is it ok to let a baby sleep on a nursing pillow (2)

Is It Ok To Let A Baby Sleep On A Nursing Pillow?

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Sleeping with a nursing pillow or a lounging pad could spell danger for infants, according to a new report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

    On Wednesday, the consumer agency warned parents that "pillow-like infant products, including nursing pillows and 'lounging pads,' are not designed for sleep and are not safe for sleep."

    CPSC also announced that the agency is investigating infant deaths that might be related to the use of pillow-like products.

    "The initial assessment of incidents shows deaths when children are left on or near pillows, and the child rolls over, rolls off, or falls asleep. CPSC is investigating the entire class of products," the statement reads.

    The CPSC didn't name any specific brands in its announcement but said it is analysing incident data to provide "more clarity to the public on any risks associated with these products."

    The agency noted that almost 1,000 infants suffocate in their sleep every year and advised parents that "Bare is Best for an infant's sleeping environment."

    "Do not add blankets, pillows, padded bumpers, or other items to the baby’s sleep environment," the agency wrote.

    Sleep safety is always a hot topic for parents, and the safety of other infant essentials like car seats and swings has recently been questioned.

    We all remember a simpler time before all baby gadgets and gizmos were invented. Depending on what year you were born, it’s possible that your parents didn’t even have the technology available to know your gender before you arrived.

    We often hear my dad talking about how “back in his day they just strapped the baby down in the front seat and hoped for the best.” We had all heard the phrase, “We didn’t have that stuff when we were kids, and we turned out fine.” However, over the past 25 years, there have been so many advances in modern medicine, thanks to the studies that have been conducted.

    The world we live in today is faced with a lot more rules than those present in 1985. Parents are challenged with one question: "is it safe for newborns to sleep on a nursing pillow?”

    There will come a time when breastfeeding is when your baby will finally fall asleep for the first time in 12 hours, and you breathe a sigh of relief. Can you leave your baby on the nursing pillow so that you can finally take a shower?

    Pillows are not safe for babies. You should avoid using a pillow when laying your baby down for a rest, as it can increase the risk of sudden death during infancy. Experts recommend that parents wait to introduce their baby to a pillow until they're over two years old.

    At this age, the toddler is no longer sleeping in a crib, and they can fully move and flip over without help.

    For an infant between four and 12 months old, especially, additional items like a pillow on their bed can increase the risk of death. To sleep, place your baby on a firm mattress without pillows.
    It can also be dangerous to let your infant fall asleep on nursing pillows.

    If you leave your child asleep on a nursing pillow, they may roll over onto their stomachs and turn their heads on the soft fabric. Also, if your baby inclines against the pillow, their head will fall forward. Their airway can get blocked, thus risking their survival.

    Older kids may be at risk of crib accidents. Your older kid may use a pillow as a step to climb up the crib. They can suddenly fall and sustain a serious injury.

    FAQs About Baby Sleep

    “Loungers and pillow-like products are not safe for infant sleep due to the risk of suffocation. Since we know that infants sleep so much of the time – even in products not intended for sleep – and since suffocation can happen so quickly, these Boppy lounger products are too risky to remain on the market.”

    You can also try using a breastfeeding pillow if your baby seems to like it. Place the pillow on the floor on top of a blanket, then place the baby on their belly over the pillow, with their arms and shoulders propped. Make sure you watch your baby at all times. Reposition them if they start to slip down the pillow.

    Do You Need a Nursing Pillow? It's not required to have a nursing pillow—you can breastfeed effectively using just a regular pillow. But many new moms find the special design and bonuses of nursing pillows to be super useful during the first months.

    Is a Boppy® Pillow safe for a baby to sleep on? No. Never allow a baby to sleep on a Boppy® Pillow. Boppy products are created for adult-supervised awake-time only.

    Although babies 2 to 3 months old can lift their heads for short periods, they can easily become tired. Most 4-to-6-month-olds have more stamina, and using the nursing pillow for tummy time is better tolerated. Once your infant attempts to creep or crawl, there is no need to use this pillow.

    What to Do if You're Worried About Flat Head Syndrome

    is it ok to let a baby sleep on a nursing pillow (3)

    Flathead syndrome (plagiocephaly) can be caused by a baby sleeping on their backs, and over time, their heads may flatten on one side. 

    However, flat heads in babies are more often caused by infant torticollis or tight neck muscles. When a baby does not have good control of the neck muscles, it may cause them to tilt their head to one side or look in one direction when they lie down. 

    This can cause some asymmetry in your baby’s head. Most babies who have this condition are born with it, as it can result from how they were positioned in the uterus.

    You can help relieve this condition at home by tilting your baby’s head to the opposite side while they’re sleeping and encouraging them to look in both directions during the day. 

    More severe cases of torticollis may require treatment with a physical therapist. They will examine your baby’s range of motion and practice exercises to get them to expand their movement.

    Here are some other safer ways to treat flat head syndrome in your baby:

    • Change your baby's head position while they sleep. When your baby is sleeping on their back, you can change it from left to right, then back to the left. If your baby is moving around at night, place them on the head's rounded side, touching the mattress. Don't use wedge pillows to maintain your body in one position. 
    • Hold your baby as often as possible. Minimise the time your baby spends on their back. When you pick up your baby often, this will minimise pressure on their head.
    • Vary your baby's crib position. Take note of how you lay your baby down in the crib. Always position your baby in the right way to encourage turning the head to the side that has not flattened.
    • Have some tummy time. Allow your baby to spend some time lying on their stomach while awake. Sing or talk to your baby, or hold up fun toys to catch their attention and encourage head movement.

    Safe Pillows for Older Toddlers

    Many parents consider using baby pillows to prevent flat heads in their infants. However, it is usual for some babies to develop slightly flat areas on their heads when they sleep on their backs. This usually resolves itself after a few months, as they begin to sit up and crawl on their own.

    You should not use a pillow for your baby until they are over two years old. When your child is old enough, you can introduce safe pillows for sleep. Special pillows that are small and firm provide your child with support and comfort.

    The Best Pillows for Different Sleeping Positions

    Various sleeping positions call for different pillows. Each sleeping position requires particular support, which can only be made possible using the best pillow. Consider your child's particular sleeping needs to find them the best support:

    • Back sleepers: Use a thin pillow to maintain the head level and avoid a forward position.
    • Stomach sleepers: A skinny and flat pillow — or no pillow at all — can support these sleepers.
    • Side sleepers: Purchase a firm pillow covering the space between the sleeper's ears and the outer shoulder. 

    When your baby graduates from a toddler bed, you can introduce a firm pillow and light bedding. Make it fun by going out shopping with your child as you pick some new sets. 

    Create a safe sleeping environment for the baby instead

    is it ok to let a baby sleep on a nursing pillow

    As tempting as it may be when your baby finally falls asleep to leave them where they lay, the baby must be moved to safe sleeping space, even if moving them off the pillow or sliding it out from underneath them. 

    It’s a small measure that you can take to ensure your baby’s safety, and it’s just not worth the risk. We all know how frustrating it can be to move a sleeping baby and have them wake up, but there are many measures you can use to help soothe them back to sleep in a safe location.

    A very popular baby registry item these days is the nursing pillow. These crescent-shaped nursing pillows make it easier to feed babies by reducing strain on a mothers’ arms, shoulder and neck. These nursing pillows are also used for the development support of infants, including during tummy time and when a baby is learning to sit.  

    What is important to remember, however, is that these pillows should only be used while the baby is feeding or awake and NOT used to prop up a baby for sleep in the crib or bassinet.

    According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly in the U.S. each year. We often refer to these deaths as sudden unexpected infant deaths. Although many of these causes of death can’t be explained, most occur while the infant is sleeping in an unsafe sleeping environment.

    If a baby is propped up to sleep using a nursing pillow or lounger, the baby could slide down and cause the neck to bend in a way that would block the airway. A central Pennsylvania coroner says three infants, all less than six months of age, have died because a popular nursing pillow was misused.

    Loungers should also not be used for sleeping babies. Instead, they are meant for awake babies (as shown in the photo above).

    Follow these safe sleep practices:

    • Always place your baby on their back for every sleep time.
    • Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
    • The baby can sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
    • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets and bumper pads.
    • Do not use wedges and positioners.
    • Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
    • Give your baby lots of supervised tummy time during waking hours to strengthen your baby’s arms, neck and shoulder muscles.


    Although babies can be completely safe and comfortable in their cribs without extra items, many companies promote pillows for young babies and newborns. 

    They're often said to help prevent "flat head" syndrome in babies and are used in cots and cribs. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to let your baby use a pillow until they are two years old. 

    Scroll to Top