative.”

Best memory foam toddler pillow

Coop Home Goods Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: memory foam/microfiber blend
  • Dimensions: 19 x 13 inches (48.3 x 33 cm)
  • Washable: the entire pillow, including the fill inside the cover and case, is machine-washable
  • Pros: CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified, removable memory foam, ergonomic support, medium-firm fill
  • Cons: may require extensive airing out when it first arrives to remove a chemical smell, more determined children may be able to access the hidden cover zipper and get to the fill

If you like memory foam pillows, you will love this toddler-friendly version from Coop Home Goods.

CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certify the cross-cut foam used in this pick. It is free from toxins and low in volatile organic compounds.

The entire pillow is machine-washable. The cover has a hidden zip to keep little hands from playing with it.

Best cooling toddler pillow

VAlinks Contour Memory Foam Cooling Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: memory foam and cooling gel
  • Dimensions: 19.7 x 11.8 inches (50 x 30 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable cover, spot-clean only for pillow
  • Pros: incorporates a cooling gel layer, ergonomic design for neck support, slow rebound memory foam core, and is ideal for back, stomach, and side sleepers
  • Cons: only the pillow cover is machine-washable

Just like adults, some children sweat in their sleep. If this applies to your child, opting for a cooling toddler pillow is a smart investment.

The VAlinks Contour Memory Foam Cooling Toddler Pillow is ideal because it combines supportive memory foam with a built-in layer of cooling gel to keep your little one comfortable while they snooze.

The design of the neck is made of a soft material that is perfect for back, side, and stomach sleeping areas. The pillow is not machine-washable, but it does come with a protective cover that can be thrown in the laundry for easy maintenance.

Best organic toddler pillowcase

My Little North Star Organics Sweet Dreams Toddler Pillow and Pillowcase

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: polyester cluster
  • Dimensions: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable
  • Pros: organic cotton cover and pillowcase, machine-washable pillow, hypoallergenic fill
  • Cons: some parents claimed the pillow wasn’t made in the United States even though the product description makes this claim

Even though many companies call their products organic, we had a hard time finding organic toddler pillows certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard.

The pillow from My Little North Star Organics is filled with a type of fiber that is not organic, and that is something that gets a skeptical look from us.

“If you are looking for a semi-organic pillow and pillowcase bundle that doesn’t break the bank, this might be a good fit for you.”

Best organic toddler pillow

Naturepedic PLA Pillow with Organic Fabric

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: PLA batting (non-GMO sugarcane), 100% organic outer fabric
  • Dimensions: 20 x 26 inches (standard and standard low fill)
  • Washable: not recommended
  • Pros: 100% organic cotton, cooling materials, no harmful chemicals or smells, Greenguard Gold certified
  • Cons: high price point, the pillow cannot be washed, some reviewers said the pillow was too thick for their child

Finding a truly organic toddler pillow can be difficult. It is not hard to imagine why the price tag is so high. A pillow that is truly organic and eco-friendly may be a good investment.

Naturepedic claims to have created its own synthetic fiber from sugarcane, which is a non-GMO renewable resource. There are no toxins or harmful chemical smells that come off the pillow because it is non-GMO.

In addition to being Greenguard Gold certified, the outer fabric is 100 percent organic cotton and comes in two fill sizes: standard and lower.

Best wool toddler pillow

Woolino Wool Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: wool
  • Dimensions: 14 x 19 inches (35.6 x 48.3 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable pillow and cover
  • Pros: hypoallergenic, breathable, naturally moisture-wicking, made from 100% Australian merino wool, both cover and pillow are machine-washable
  • Cons: cannot be put in a dryer and must be air dried to avoid damaging the filling

This pick has a cotton exterior and OEKO-TEX certified wool interior.

Wool has a number of properties that make it resistant to fire and fire-resistance.

Fans of this toddler pillow say that it is the right thickness. They found comfort in knowing that the materials are natural.

It is machine-washable, and a few people who reviewed it said it held up well. The manufacturer still recommends that you use a cover to reduce the number of washes.

Best travel toddler pillow

Biloban Baby Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Filling type: polyester
  • Dimensions: 13 x 18 inches (33 x 45.6 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable
  • Pros: easy maintenance, cotton cover, hypoallergenic polyfill, provides ergonomic support
  • Cons: some children may not like the ultra-flat design

Toddler pillows are small enough to be a good travel pillow. This option from Biloban is even better since it is a little flatter than the alternatives on this list.

The pillow is 33 x 48.6 cm and has a thickness of 1.9 to 2.5 inches.

It is ideal if you are concerned about allergies, because it has an OEKO-TEX certified cotton shell and poly-cluster fiber filling.

Best kid-friendly toddler pillow

Sesame Street Cookie Monster Super Soft Sherpa Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $
  • Filling type: polyester
  • Dimensions: 15 x 15 inches (38.1 x 38.1 cm)
  • Washable: spot-clean only
  • Pros: adorable Sesame Street characters, travel-friendly size, soft fleece texture
  • Cons: can only be spot-cleaned, not made from any natural fibers

If your child is a fan of Sesame Street, this Cookie- Monster-themed sherpa pillow is a great addition to their bedding.

The case and filling of this square are made from a material called polyester. Reviewers say that the joy it brings their child is worth it.

It comes in an Elmo design as well.

Best flat toddler pillow

ClevaMama ClevaFoam Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Filling type: foam
  • Dimensions: 20 x 12 inches (50.8 x 30.5 cm)
  • Washable: machine-washable cover only
  • Pros: the flat design is ideal for stomach sleepers, hypoallergenic foam fill is ideal for children with asthma, machine-washable cover, ergonomic design
  • Cons: the fill is not machine-washable and is spot-clean only

The flatter pillow from ClevaMama is a good option for parents who want a less thick pillow.

It has a slightly larger footprint at 20 x 12 inches, but it is only 2 inches tall.

This breathable memory foam pillow has a lot of great reviews, though a handful of reviewers warn that while the pillow cover is machine-washable, the pillow itself is not. Opt for a waterproof cover instead.

Consider the ABCs

Creating an environment that helps little ones sleep can help them sleep better.

If your child has entered the toddler years, you’re likely aware of safe sleeping basics for babies — also known as the ABCs of sleep, or the Safe Sleep Campaign from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP).

These policies are to make sure that infants are sleeping.

  • Alone
  • on their Backs
  • on a firm surface, usually a Crib, that’s free from any other objects except a crib mattress covered in a fitted sheet

“This means that your baby’s crib should be free from items that are not related to sleep. The rules are a bit loosened when your child is toddlerhood.”

If your child prefers to be covered while they sleep, you can introduce a toddler-friendly pillow and blanket.

Prepare the room

Beyond eliminating obvious dangers, such as hanging cords and exposed power outlets, preparing a sleep-friendly room means minimizing exposure to stimulants, like blue light from devices such as phones or tablets.

Blue light can keep your child awake when they should be snoozing.

It is not uncommon for toddlers to be uncomfortable sleeping in the dark. It is ok to include a nightlight in their room. If the bulb has a different color, be careful.

You can also make sure the room’s temperature isn’t too warm or cold. Experts recommend setting your thermostat between 66 and 70°F (18.9 and 21.1°C).

Toys can be OK

Unlike infants, toddlers can sleep with a toy. If a child is anxious about separation, this can help.

If you leave the bed cluttered with toys, this can reinforce the idea that there is no difference between playtime and sleep.

Do doctors recommend pillows for toddlers?

Experts strongly discourage the use of a pillow for children under 2 years because of the risk of suffocation.

It is recommended to wait until your child is at least 18 months old before introducing a pillow.

There is no rule regarding the use of a pillow for a toddler. It is up to your and your toddler.

Can toddlers use pillows in a crib?

If you want to give your toddler a pillow, you should wait until they are at least 18 months old.

This means that the baby is still in the crib. A child might not be ready to transition to a regular bed or a toddler bed configuration.

If your child is old enough, you can use a pillow in the crib.

Can a toddler use a regular pillow?

Toddler pillows are not frivolous purchases.

“A regular pillow from your closet is usually too large for a child. They don’t have the proper support to prevent neck pain.”

Additionally, adult pillows can contain unsafe materials for children. For instance, they may still be off-gassing (releasing chemicals into the air) as well as releasing harmful VOCs into the environment that your child could inhale.

When is it safe for a toddler to use a pillow?

The AAP recommends waiting until your child is around 18 months before introducing a toddler pillow into their bedtime routine.

Experts recommend waiting until your child is at least 18 months old before introducing a toddler pillow.

Your child should have the ability to move obstructions from their face even when they are sleeping.

“We understand why parents might want to put a toddler pillow in their child’s bedroom.”

If you aim for a non-allergenic option that is easy to clean and appropriately sized, your child will be able to get cozy with pillows.

“To learn which factors to consider when choosing a toddler’s first pillow, browse this article.”