When Can A Toddler Have A Pillow And Blanket?

When can I give my toddler a pillow or a blanket
Alex Warrack

Alex Warrack

When I meet with toddler parents for a child sleep consultation, one of the questions that I a lot is “when can a toddler have a pillow and a blanket”?

Safe sleep says nothing in the crib until our little one’s turn 1, but after that, it’s hard to know when to time these milestones.

In today’s post, I’m gonna answer that question. The guidelines around these two items are different so we’ll explore them separately and then explore how to introduce them.

When is it safe to introduce a blanket to your toddler?

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines recommend keeping soft objects and loose bedding out of the sleep areas for at least the first twelve months. They don’t have specific guidelines around when it is safe to introduce a lightweight blanket and leave it up to parental discretion.

At Bella Luna, we leave it up to parents as well, but a lightweight, breathable cotton blanket should be safe in between 12-18 months. As you are trying to make the decision of when to add bedding to your toddler’s crib, if you have concerns, check in with your pediatrician, as they know your child best, aside from you.

Even if you do introduce a lightweight blanket, we highly recommend continuing to use sleep sacks even after babies transition to toddlerhood. Sleep sacks are made for older toddlers, and you can keep your little one in a sleep sack well past their second birthday. A sleep sack will keep your little one warm and cozy for sleep, until they can keep a blanket on and cover themselves up – usually around 2.5 years old. Who doesn’t love a wearable blanket!?

When is it safe to introduce a pillow to your toddler?

It is safe to introduce a pillow to your little one when they are two years old or older and out of the crib and in a big kid bed.

Before you get all excited and start pillow shopping, we recommend waiting until your little one is 3 years or older before transitioning from crib to bed. Trust us on this one! Transitioning before your little one’s impulse control has developed more fully can create a cycle of bedtime battles and night wakings.

As adults, the idea of sleeping without a pillow seems bizarre! We have been sleeping with a pillow for as long as we can remember. But your little one hasn’t been sleeping with a pillow, so they do not know any other way of sleeping.

What To Look For When Purchasing A Pillow

When it is time to purchase a pillow for your little one, look for pillows that are:

  • Small – your toddler is small and their pillow should be small too
  • Firm and thin – this will support your toddler’s neck and help with proper spinal alignment
  • Hypoallergenic – ideally organic, like this top-rated pillow

Are you having bedtime drama-rama? Our bedtime routine checklist can help!

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How to introduce a pillow and blanket to your toddler

Whenever making changes to your little one’s bedtime routine or environment, I suggest doing it at bedtime. We have a higher production of melatonin (our sleepy hormone) on our side, helping with the urge to sleep. Making changes at nap time can be too disturbing, and we want to preserve naps as much as possible. 

So, once it is safe to introduce a pillow or blanket to your little one, do it at bedtime. Show your little one their new pillow and blanket, and let them touch it and play around. 

Show them how to lay their head on the pillow (they may have already been showing interest in your pillow). When tucking them under their new blanket, see if they will lay their head on their new pillow.

The first few nights, you may see that it may take your little one longer to settle as they get used to this new way of sleeping. They may be very interested in these new items, and that is OK, leave them to get used to them.

Your little one may throw the pillow and/or blanket out of bed. That is OK too. Leave them; we don’t want to start a game of fetch. The next night tuck them in again by laying them down on the pillow and tucking them under the blanket. And see what happens. 

After a few days, if your little one is still throwing the pillow and blanket out of their bed, that is OK. Maybe they are not ready for them, and you can try again in a few weeks or months.

My personal experience introducing a pillow and blanket 

My daughter was 2.5 years old when I introduced a pillow and a blanket. She was still in her crib, but was asking to bring my pillow into bed with her and showed a lot of interest.

I got her My Little North Star and showed it to her during the day. I told her this was her new pillow and she could have it at bedtime.

My daughter is 3 years old now and still in her crib and will go to sleep on her pillow. Most nights, I see her still move around, and she will be off her pillow at periods during the night. But by morning wake up, she is usually sleeping on her pillow.

I introduced the blanket at 2.5 years old because I stopped putting her in a sleep sack (she was taking them off and not wanting to wear one). She has slept more consistently under the blanket in the past few weeks.  I always lay her down on her pillow and tuck her in with the blanket. It’s the sweetest sight!

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