A Chiropractor's Perspective on Introducing Pillows for Toddlers

Hello parents 🌙

Transitioning from a cot to a bed is a significant step, prompting consideration not only for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) safety but also for the optimal support of your child's spinal health.

This article is from a chiropractic perspective about introducing a pillow into a child's sleep routine.

The Pillow Paradox: Why Skip for Toddlers?

Why? Because, their head is still significantly bigger than the width of their shoulders. An average adult’s shoulder width is equivalent to their width of their head - and so when an adult lays on their side, there’s a big drop in the angle of their neck toward the mattress. Therefore it needs support for the neck to stay aligned with the rest of the spine. In toddlers however, the shoulder will sink into their mattress a bit, and their head will hit the pillow keeping their neck inline with their spine.

Additionally, toddlers are renowned for their nocturnal acrobatics, frequently changing sleeping positions. Consequently, a pillow may not serve its intended purpose when consistently repositioned throughout the night.

Exceptions for Consideration:

While adhering to the general guideline, exceptions exist. Two scenarios warrant deviation from the norm:

1. Developmental Advancement: If a child demonstrates developmental maturity beyond their peers, a pillow may be introduced earlier. However, diligence in maintaining the alignment of the spine and neck remains paramount.

2. Child-Led Requests: In instances where a child expresses a preference for a pillow due to familial influence, practical alternatives include crafting a thin pillow using a folded towel encased in a suitable pillowcase or exploring specially designed toddler pillows.

Pillow-Readiness Checklist:

Discerning when a child is prepared for their first pillow involves assessing several factors:

Transition to a Bed: Ensure your child has successfully transitioned from a cot to a bed.

Nightly Restraint: Observe if your child remains relatively stationary throughout the night.

For Side Sleepers: Confirm that increased shoulder width causes a noticeable drop in head position during sleep.

For Back Sleepers: Verify that the mattress adequately supports the natural curvature of the neck by assessing resistance when sliding fingertips beneath the neck.

For Tummy Sleepers: Acknowledge that, irrespective of age, pillows are not recommended due to the potential strain on the neck.

Each child is unique, necessitating a tailored approach to their sleep environment. Adhering to these considerations contributes to a comprehensive strategy for fostering optimal spinal health in your child.

Chiropractors are trained to answer specific questions about what may be best for your child for sleep. Ask us at your next appointment,

Adelaide Family Chiropractic

Children and Pillows
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