Safe Sleep Tips for Toddlers (2024)

Your little one has entered toddlerhood, and both of you have finally started to master the whole sleep thing. You know what your child needs to snooze soundly — most of the time, anyway!— and he’s gotten pretty good (or better, at least) at sleeping through the night.

But just as bedtime has seemed to stabilize a bit, the rules have changed. The recommendations for helping your toddler sleep safely are different from the ones you had to follow when he was a baby.

The good news is that now that he’s older and no longerat risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the guidelines aren’t as strict as they used to be.

What are the safe sleep guidelines and tips for toddlers that I need to follow?

By the time your child is a toddler — defined as ages 1 to 3 years old — he’s no longer at risk of SIDS, and many of the rules forsafe baby sleepdon't apply anymore. That said, there are still some important things to consider to ensure that your toddler stays safe while he sleeps:

  • Your toddler should move to a bed when he’s tall enough.You should starttransitioning to a toddler bed or a twin bed with a side rail when your little one gets to be 35 inches tall, or when the height of the side rail is less than three-quarters of his height. Ideally, you should make the switch when he's as close to age 3 as possible. Most children move to a toddler bed any time between 18 months and 3 1/2 years old, though younger toddlers may not really be ready for a big bed.
  • Create a safe sleeping space.Make sure your child’s crib or bed is far away from any objects with ties or strings, like window blind pulls, curtains or electrical cords; likewise, watch for items that your toddler might be able to pull into his crib or bed, like picture frames, mobiles or other hazards. The good news: Blankets, pillows and stuffed animals no longer pose the risk that they did when your child was a baby. Now, it's fine for your toddler tosleep with a thin blanket and maybea small pillow — but make sure the pillow isn't big enough for him to use as a makeshift step stool to climb out of his crib. And it's still a good idea to steer clear of big stuffed animals or soft toys.
  • Take steps to protect crib climbers.Toddlers love moving around and exploring their environment — which can mean trying to climb out of their cribs. If your child is still in a crib, keep his crib mattress on the lowest setting to make it harder for him to get out. And avoid putting anything in the crib that your child could step on to help climb out, like stuffed toys or crib bumpers.Even with these precautions in place, your toddler might still be able to climb out of his crib anyway. If that’s the case, and he's doing it frequently, it’s probably time to move him into a toddler bed or a twin bed with a side rail.
  • Let your toddler sleep in a position that’s comfortable for him.After his first birthday, you no longer have to put your child to sleep on his back. He’s old enough tosleep safely on his back, stomach or side — so let him stick with whatever position he picks.

Does my toddler need to sleep on his back?

Not if he doesn’t want to. After your child’s first birthday,stomach sleeping no longer poses a suffocation risk. So you can let your toddler fall asleep on his back, stomach or side.

Continue Reading Below

When can my toddler have a blanket in bed?

Once your child reaches 18 months, it’s fine for him to sleep with a thin blanket or lovey. But if he's in a crib, make sure the blanket and stuffed animal are small enough so that he can't use them to climb over the side.

When can my toddler have a pillow in bed?

Research hasn’t shown exactly when it’s 100 percent safe to put a pillow or other soft object in the crib after your baby turns 1 year old.

To play it safe, you’re better off waiting until he transitions to a toddler bed, which can happen between 18 months and 3 1/2 years (and the closer to 3 years old you can wait, the better). Your best bet is to hold off until your child is 2 and in a bed before introducing a small, thin pillow.

Not only does waiting longer further reduce suffocation risk, but keeping a pillow out of your toddler’s crib means he won’t be able to use it as a step to try to climb out. Big stuffed animals and other stuffed toys should also stay out of the crib, as they can also pose a suffocation hazard and be used to climb out of the crib.

Are bumpers and stuffed animals okay for my toddler?

Bumpers don’t pose a suffocation or strangulation risk to toddlers like they do for babies. But they're still not safe for toddlers, who can use them as steps to climb out of the crib. What's more, crib bumpers have recently been banned with the passage of the federal Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021.

As for stuffed animals? Small ones are fine, if your toddler likes having them in his bed or crib. But keep it to just one or two — if your toddler has several, he could potentially stack the toys and use them to climb out of his crib. And avoid oversized toys or ones with ribbons or strings, which could still suffocate or strangle your child.

When should I lower the crib mattress for my toddler so he doesn't fall or climb out?

It’s best to loweryour child’s crib mattress well before he hits toddlerhood — ideally, once he's able to sit up on his own (usually between ages 4 and 7 months) or pull himself to a standing position. If your toddler is able to climb out of his crib even with the mattress at the lowest setting, it’s time to move him to a toddler bed or a twin bed with a side rail.

When is it time to move my child out of the crib and into a toddler bed?

When you decide to make the switch depends on what seems right for him. Most toddlers make the switch between 18 months and 3 1/2 years old, but it's best to wait until as close to age 3 as possible just because that's when children are generally truly ready.

If he seems happy in his crib and isn’t frequently trying to climb out, it’s perfectly safe for your child to keep sleeping there until he’s 35 inches tall. At that point, it’stime to move him into a bed.

Are mobiles over the crib safe?

No. Mobiles can easily entangle or strangle toddlers, who are old enough to stand up and grab them. Experts recommend removingcrib mobiles by the time a baby is around 4 months old. If your toddler still has a mobile hanging over his crib, you should take it down right away.

Can I co-sleep with my toddler?

If you've been sleeping in your child's room since he was a baby, there's no reason you have to stop. Still, you may want to read up onthe pros and cons of co-sleeping (which can refer to either room-sharing or bed-sharing, or a combination of both). If you and your little one have been sharing a bed or want to start now, talk to your pediatrician.

Though bed-sharing no longer poses the same SIDS risk that it does for babies, it may not be the healthiest sleeping arrangement for your toddler and your family, and there's still the risk of your child falling out of your bed. So it might be a good time to considerstopping co-sleeping. Your doctor should be able to help you with the decision.

Is my toddler at risk of SIDS?

No. Babies and toddlers over the age of 1 are not at risk of SIDS.

As your sweet baby grows into a toddler, sleeping becomes safer and the guidelines start to relax as a result. So rest easy! By now, you’ve more than earned it.

From the What to Expect editorial team andHeidi Murkoff,author ofWhat to Expect When You're Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading ourmedical review and editorial policy.

Was this article helpful?

Yes No

Safe Sleep Tips for Toddlers (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Barbera Armstrong

Last Updated:

Views: 5543

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Barbera Armstrong

Birthday: 1992-09-12

Address: Suite 993 99852 Daugherty Causeway, Ritchiehaven, VT 49630

Phone: +5026838435397

Job: National Engineer

Hobby: Listening to music, Board games, Photography, Ice skating, LARPing, Kite flying, Rugby

Introduction: My name is Barbera Armstrong, I am a lovely, delightful, cooperative, funny, enchanting, vivacious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.