Mellow Mummy: When Is The Right Time To Give Your Child A Pillow? : Taking life as it comes...

Monday 13 September 2010

When Is The Right Time To Give Your Child A Pillow?

When is the right time to give your toddler a pillow? This is a question I have been pondering for some time. From birth we are advised to lie our babies flat on their backs for maximum safety but at what point do they suddenly become old enough to sleep with a pillow? No-one tells you these things!

I remember when Lara was just a few weeks old (in the days when the idea of Mellow Mummy was just forming in my head) chatting with my NCT ladies about baby pillows. As a mellow parent, I wasn't too worried about the shape of Lara's head as she lay flat on her mattress each night but I know that lots of mums do worry, especially if their baby sleeps at an angle and has a particularly pronounced shape as a result. Babies heads are squishy and they are easily shaped by the positions they sleep in. At this point in their lives, a baby-pillow seemed like a good idea.

We didn't use a baby pillow because I didn't feel Lara had a problem with a mishapen head. But, on my quest for a suitable first pillow for Lara we have recently tried out the Theraline Baby Pillow which is designed for exactly the problem that lots of mummies worry about. For babies from birth to one year old, it is a tiny cushion that fits under their head with a soft dimple to lay their delicate skull in to.

Image courtesy of PJP PR

One of my mummy testers has been using the Theraline pillow. Diane, mum to a 2 year old and a 3 month old says,
“The theraline support pillow is definitely something we will be using with our second child. The pillow is nice and small - when you first introduce a pillow it can seem REALLY high because you're used to seeing your child lying flat on their cot.”
The pillow is made from a supportive mesh of breathable fabric to keep the child's head cool. It has an extremely shallow dimple so it doesn't prevent them from moving their head around as they sleep, it just provides enough support to the head to take the pressure off the skull.

Lara was a very peaceful baby and barely moved. She has a patch of hair on the back of her head that is a different texture and a different length to the rest of her hair due to the balding effect of having slept on the same spot for so long. For Lara the pillow would have been perfect as a small baby but over the past two months she has become a lot more active and our attempts to place her on the Theraline were unsuccessful - within a few minutes she wiggled off the pillow.

It is in part this increase in Lara's movement that has made me think that it may perhaps be time to introduce Lara to a 'real' pillow. I have read a number of baby websites which suggest that you shouldn't introduce a traditional pillow or duvet until 12 months old and many discussion forums which suggest leaving it a lot closes to 2 years.

The thing which finally made up my mind was when Lara last had a cold (she was about 13 months old at the time). I helped to ease her congestion at night by slightly raising her head at night by placing a folded blanket under her head. After she got better, I tried to move the blanket away but she seemed really restless at night without it and would wake frequently, and often in really crazy positions in the cot. I put the blanket back and she settled better again so it stayed there for several weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I invested in a real pillow! I bought a “My First Cot Pillow” from Kiddicare and a pair of pillow cases. The pillow by Baby Weavers is smaller than an adults pillow (60cm x 39cm). It is has a micro-fibre cover and a polyester pillow and is recommended from 18 months upwards. It is a lot fatter than I had expected a first pillow and I currently feel that Lara is too raised up when she sleeps on it – I'm hoping the pillow will slump a little with further use.

Lara enjoying a peaceful afternoon nap

There is no doubt though that the pillow helps. Sometimes she does still wriggle and squirm (and ends up with her head squished up against the cot bars where her feet should be)! But on most nights she now sleeps peacefully and with less movement and disturbance than before - I attribute that to the pillow.

The decision is a very personal one and will depend on your child, but I think a good guide for when to give a child a pillow is between 13 and 18 months old.
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