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Government issues warning: Don't use nursing pillows for sleep

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has just issued a stark warning regarding nursing pillows, lounging pads and similar products. They pose a suffocation hazard for babies. While it is OK to use these products when the baby is awake, children have died from being left near the products when sleeping.

The agency says it is investigating deaths associated with the products. According to a Consumer Reports data review, there were at least 28 infant deaths associated with them between 2012 and 2018.

The problem seems to be that babies may roll over and turn their heads into the pillow, blocking their airflow. Sometimes, babies are unable to move away from something that is blocking their airflow. When this happens, it is called "positional asphyxia."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that infants should only sleep:

  • Alone
  • Unrestrained
  • On their backs
  • On a firm, flat surface with no bedding or soft padding

"While nursing pillows may help moms and babies breastfeed more easily, they clearly represent a danger with regard to sleep," explains a doctor and chairman of the AAP's Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

Nursing pillows and lounging pads are not intended as places for infants to sleep. However, people are not always aware of that, and sometimes place infants onto these pillows to sleep.

Consumer Reports detailed three cases of infant deaths that were reported to the CPSC. In each case, a baby was propped or placed on the pillow. After some time passed -- sometimes as little as 15 minutes -- the baby was found face-down on the pillow, suffocated.

Nursing pillows and lounging pads are widely manufactured and sold

These pillow or pillow-like products are sold at many major retailers, including Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Target and Pottery Barn Kids. They are only designed for use while the infant is awake and being supervised.

The CPSC's warning applies to all baby loungers and nursing pillows, including those manufactured by:

  • Boppy
  • Blessed Nest
  • Ergobaby
  • Leachco
  • Luna Lullaby
  • Zenoff Products/My Brest Friend

Consumer Reports contacted several manufacturers of these products. A spokesperson for Boppy applauds the CPSC's ongoing work, saying it aligns with the company's own efforts to educate parents about safe infant sleep. She emphasized that the company's packaging, labels and marketing clearly warn against using these products for infant sleep.

Should all infant sleep products be regulated?

Last year, the CPSC proposed a rule that would require all products marketed for infant sleep to conform to the same standard as cribs, bedside sleepers, bassinets and play yards. A task group from ASTM International, which sets safety standards for many products, is set to discuss the issue.

"Pillows, inclined sleepers, and other products that don't meet the standards are, frankly, dangerous and should never be a place where babies sleep," said the spokesperson for the AAP.

Both the AAP and Consumer Reports strongly recommend putting infants to bed only in products that already meet federal safety requirements (such as cribs, bedside sleepers, bassinets and play yards).

It's important to understand that, regulations aside, manufacturers and retailers of potentially dangerous products may be held liable for the injuries their products cause. If you have suffered a loss from a baby product, our heart goes out to you. Discuss your options with a product liability attorney.

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