Unlike what many think, pillows aren’t a necessity for newborns and infants. In fact, it is advisable that you keep your baby off pillows for the first year after birth. It’s for safety reasons. The NHS website says baby pillows may pose a risk of suffocation. Instead, the NHS recommends sheets and layers of blankets tucked in firmly below your baby’s shoulder level or a baby sleeping bag are safe for your baby to sleep in.
The Lullaby Trust (formerly known as the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths – FSID) agrees with the NHS and say pillows should not be used before a baby is a year old.
That’s because, according to the trust, pillows increase the risk of SIDS by 50% (read more about safe sleeping and SIDS).
In order to have a safer sleep, babies only need a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a good condition and firmly tucked-in sheets or blankets. Any extras such as toys or quilts, pillows or cot bumpers can increase the risk of an accident.
Pillows can lead to potential suffocation and limit the amount of heat babies can release, which can lead to overheating – a risk factor associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Generally, it is considered safe to use pillows after the age of 12 months.
Flat head syndrome and alternatives to a newborn pillow
Since newborns tend to sleep in one position, they’re prone to a condition known as plagiocephaly. Put simply, it’s when a flat spot develops on the side or back of an infant’s head. It also occurs as a result of premature or multiple births, or wrong positioning in the uterus.
Skull bones will not fuse and harden until several months after birth. This aids in both delivery and brain development. Therefore, the shape of your baby’s head can readily change, particularly if they spend a lot of time lying or sleeping the same way.
Nevertheless, the best method for protecting them from SIDS is by putting them on their back, with their feet at the end of the crib. Lessen side effects such as flat head syndrome by taking the following steps:
Alternate the direction in which their head is turned (one night to the left, the next night to the right, etc.). Balance things out by scheduling periods of supervised tummy time during the day. This is even safe to do with newborns, for no more than 3 to 5 minutes, two or three times a day. Gradually increase sessions to an hour.
Lastly, whenever possible, try to keep them upright, instead of letting them recline in a crib, baby swing, or car seat.