Sleep Safety for Toddlers: When Blankets & Pillows Are Safe

The charm of a slumbering toddler is only surpassed by that of a sleeping infant.

The success of having your child sleep feels like a win for everyone, especially for exhausted parents. Even though your child is sleeping securely in their bed, are they safe?

Can a toddler suffocate under a blanket? Children 12 months and older are no longer considered at risk for suffocation from blankets or SIDS. Toddlers may use a lightweight, breathable blanket. However, beds too close to the wall or a bed filled with heavy bedding, numerous stuffed animals, or bumper pads risk suffocation or entrapment.

Although the risk of SIDS and suffocation significantly decrease as children reach toddlerhood, sleep safety is still just as important as before. Ensuring your child can sleep peacefully and safely is a top priority.

Toddlers are always on the move, and the closest they come to stopping is when they reach their beds. How can you create a healthy and safe sleeping environment for your toddler? 

Sleep Safety for Toddlers

Whew! You made it through infancy! Waking up throughout all hours of the night to ensure your baby is breathing is over, right? What keeps your toddler safe while sleeping? How can you ensure they are comfortable, cozy, and protected?

When Can Toddler Sleep With Blanket?

Children 12 months old and older may sleep with a light blanket. The weight, fabric and design of the blankets make all the difference.

  • Weight – Large, heavy blankets pose a suffocation risk. Weighted blankets are not recommended until a child reaches school age.
  • Fabric –  Breathable, lightweight blankets are recommended over quilted or knitted blankets. 
  • Design – Decorative or sensory blankets also pose a choking, strangulation, or suffocation risk.

How To Safely Use Blanket in Crib

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children one to two years old should still be put to sleep in a crib. Because toddlers are mobile and busy, it is crucial to keep the crib free from dangers.

Ensure your child’s crib is at least 4 inches away from the wall. Keep the crib free of bumpers, larger stuffed animals, and pillows. Wall decor and window coverings also pose a risk.

Now that your child is a toddler, they can use a lightweight, breathable blanket. The blanket should be free of decorative choking hazards. The blanket should be partnered with a single fitted sheet; do not use a top sheet.

Should a Toddler Use a Pillow?

The AAP recommends that a child under the age of two or who still sleeps in a crib should not use a pillow.

Once your toddler transitions to a toddler bed or “kid-bed,” they may use a small pillow. Toddlers will need a small, thin, firm pillow. Adult-sized pillows are not recommended. 

What Can a Toddler Sleep With?

Although pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals no longer pose a severe risk to your child, it is still important to avoid all unnecessary hazards.

A toddler may now sleep with:

  • Lightweight breathable blanket
  • A small, firm, thin pillow
  • A small, light comfort item, such as a stuffed animal

Decorative, heavy, or large items should not be in the crib. Bumpers, pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals can be used as makeshift stools to climb out of the crib.

Hazards items may also entrap or suffocate a toddler. Bottles and cups are also discouraged from being in a toddler’s bed. 

Toddler Sleep Positions

It is good practice to put your toddler to sleep on their back. Toddlers are much more active and wiggle constantly while they are sleeping. Let your toddler sleep however they are comfortable; back, side, or stomach are all okay.

They can fall asleep in some bizarre positions, and that’s okay as long as their breathing is unobstructed

Preventing Injury

Preventing injury starts with ensuring that the sleeping environment is clear of hazards. Keep the bed clear of heavy, decorative, or large objects.

Do not allow your toddler to sleep with cups/bottles, toys, or books. Place the bed or crib at least 4 inches away from the wall.

Do not use bumpers on a toddler’s bed or crib; they can cause suffocation or be used as makeshift steps to climb out of their bed.

Keep your toddler’s sleeping area clear of decor that can be pulled down. Window coverings such as blinds or curtains should not be accessible.

Use a single fitted sheet in a toddler’s bed. A top sheet should not be used until the child is school-aged (5 years or older).

How Much Sleep Does a Toddler Need?

Children between the ages of 1 and 2 years old should get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep a day, including one or two naps. As your toddler develops, they will decrease their naps until the majority of their sleep happens at night. 

A sweet toddler with curly, wispy hair and striped pajamas asleep in bed.

What Time Should a 2-Year-Old Go To Bed?

Toddlers begin transitioning out of nap time around 3 years old. The earliest recommended bedtime to ensure a restful night’s sleep for a 2-year-old is between 7:00 and 8:00 PM.

When To Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed

Most toddlers transition from a crib to a bed between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. Your child may be ready to transition from crib to bed if they are:

  • Climbing out of the crib
  • Expressing a desire for a bed
  • 3 feet or taller

Another great time to transition your toddler from crib to bed is if you are expecting another baby. It will help instill a “big kid” mentality and help prepare your little one to be an older sibling.

Toddler Bedtime Routine

A toddler bedtime routine is not only beneficial to your toddler, but it is also beneficial for the whole family. Helping your toddler wind down while engaging in pre-bedtime activities will help them sleep more soundly.

A consistent bedtime routine will also support them in independently falling asleep in the future. The most effective routine is the one that fits your family’s needs.

An optimal bedtime routine for your family should have:

  • Consistent start and end times
  • Quiet, calm activities – avoid screen time and over-stimulation
  • A snack
  • Hygiene routine practices – brush teeth, bath, brush hair
  • Pajamas
  • A special goodnight book, stuffed animal, or song

Create your routine based on your child, and make it something the whole family enjoys doing. Some screen-free relaxation before lights out will help everyone unwind.

Bedtime routines should be anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes long. Plan accordingly, and stick with it!

Related Questions: 

Why Do Toddlers Sleep With Their Bum in the Air?

Toddlers sleep with their bums in the air because it is soothing and comfortable. It reminds them of being held or living in the womb. It also feels good on their busily growing bodies.

Toddlers are active and love to squirm; sleeping with their bums in the air helps them feel more secure. 

Why Won’t My Toddler Sleep Through the Night?

Often toddlers will begin waking through the night making parents everywhere ask “WHY?!” Toddlers who are getting too much sleep during the day or who take a nap late in the day will often wake early or fall asleep late.

Between 2 and 3 years old, toddlers begin to phase out of nap time, much to the despair of their parents. Phasing out of naps is normal for this stage in development.

Growth spurts, teething, and sickness are also contributing factors to toddlers waking throughout the night. 

Final Thoughts

Toddlers are balls of energy, and ensuring they get a full, restful, and safe night’s sleep is important. Keeping your toddler safe both when awake and sleeping is a 24/7 challenging job.

Keep your toddler safe by ensuring they have a safe, hazard-free sleeping environment. Watching your well-rested child grow and thrive is worth all of the sleepless nights. After all, they are only little for a little while.