New safety requirements for nursing pillows being considered after infant deaths

Kentucky sees dozens of fatalities due to unsafe sleeping practices

A common item for newborns is gaining national attention for being linked to dozens of infant deaths.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recommended the first federal requirements for nursing pillows, while also discouraging caregivers from setting babies down on the U-shaped pillows to sleep. Those changes would include requirements for nursing pillows to be more firm and have larger tags to warn against using the pillows for sleep or leaving babies unsupervised in them.

The recommendations also call for the pillows to have wide enough openings to avoid restricting a baby’s head movements, which can cause breathing problems.

The CPSC cited 154 deaths involving nursing pillows from 2010 to 2022. Causes of death include suffocation, asphyxia and other issues.

Infant sleep deaths continue to be a problem in Kentucky

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family services reports the state had an above-average infant mortality rate five out of the last six years, with 82 cases of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) in 2021. Jefferson County alone averages one to two infant deaths a month due to unsafe sleep practices.

“One common, sleep-related risk factor identified is infants being placed on a surface not designed for infant sleep — places like a couch, recliner or in bed with mom and dad,” said Cassidy Coffey, R.N., a safe sleep coordinator with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “Soft materials like blankets, pillows and stuffed animals can pose a risk to babies.

“To maintain safe sleep practices, infants always should be on a firm, flat surface by themselves away from those kinds of soft materials.”

How you can help reduce the risk for SUID

There are other key recommendations parents can follow to eliminate unsafe sleeping conditions:

  • Use the “ABC” method for sleep: Alone, on their Back, in a Crib.
  • Use footed pajamas or a sleep sack, not blankets.
  • Do not use weighted blankets, weighted sleep sacks, weighted swaddles or any other weighted objects on or near the baby’s sleep surface.
  • Share the room, not the bed!
  • Place babies on their back to sleep — never their stomach.

For more safety tips for babies, register for our “Safe Baby” classes online by visiting this link or calling (502) 629-7358.