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Hidden Dangers: The Tragic Toll of Nursing Pillows on Infant Lives

By Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri da Costa LLC on August 22, 2023

Becoming a new parent is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Parenthood brings both happiness and challenges, with numerous decisions to navigate. Safety is a primary concern for new parents. The nursing pillow, a common item on baby registries, is designed to aid in breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. Nursing pillows have become a staple item on every new parent's shopping list, with approximately 1.34 million sold annually in the U.S. These pillows are designed to support caregivers during feeding sessions and are marketed as essential tools during the early months of an infant's life. However, an ongoing investigation by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) underscores a disturbing pattern: infants left unsupervised on these pillows or allowed to sleep with them can cease breathing within a matter of minutes. Nursing pillows have been connected to the deaths of at least 162 infants under the age of once since 2007.

Startling Discoveries

The horseshoe shaped nursing pillows have transformed into silent hazards for unsuspecting parents. Tragedies have unfolded, with the majority of babies who have lost their lives in connection with nursing pillows being less than 4 months old. The youngest recorded infant death was just 3 days old. Other cases involve a 2-month-old discovered lifeless after a late-night feed on a nursing pillow, and a 22-day old infant passing away after being placed to sleep on these pillows. Heartbreakingly, some babies suffocated in bassinets when nursing pillows were present. Public records and federal data indicate that these incidents are attributed to suffocation or blocked airways, often occurring when babies slump down on the pillows or turn their faces into soft surfaces, while parents sleep nearby. At least 3 incidents involved mothers who fell asleep while feeding their baby on a nursing pillow and awoke to find they could not rouse their child. Records of infant deaths are likely underestimated due to incomplete autopsy reports and unaccounted state tallies.

Federal Regulators and the Battle for Safer Products

Only in 2020 did the CPSC issue a warning that nursing pillows were not intended for sleep and could pose risks. Strides toward new regulations have taken time, but the agency's Chair, Alex Hoehn-Saric, acknowledges the urgency to protect infants from avoidable harm. However, the path toward change is fraught with resistance from leading baby product manufacturers. The Breastfeeding Infant Development Support Alliance (BFIDSA), backed by companies like The Boppy Company and Snuggle Me Organic, has launched a lobbying and PR campaign to maintain the status quo. These efforts are portrayed as safeguarding women's choices, although they potentially endanger infant lives.

Moving Forward: Prioritizing Infant Safety

CPSC's Response to Infant Deaths

The CPSC has long been committed to safeguarding infants from hazards related to consumer products. As part of their ongoing efforts, the CPSC has investigated infant deaths associated with pillow-like products, including nursing pillows and lounging pads. Their findings reveal a disturbing connection between these products and infant fatalities, as children roll over, roll off, or fall asleep while using them. In response, the CPSC is urging parents and caregivers to prioritize infant safety by adhering to safe sleep practices.

Prioritizing Infant Safety: Bare is Best

The CPSC's message is clear: nursing pillows and similar pillow-like infant products are not designed for sleep and are not safe for sleep. Parents and caregivers are urged not to allow infants to sleep on nursing pillows or other similar products. The CPSC advises against using infant sleep products with inclined seat backs exceeding 10 degrees and cautions against using infant car seats, bouncers, and other inclined products for sleep. To ensure the safety of infants during sleep, the CPSC reinforces the "Bare is Best" mantra, emphasizing the importance of not adding blankets, pillows, padded bumpers, or other items to the baby's sleep environment. The "Back to Sleep" principle, which encourages placing infants on their backs on a firm, flat surface, is also reinforced. Parents are encouraged to check for recalls of nursery products on their website and promptly follow recall instructions to safeguard their child's well-being.


Considering the deeply concerning revelations surrounding nursing pillows and their tragic impact on infant lives, the law firm of Snyder Sarno D’Aniello Maceri & da Costa stands committed to advocating for the rights and safety of families affected by these tragedies. The stark reality is that the very products marketed to support caregivers during feeding sessions have transformed into silent hazards, resulting in the heartbreaking loss of innocent lives. As the ongoing investigation by the CPSC has illuminated, the toll on infants left unsupervised on these pillows or allowed to sleep with them is far too high. We recognize the urgency for change, echoing the CPSC's call for prioritizing infant safety. While the battle for safer products may be fraught with resistance from manufacturers, our medical malpractice team remains steadfast in our dedication to holding accountable those who place profit above the lives of our most vulnerable. It is imperative that we honor the memories of those lost by demanding justice and advocating for stronger regulations to protect infants from these hidden dangers.

If you think that you or loved one may have a legal claim involving nursing or similar baby pillow, please contact Paul M. da Costa, Esq at 973-274-5200 or for a free consultation.

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