There are several things to look for when deciding to buy a pillow for a toddler. I will go over them all in this article as well as links to the best pillow prices currently below.

When Can A Baby Sleep With A Pillow?

Experts generally agree around 18 months to 2 years is when to give a toddler a pillow. Infants and babies risk suffocation if using baby pillows (or crib pillows, as they are often referred to), so one should avoid introducing a pillow until they are aware of toddler pillow safety.  When can a baby use a pillow is question dependent on the baby having adequate neck strength and the ability to consistently sleep facing away from the bed (to keep airway clear). Observe your child sleeping and check with your healthcare specialist about an infant pillow if you’re considering buying a pillow for babies under 12 months or if you’re thinking about using a baby pillow for crib.

Another way to tell when to give a toddler a pillow is to observe the child. Are they asking for their own or trying to sleep on yours (my third did this)? Do they  seem uncomfortable sleeping or toss and turn all night? Maybe they’re often tired? Are they often complaining of back/neck pain or wiggling around like they are trying to stretch their spinal muscles?

If your child sleeps on their side they may need to use a pillow sooner than if they were a stomach sleeper to maintain proper neck alignment. Utilization of a toddler neck pillow can greatly help their sleep quality to keep the head lifted to the same height as the spine, thereby not straining their muscles.

I have found that getting a “my first pillow” for their first birthday, or thereabouts works out fabulous. None of mine used them to sleep on at such a young age, but they were great for laying in bed reading, or watching TV.  As they got older and transitioned into sleeping with a pillow they already had one.  Another good time to get a kids pillow is along with a new bed, when transitioning from a crib.

Consider as well getting the pillow to use as a toddler travel pillow.  It not only brings comfort for your child to bring a “lovie” on vacation, but small pillows for toddlers are just the right size for planes and car trips. For frequent travelers, or toddlers that sleep in the car, I recommend this travel pillow, check out my review for it here!

What To Look For When Choosing A Toddler Pillow

Common Materials:

Kids pillows can be made from a variety of materials. Consider carefully, as your child will be breathing on the pillow almost half of their time. If your toddler has allergies this is an even more important decision and you will need to look for natural and chemical free materials. I recommend organic toddler pillows when ever possible.

  • Cotton: common for coverings, and sometimes filling. It is a natural, breathable fabric, normally quite soft. Try to choose certified organic cotton, it is much less allergenic (cotton crops are extremely pesticidic). Cotton is also a popular option for a toddler pillow case and is sometimes more budget friendly to choose the organic option for the case if you can’t for the whole pillow.
  • Wool: I love wool because of its natural flame retardant abilities, temperature regulation, moisture-wicking, and so much more. It’s also naturally antibacterial and fungal so there’s never any worry about dust mites, bed bugs, or other creatures living in the pillow. Wool is some amazing stuff and I highly suggest getting it for your toddler if you’re able.
  • Polyester: Normally this is in the form of some type of fiber fill and is quite common for pillows. Look for hypoallergenic and free of chemicals such as flame retardants (which are highly carcinogenic – not something you want your child breathing in for hours a night!). Always make sure it’s washable.

Size

Most toddler pillows are approximately 13×18, some a little bigger, but much bigger are normally considered children’s pillows, and smaller are an infant sleeping pillow. Check reviews since some are known to shrink.

Price

One can find a toddler pillow on amazon for any budget. I urge you to consider it is what your child’s head will be resting on for almost half their time so this should be an important decision! I happen to know of one child who slept on a cheap pillow until her parents suspected an allergy. Upon replacing the pillow with our ranked best toddler pillow the child’s constant dripping nose and puffy eyes cleared up! Investing a few more dollars in a quality pillow can be dramatic for your child’s health.

Maintenance

Some materials are not machine washable, but it’s really not needed for some of the natural fabrics. Wool, for example, repels dust mites, fungus, and bacteria so it’s not necessary (and advised against) to wash. Some materials say they are washable but become uncomfortable after washing. Each of my in-depth reviews includes washing and caring instructions.

The Three Best Toddler Pillows

Click on the links to see current prices and Amazon reviews of our favorite pillows!

  1. Mother Sheep Organic Wool Toddler Pillow
    • 14×19
    • Cover Material: Wool
    • Filler material: wool
    • Price: $$
    • My review
  2. Little One’s Pillow
    • 13×18
    • Cover material: organic cotton
    • Filler material: untreated poly cluster fiber
    • Price: $
    • My review
  3. Zack & Ali Toddler Pillow
    • 13×18
    • Cover material: organic cotton
    • Filler material: untreated poly micro gel fiber
    • Price: $
    • My review

The Mother Sheep Toddler Pillow ranked number one mainly due to it’s fabric. It is 100% untreated organic wool. It is the most expensive than our other top pillows (see current price here), but I feel the benefits of wool outweigh the expense considering it will be next to your child’s face much of their time.

To see more details on each of the pillows, check out my in depth reviews of each one in the reviews section.

Don’t Forget the Toddler Pillow Case!

Now that you’ve decided on your favorite toddler pillow, it’s time to choose the kids pillow cases for it.  Although the pillow companies stress there is no need for a case, I always recommend using one, as well as keeping a back up or two!  Not only do kids love the chance to personalize their little pillow, it offers another barrier of protection against, well, anything a toddler can think of (not limited to drool, markers, spills, and dirty hands)! Just make sure the pillow case is going to fit the pillow, putting an adult sized case on a toddler size pillow could be a safety hazard with the fabric twisting around at night.  Below are my top choices for toddler pillow cases, and don’t forget to check out my in-depth reviews of the best toddler pillow cases!

  1. Mother Sheep Organics Toddler Pillowcase 
    • 14×19 (fits the pillow of the same brand above)
    • Organic cotton
    • White
    • $$$
  2. Zack & Ali Toddler Pillowcase 
    • 13×18
    • Organic Cotton
    • White or prints: gender neutral and so cute!
    • $$$
  3. YourEcoFamily Toddler Pillowcases 
    • 13×18
    • Organic cotton
    • Prints: “girls”, “boys”, “unisex”
    • $$