Nursing pillows are popular and useful, but only when used correctly
Nursing pillows are a staple for lots of new parents, especially breastfeeding moms. But a baby should never be left unsupervised on one—just ask the more than 160 families who loved their beloved child.
It’s the only word to describe what happens when an infant dies because of a faulty product intended for babies.
Nursing pillows are made specifically for breastfeeding mothers to cradle their babies comfortably during feeding. They are meant to provide comfort and ease to both the baby and the mom, and many people perceive them as one of the “new mom essentials” for a breastfeeding relationship.
A few types of breastfeeding pillows are available on the market; many are horseshoe-shaped and are designed to hook around the mom’s waist as she cradles the baby. However, these pillows have been used for other reasons, too. For example, parents will place their babies on the pillows for “tummy time” or to prop the baby when they are on their stomachs and playing. There are more than 1.34 million nursing pillows sold each year in the U.S.
Some parents and caregivers will also use nursing pillows to hold a baby when the little one is sleeping... and this is where the problems lie.
More than 160 babies have died while using nursing pillows
A 22-day-old newborn.
A two-month-old baby.
A twin lying next to his brother in a shared bassinet.
Each of these babies died after being placed to sleep on nursing pillows... along with 160 others since 2007. The babies either slumped down on the pillows or arched backward off of them, both of which scenarios caused constricted airways. In some of the deaths, the babies suffocated after turning their faces into the pillow’s soft surface, even with parents sleeping just feet away.
The pillows’ manufacturers argue that the products are safe as long as they are used for their intended purpose, which is to support the baby while a caregiver is awake and actively feeding them.
It’s when babies are left unsupervised on or near nursing pillows that tragedies occur. This is against the product’s warning label’s guidelines. These incidents occurred while using different brands and styles of nursing pillows.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning in 2020 that nursing pillows “are not designed for sleep and are not safe for sleep.” Now, the CPSC is looking to establish rules that would make nursing pillows safer through increased regulation and design changes.
Manufacturers are pushing back. Popular nursing pillow makers The Boppy Company and Snuggle Me Organic argue that changing the design will limit the ability for parents to choose how to feed their babies because it could have a negative impact on breastfeeding.
The manufacturers say that instead of requiring manufacturers to change the design, they should instead launch a campaign to educate parents and caregivers about safe sleep practices.
The Boppy Company pillows are labeled as an item that can be used for babies to practice tummy time, or as a support for sitting or reclining.
However, adults and children have an internal arousal response that would wake them if they’re in danger of being unable to breathe. A baby’s response is not yet developed, and they don’t have the muscle strength and control to move themselves out of an unsafe position.
Just like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep only on a firm surface without soft bedding to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the safe sleep guidelines recommend never placing a baby amid soft or pillowy surfaces unattended.
One of the CPSC researchers recommends designing nursing pillows with defined edges, rather than the rounded designs. Others have said that companies could widen the curve of the pillows to make it more difficult to prop up a baby using the device.
The family of a three-month-old who died while using a nursing pillow in 2020 sued Boppy. The family claimed that the company knew or should have known that the product had a “defective and unreasonably dangerous design.” The company responded that the parents were negligent and contributed to or caused the baby’s death.
The AAP physician who leads its SIDS task force says that the manufacturer has a responsibility to create a product that will be safe, even if not used correctly.
Product liability and children's items: what parents need to know
The joy of parenthood often comes with the task of choosing toys, clothes, and other products designed for children. But what happens when a product designed to bring joy or provide essential care turns out to be defective or even dangerous?
Product liability refers to the legal responsibility a manufacturer or seller could bear if their product causes harm.
The manufacturer and seller has the responsibility to:
- Ensure products are free from design defects
- Provide adequate warnings and instructions
- Comply with safety standards and regulations
Parents have the right to sue a manufacturer or seller if a defective product injures their child
If a defective product has injured your child, your priority is their well-being. There are some critical steps you should take to preserve your legal rights:
- Seek medical attention. Obtain professional medical care for your child and keep all medical records, bills, and payment receipts.
- Preserve the evidence. Keep the product, its packaging, and any instruction manuals.
- Document the incident. Write down what happened, take photographs if possible, and gather witnesses if there are any.
- Consult a lawyer. A personal injury lawyer with experience in product liability will guide you on the next steps.
When it comes to your child's safety, there's no room for compromise. If you suspect that a defective product harmed your child, taking prompt and appropriate action is vital. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer specializing in product liability related to children's items can give you the guidance and support you need.
The legal system might seem daunting, but you don't have to navigate it alone. Legal help can ensure that you understand your rights and options, giving you the best chance to seek justice for your child. Remember, time can be of the essence, so don't hesitate to seek professional assistance if you face this painful and complex issue.