Regulation /

CPSC Votes for Federal Safety Requirements for Nursing Pillow Following Infant Deaths

'When infants fall asleep or are left unattended on nursing pillows ... they are at risk for death or serious injury by suffocation,' wrote the agency in August

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously to move forward with proposed regulations for nursing pillows.

Since 2007, 162 infants have died due to incidents involving nursing pillows. Proposed safety improvements include alterations to the U-shaped pillows’ designs and warning labels that instruct parents not to put babies down to sleep on the item.

Richard Trumka Jr., one of the CPSC commissioners, told NBC News that the federal regulations will be “the next step in the march towards eliminating preventable infant sleep deaths” and that the protocols will be “designed to preserve the useful function of nursing pillows — allowing caregivers to comfortably feed babies — while eliminating their hazardous use for sleep.”

CPSC staff recommended in August that the commissioners, three Democrats and one Republican, adopt new federal regulation aimed at addressing possible “suffocation, entrapment, and fall hazards” associated with the products.

“Nursing pillows provide support to caregivers by raising infants to the desired height for feeding, thereby reducing muscular strain and abdominal pressure on the caregiver and providing a buffering surface between the infant and the caregiver,” wrote the CPSC in its proposal. “When infants fall asleep or are left unattended on nursing pillows, however, they are at risk for death or serious injury by suffocation.”

There are currently no mandatory or voluntary safety standards that are designed to mitigate the risks of infants sleeping on nursing pillows.

“Nursing pillows are sometimes used on elevated surfaces or inside an infant sleep product, which can lead to death or serious injury by suffocation, entrapment, or falls,” the report stated. “CPSC staff identified 154 infant fatalities and 88 nonfatal incidents from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2022, involving nursing pillows. Of the 154 fatalities, an infant was sleeping in or on the nursing pillow in 142 cases.”

As part of it its new proposal, the agency would prohibit nursing pillows from having straps which could encourage parents to think infants could be left unattended. 

“Nursing pillows are a staple of baby registries, with an estimated 1.34 million sold each year in the U.S.,” per NBC.

The CSPC previously warned parents in October of 2020 not to use nursing pillows to put their babies to sleep. This year, the commission warned parents to immediately stop using infant loungers from Momaid and La-La-Me due to suffocation risks and fall hazards. Parents were advised to only put their infants to sleep on a firm, flat surface in “a crib, bassinet or play yard” with only a fitted sheet. 

“Infants should always be placed to sleep on their back. Infants who fall asleep in an inclined or upright position should be moved to a safe sleep environment,” warned the CSPC.

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