Boppy Loungers and Nursing Pillows Linked to 7 Recent Infant Deaths

Almost a year after the CPSC warned caregivers about the risks of using the products for infant sleep, the death toll continues to rise, according to government data

Boppy Nursing Lounger and Nursing Pillow
From left: the Boppy Newborn Lounger and Boppy Original Nursing Pillow.
Photo: Consumer Reports, Boppy

Seven recent infant deaths are tied to infant loungers and nursing pillows made by Boppy, a popular maker of baby products, according to a new Consumer Reports analysis of government data.

This comes almost one year after the Consumer Product Safety Commission—the federal agency that oversees thousands of home goods—warned caregivers to never let infants sleep on lounging pads, which are meant for babies to sit or lie on while awake, or nursing pillows, which are meant to make breastfeeding easier. The risk: When babies are left unattended or sleeping on these products, they may roll over or their heads may fall in such a way that can block their airway and lead to suffocation.

At the time of the CPSC warning, in October 2020, CR had uncovered at least 28 infant deaths from 2012 to 2018 tied to nursing pillows and baby loungers made by a variety of companies, including some from Boppy.

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The analysis was based on data from the CPSC, including from its SaferProducts.gov public database of incidents. Since then, CR has learned of seven additional infant fatalities and one injury via the public database, all of which are linked to nursing pillows or loungers made by Boppy.

Most of the fatalities occurred after parents put their babies to sleep while propped up by the pillow or lounger, and the baby rolled over into the soft fabric and was unable to breathe. In many of the cases, there were other factors that may have contributed to the death, such as a blanket on top of the baby or a parent or sibling in bed with the baby.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against such practices and instead recommends that babies be put to bed alone in their own space, on a firm flat surface that is free of soft bedding or restraints.

In response to CR’s questions, Amy St. Germain, Boppy’s vice president for marketing, said that the company has been working with the CPSC “to find a solution that helps make babies safer. Currently, we are awaiting more information from the CPSC as we continue our dialogue. Of course, even one infant death is too many and we are devastated to hear of these tragedies.”

She added, “We have long provided clear and unequivocal warnings and instructions for safe usage on all products. We have always stressed that our products are for awake time only. And, as clearly noted on all products, packaging and promotional materials, infants should not be unattended or left to sleep on or with any Boppy product. Despite these measures, our product has been used for infant sleep in adult beds, sofas, cribs, bassinets, and play yards with blankets, pillows, and people—contrary to our warnings, AAP’s guidelines, and CPSC’s October 7, 2020 warning.” 

In last year’s warning, the CPSC said it was investigating the entire class of lounger and nursing pillow products and did not single out any specific brand. Today, CPSC spokesperson Joe Martyak told CR that “the agency is currently considering what legal action is necessary in light of the reported incidents.”

During CPSC investigations, agency staff members generally look at not just the reports in their public database but also additional information they gather. 

The most recent reports themselves are harrowing. For instance, one made public in May states that “a 2-month old infant was placed in the Boppy pillow in an adult bed with an adult laying next to her. She was found after a couple hours to have rolled over and was face down in the pillow and had suffocated.”

Another report, made public last month, shows a similar pattern. It notes that a 1-month-old infant “died of asphyxia associated with an unsafe sleep environment. The infant was placed to sleep in an adult bed, propped up in a ‘Boppy’ infant positioner pillow.”

“It’s been 10 months since the CPSC’s warning. Clearly, whatever steps the company is taking for safety are insufficient. Infants continue to die, and every day that passes without stronger action is another day a terrible tragedy could happen,” says Oriene Shin, policy counsel for Consumer Reports. “Parents and caregivers—Boppy’s customers—need answers. What concrete steps will Boppy take to keep babies safe? Will Boppy make design changes to prevent the unimaginable from happening? Right now, Boppy isn’t saying, even in light of the recent infant deaths. If the company won’t take action on its own, the CPSC should require it.”

Ben Hoffman, MD, a pediatrician and chairman of the AAP’s Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, has advice for parents who use the products. “Nursing pillows can help keep the baby in a comfortable position to breastfeed effectively, but they shouldn’t be used when the baby or parent is asleep,” he says. “While nursing, it’s also really important that the baby’s head and neck are appropriately positioned so that the airway is clear and the baby can breathe.”

If your baby finishes nursing and falls asleep, which is common, it’s safest to move your infant to a firm, flat, bare sleep surface, Hoffman says.

Like the AAP, CR’s safety experts recommend that babies be put to bed only in products that meet federal safety requirements for infant sleep, such as a bassinet, crib, or play yard. If you’re having a hard time getting your infant to sleep, ask your pediatrician for tips rather than using an unsafe positioning product.

Further, if your baby falls asleep after nursing and you’re on the go—and you’re not near a bassinet or another safe sleep space—Hoffman reminds parents to be vigilant.

“It’s critical to remember that anytime a baby is asleep in your arms, they need to have close, constant, and capable adult supervision,” he says. And when using a nursing pillow or lounger, never leave your baby unsupervised with the product.

If you have had an incident with a pillowlike product or any other product, you can report it to the CPSC at SaferProducts.gov.


Rachel Rabkin Peachman

I'm a science journalist turned investigative reporter on CR's Special Projects team. My job is to shed light on issues affecting people's health, safety, and well-being. I've dug deep into problems such as dangerous doctors, deadly children's products, and contamination in our food supply. Got a tip? Follow me on Twitter (@RachelPeachman).