When our children are babies it is clear what the guidelines are when it comes to safe sleeping: the cot area should be clear (NO blanket, NO pillow, NO bumper), the mattress should be firm, and you should always put your baby down on their back.
Even though the cot and your toddler might look odd without the ‘normal’ trimmings, the fact remains that the introduction of blankets and pillows should wait until they move out of the cot and to a proper bed.
When my daughter moved to a big bed at close to 3 years old, never having slept with anything except the sleeping bag and her taglet, I faced the Big Bed with confusion. Do I put bedding on it? The bed sure looks odd without a pillow. As our babies become toddlers (from 12 months), the fear of SIDS is no longer a risk, so does that mean we can we ease up on the safety measures?”
As I started looking for the answer, I realised it is not so clear. Most safe sleep guidelines only apply until a child is 12 months old but I know that using any bedding before 12 – 18 months is most definitely a no-no. After 18 months, though, it becomes safe to introduce pillows and duvets, BUT it’s not yet necessary.
How to choose the right bedding for your child
The recommended age to start introducing a pillow is the same age you move your toddler to a bed/toddler bed or take the railing down on their cot, which is between 2.5 and 3 years. When choosing bedding, though, keep in mind that your toddler’s bedding will differ from yours initially: rather choose a duvet that’s on the smaller side as anything too big will crowd the bed and could pose a suffocation risk, and a firm pillow that offers proper neck support to your toddler.
You’ll know they’re ready for a pillow when they start using their hands, security blanket or lovey as a makeshift pillow, but if the lack of a pillow isn’t affecting your child’s sleep, there’s no harm in waiting to introduce one until they are older.
Toddlers tend to be busy sleepers so you can expect them to kick their blankets off initially. Dress your toddler warmly so that it doesn’t really matter if the bedding ends up bunched around their feet – this is one of the reasons it’s often recommended that you transition a child to a new bed during summer. If your child has been exclusively using a sleep sack or sleeping bag until this point, they’ll have to learn how to use a duvet independently. Make them practice putting the blanket over themselves – they should get the hang of it quite quickly.
How to introduce your child to a duvet, blanket and pillow
Firstly, you’ll need to be patient. This is a new – and sometimes unsettling – experience for a child. You can expect some ‘teething problems’ as they adjust, and you may find they keep climbing out of bed and making their way to your room. If this happens, just keep guiding them back to their own bed.
If you want to ease the transition to their new bed, you can move your child to a bed while they’re still using a sleep suit – you can introduce blankets or duvets at a later stage. Because it can take a while for a child to get used to using a blanket, start by introducing it during nap times or while reading a book on the couch so they get used to it.
When is it safe to put a pillow in your toddler’s crib or bed? (todaysparent.com)
When Can a Toddler Have a Pillow? Age, Considerations, More (healthline.com)
When Is It Safe for My Baby to Sleep with a Blanket? (healthline.com)