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Breastfeeding Pillow Pulled From The Market

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Ran across an article today that talked about a popular breastfeeding pillow that is being pulled from the market by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Boston Billow breastfeeding cushion has not been linked to any deaths or injuries, but the CPSC claims that it too closely resembles an infant pillow that was pulled from the market more than a decade ago after being linked to some infant deaths.

The Boston Billow company is petitioning the government to allow the pillow to be sold again and both lactation consultants and parents are squaring off against safety advocates in a tug-of-war over whether or not the breastfeeding aid can be sold under certain circumstances.

From the article:

What distinguished the Boston Billow, a niche product sold mostly in birthing centers and specialty shops, is that it is soft and filled with beads, like a bean bag, that allow it to be molded to fit moms and kids of all sizes.

Because of those features, the hospitals that carried them often recommended the Boston Billow to moms who can't tolerate a firm pillow because they have had Caesarean sections.

The pillows also are used by women who have carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy or rheumatoid arthritis, said Karin Cadwell, executive director and lead faculty member at the Healthy Children Project in Massachusetts, which runs a breastfeeding center that trains health care providers.

The article went on to explain that the reason for the ban was more because of potential risk than actual risk...

It shares some indisputable characteristics with banned "infant pillows" - it has a flexible fabric covering and is loosely filled with beads and can easily be flattened.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also said the Boston Billow meets the two other criteria that make it synonymous with an infant pillow from a regulatory standpoint - it is capable of conforming to the body or face of an infant, and "intended for use by infants under 1 year old."

S. Erik Skoug, the president of Boston Pillows explained to the media that there was little chance that the nursing pillow could be confused with the banned pillow from the 80's, explaining that the banned pillow was designed for sleeping infants while his product is made for use by a mother as she nurses her child.

On the other hand, safety advocates claim that since the product is designed for use with infants, that there's a chance that it will be used improperly and that "the risk of suffocation outweighs any convenience factor that the cushion might bring to a nursing mother."

The Boston Billows recall notice reads:

Infant pillows and cushions are banned under federal law. Infant pillows have a flexible fabric covering, are loosely filled with plastic beads, easily flattened, intended for use by infants under 1 year old, and capable of conforming to the body or face of an infant.

While I fully understand the concerns that some people have over these types of products, I can't help but think that we're taking away a potentially good thing because of the risk that a few people might misuse them. It's like the argument that many make over co-sleeping or swimming pools or trampolines. Yes, accidents can happen with misuse, but that doesn't mean that they should be banned completely.

The period for public comment closed on December 12th, but individuals that are interested in supporting Boston Billows can do so by visiting the company at their web site: http://www.bostonbillows.com/.


  1. Blogger Jax Blunt | 2:58 PM |  

    So if the company remarketed them as I don't know, cat pillows or something, suddenly they would be fine and completely not dangerous? That's really really strange.

  2. Blogger Wicked Stepmom | 5:28 PM |  

    I agree with you. I just had a c-section 6 weeks ago, and have been using a Boppy which was admittedly too hard and uncomfortable during the earlier days of my recovery. This pillow would have been a much nicer alternative.

  3. Blogger Carrie | 8:23 PM |  

    An interesting dilemma. I'm a parent who has really resented the anti-cosleeping movement, so I hear you on that side of the argument. However, I don't think I'm alone in admitting that despite warnings, I have used plenty of infant products improperly, whether out of ignorance or laziness. Even the firm Boppy pillow came with a warning not to prop my sleeping baby in it, but I did a few times. I also let my tiny infant sleep slumped and unrestrained in her carseat/carrier before the pediatrician warned me not to do that. And I'm definitely on the conscientious side compared to a lot of other parents out there!

    Maybe this pillow should be a prescription product. Or at least have some heavy-duty warnings all over it.

  4. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 5:18 AM |  

    Now there's an interesting thought Jax...because I think you are completely correct.

    I can see the viral marketing campaign now...

    "Did you know that new cat cradle pillow works great for nursing! You should try it!"

    Tessense....your comments are exactly what I'm talking about. Someone trying to protect us and our babies from the mistakes we might made, while sounding good, is also going a bit far for my taste.

    Not that I want to get into the formula debate, but by this same logic, we'd be outlawing formula because a mom could mix it wrong, or use a bad water source...

    It would never end...

  5. Blogger Amanda. | 9:39 AM |  

    The LCs I saw with g1 had that pillow and I LOVED it. I shopped around for one but could never find it. The boppy was alright but the pillow with the little beads was mway more comfortable.

    I mean, if they banned everything that could be misused with infants, then why the heck are they still selling soda ;)?

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:44 AM |  

    Another thought, are there no inflatable baby toys for sale in the US? A quick google shows me that yes, you do. things like this Now I'm sorry, but a child of around 6 months can fall asleep in a second, and you're telling me that no parent ever walks out of the room and leaves the child playing on something like this? I think not, somehow...

    Can't help wondering what is behind this recall, it seems very odd.

  7. Blogger Lisa | 9:40 AM |  

    Please note that in December 2008, the Commissioner's of the U.S.
    Consumr Products Safety Commission, unanimously, canceled the recall of the Boston Billow nursing pillow.
    This, after their Directorate for Medical Sciences made a study of the Boston Billow, and other nursing pillws, and found the Boston Billow safe.
    Consequently, the Boston Billow nursing pillow is the ONLY nursing pillow that is approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and therefore again available in the marketplace.

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