CPSC Proposes New Safety Standards for Nursing Pillows

Following a report citing nursing pillows as a contributing factor in the deaths of over 162 babies, the CPSC has developed the first federal safety guidelines for the popular products.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Assistant Editor
Published August 24, 2023
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Image: rarrarorro | Shutterstock

Moms can use all the help they can get when breastfeeding. For parents struggling with an aching back or sore arms from holding baby in just the right position, nursing pillows can provide much-needed relief. But these handy helpers can also prove dangerous for baby if left unsupervised.

Earlier this August, an NBC News investigation garnered attention across the US after reporting that more than 162 infant deaths have been associated with nursing pillows since 2007. Left unattended to sleep or lounge in the U-shaped pillows, the count includes deaths caused by suffocation when babies turned their faces into the pillows or by restricted airways when babies arched backward or slumped down on the pillows. In some cases, the cause of death was undetermined but a nursing pillow was mentioned as a potential contributor.

On the heels of such a shocking and heartbreaking report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has stepped up to demand the first federal safety guidelines for nursing pillows. The organization has recommended several changes and new additions designed to make nursing pillows safer and to bring more awareness to the dangers of leaving baby with a nursing pillow unattended for sleep or lounging.

The new recommendations include:

  • More prominent labels on the pillows to warn of dangers. Most nursing pillows already have warning labels that caution against using the product for sleep or lounging, but the new recommendation would require these new tags to be made more visible and more difficult to remove.
  • A level of sufficient firmness. A firmer pillow is less likely to conform around a baby’s nose and mouth and present a suffocation hazard.
  • Larger openings in U-shaped pillows wide enough to avoid restricting baby’s head movements, which could also cut off airflow.
  • The removal of straps or any restraint feature that could lead parents to believe it is safe to leave baby unattended in a nursing pillow.

“Thousands of infants die each year in their sleep, and it’s a myth that all of those deaths are inexplicable,” CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in a statement to NBC News. “When products contribute to infant deaths, I believe it’s CPSC’s duty to eliminate that risk.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants always sleep on their back, on a separate, flat and firm sleep surface without any bumpers or loose bedding. If you’re looking for ways to ensure you’re following safe infant sleep practices, check out The Bump’s top 10 tips.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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