The Top 5 Dangers of Letting Your Baby Sleep on a Nursing Pillow

As a parent, ensuring your baby’s safety is paramount. One important aspect of your baby’s safety is their sleeping environment. It is important to note that how you put your baby down to sleep can pose a risk to their safety. While nursing pillows provide comfort and support during breastfeeding, they should not be used as a sleeping surface for your baby. Letting your baby sleep on a nursing pillow may seem like a good idea, but it is dangerous.

1 – Suffocation Risks:

One of the most significant dangers of letting your baby sleep on a nursing pillow is suffocation. Nursing pillows are designed to support the baby’s head and body during breastfeeding in a sitting position. However, when a baby is placed on a nursing pillow to sleep, their face can become buried in the soft cushioning, preventing them from taking in enough oxygen. This can lead to suffocation, which can cause serious injury or even death.

2 – Positional Asphyxia:

Positional asphyxia is another dangerous risk of letting your baby sleep on a nursing pillow. Babies lack the reflexes and muscle strength to move their heads and necks if they become stuck in a particular position. When left unattended on a nursing pillow, babies can twist into a position where their airway is blocked, leading to insufficient oxygen supply to the brain and body. In the end, this could lead to suffocation.

3 – Choking:

Babies have a natural tendency to move their heads when they are disturbed by something, which may cause them to lift their heads off the pillow. However, sleeping on a nursing pillow increases the risk of choking if the baby turns their head, gets their face too close to the edge of the pillow, or their mouth and nose become obstructed. This poses a choking hazard as the baby can aspirate vomit, regurgitated milk, or any other foreign objects in their mouth or nose, leading to breathing difficulty and even death.

4 – Developmental Issues:

Another reason why letting your baby sleep on a nursing pillow is hazardous is the developmental issues it can cause. Sleeping on a soft surface may impact the development of your baby’s skull shape, which may later affect their cognitive abilities. This is especially true when your baby spends prolonged periods sleeping on a nursing pillow, as it may cause them to develop a positional plagiocephaly condition.

5 – Discomfort:

Finally, a nursing pillow is not designed for long-term sleep or bed-sharing with a baby. Nursing pillows are intended for short-term use and should be used while breastfeeding to aid the mother’s comfort. Allowing your baby to sleep on a nursing pillow for prolonged periods may be uncomfortable for them, causing neck, back, and shoulder pain.

Letting your baby sleep on a nursing pillow poses several dangers, including suffocation, choking, developmental issues, and discomfort. Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby that adheres to the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines is important as a parent. This includes placing your baby on their back, in a crib, or bassinet, or pack and play with a firm and flat sleeping surface, with no soft objects or loose bedding. Consult your pediatrician for any questions or concerns regarding your baby’s sleep.

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Erlanger Pediatrician

Andrea Goins, DO, Specializes in General Pediatrics