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Natural Nursing Pillows

Blessed Nest nursing pillow, filled with organic buckwheat hulls.

I nursed my first two children on a My Brest Friend nursing pillow, a hand-me-down from my older sister. I often let my infants take a little nap on the nursing pillow after nursing while I read a book.  I liked a lot of things about the My Brest Friend: the flat, firm surface; the adjustable girth. But there was also something I learned to really not like about the My Brest Friend: it's made of polyurethane foam, most likely treated with toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Because polyurethane foam is extremely flammable, it's often treated with flame retardants, even when the product in question has nothing to do with sleep. Two recent reports show that toxic flame retardants are widely present in both older (products purchased between 2000 and 2010) and newer (products purchased in September 2011) baby products, products such as changing pads, baby carriers, and nursing pillows. Please note that a nursing pillow made with organic materials or even with an organic cotton cover is not necessarily free of toxic chemicals. It kind of pains me to think about how much time my first two babies spent nursing and snoozing against me on that My Brest Friend nursing pillow, but oh well!

This time around, with my third baby, I invested in some nursing pillows made of all-natural materials with no flame retardant treatment. What I really wanted was a natural version of the My Brest Friend nursing pillow, but it's pretty hard to replicate polyurethane foam with natural materials. I ended up buying two very different types of nursing pillows just a few weeks before my due date. I was hedging my bets, hoping I'd really like at least one of them.  And guess what? I really like both of them. I don't even miss My Brest Friend.



Natural Nursing Pillow #1: Blessed Nest Organic Nesting Pillow, with organic buckwheat hull filling, organic cotton case, organic cotton cover ($87)
This pillow looked the most like the My Brest Friend nursing pillow to me (pictured above and at beginning of post). It has the same crescent shape. But it's actually very different because it's filled with organic buckwheat hulls, and the pillow is only maybe half-way full. It's most similar to a beanbag. You can move the filling around to create different shapes. I usually pour most of the filling to the side where I'll be laying the baby's head, so that she's lying on a kind of sloped surface which is highest and firmest beneath her head.  Once you lay the baby on top of the pillow, the hulls inside shift just a little bit (not nearly as much as a regular beanbag), sort of molding to the shape of the baby instead of being entirely rigid. The buckwheat hulls create a supportive yet comfortable surface. Bonus: it comes with an easily removable and machine washable organic cotton slipcover. It also makes a good sitting aid for the baby that isn't quite ready to sit independently. The Blessed Nest Organic Nursing Pillow is made in the USA and available on Amazon or natural living stores such as MightyNest.




Natural Nursing Pillow #2: Organic Caboose Nursing Pillow, with organic cotton filling and case ($50)
This nursing pillow is most like a regular pillow (see photo above) -- a large, slightly overstuffed pillow with a notch cut out of one side. But it's definitely much nicer to use as a nursing pillow than a regular pillow. It's large enough that I can lay the baby on the pillow (on top of my lap) and use both of my hands to arrange things (unhook my nursing bra, grab a burp cloth, etc.). That is one thing I disliked about the Boppy: I could never achieve hands-free nursing or even hands-free preparing-to-nurse. With the Boppy, I always felt like the baby was going to roll right off of it, so I had to keep one hand on the baby at all times. The Organic Caboose has a larger more rectangular surface than a Boppy. It's also flatter (less rotund) than a Boppy, though not completely flat like a My Brest Friend nursing pillow.  The cover ($25) has to be purchased separately. Because I'm a cheapskate, I did not buy the cover. I find that a large pillowcase, while certainly not as nice, does get the job done. The Organic Caboose nursing pillow is also made in the USA and available from Amazon and natural mama and baby stores such as Jillian's Drawers.

My husband and I both love using our nursing pillows. We use them for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. They also provide nice support under your arms if you are holding a sleeping baby in your arms either horizontally or up on your shoulder.



Another Alternative: Holy Lamb Organics nursing pillow, organic cotton case, filled with eco-wool (about $100).
For all of you Boppy fans out there, there is the Holy Lamb Organics nursing pillow (about $100). I have not tried this pillow (pictured above), but I came across it while searching for a natural alternative to the My Brest Friend nursing pillow. It looks very similar in shape to a Boppy, but it's filled with eco-wool. Although not a fan of the Boppy myself, I am a fan of wool. We love our wool pillows. If you like nursing with a Boppy, I'm betting you'd like nursing with this pillow too.

A note about Boppy pillows: my old Boppy pillow had the dreaded TB117 tag (which means that it complies with California's very strict flame retardant standard), but according to page 20 of this report by the Green Science Policy Institute, Boppy no longer adds flame retardant chemicals to its nursing pillows, which are filled with polyester.


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What is your favorite nursing pillow?


Disclosure: Amazon and MightyNest links are affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.



This post is part of
Your Green Resource

16 comments:

  1. Oh my! I had never considered that there were toxic chemicals in my nursing pillow! I'll have to check my old Boppy before ever using it again for a new baby. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

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  2. I was not aware of this. The product's website has a statement regarding safety and not using toxic chemicals. http://www.mybrestfriend.com/about-the-pillow/

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    1. A My Brest Friend pillow purchased in 2011 tested positive for two toxic flame retardants:
      http://watoxics.org/publications/list-of-products-tested

      I think that statement on their website is pretty meaningless. It is my understanding that almost all foam contains flame retardants, even if not needed --that's just how it comes from the manufacturer. The foam in doll house furniture and other non-sleep-items have tested positive for flame retardants, for example. Without some sort of 3rd party certification to the contrary, I would assume foam has flame retardants.

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  3. My hands were tied regarding the use of the Brest Friend nursing pillow since I have twins. Unfortunately for me, there are not many options for twins.

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    1. I hear you. I nursed my first two on a very used My Brest Friend (hand-me-down 2x over). I think you deserve a big pat on the back for BFing twins. A challenge I hope to never encounter.

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    2. I've actually been researching pillows lately since my 8 month old twins are getting too big for the Brest Friend. I found the Twin Z nursing pillow.(http://www.twinnursingpillow.org/) I spoke with the creator and found out that there are NO flame retardants or chemicals used in this product. I ordered one and can't wait to try it.

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    3. Looks like a great invention -- a boppy for twins! Thank you for sharing the information learned from the manufacturer -- since it is NOT foam and made in the USA I think you can be confident no chemicals are added.

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  4. My Boppy (bought in 2009) also has a TB 117 tag on it..does that mean it for sure contains yucky flame retardants??

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    1. Boppies are and (I think) have always been stuffed with polyester, so I wouldn't automatically assume flame retardant treatment, as I would with anything stuffed with foam. Boppy says on their website that they don't apply chemicals, but I can't tell you and I'm not sure anyone you could talk to on the phone at Boppy could tell you if an old one has flame retardant chemicals. Sorry.

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  5. i am so new to all of this!! i have a boppy... if it is filled with 90% polyester 10% cotton.. am i safe? or do i need to look for a new pillow?? thank you! your blog has been so very helpful!

    -Kate

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    1. I think they are OK. Not natural, but probably no flame retardants. Personally, I always hated nursing with a boppy but if you like it and are on a tight budget, probably best to put your money elsewhere.

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  6. do you know anything about the balboa? i found this link of products that were tested specifically for 2 of the bad things in flame retardant (sorry, I just started learning about this stuff this week and I can't remember the names) and the balboa had no detectable levels of either. but now i can't find that link again :) glad i found your site while i was looking for it though, this is exactly the kind of info i have been looking for!

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    1. According to this report: http://watoxics.org/files/hidden-hazards-in-the-nursery

      Table 1 of this report (this is one of the reports I discuss in this post) shows no flame retardants in Balboa nursing pillows. The filling is foam, which has its own issues even untreated with flame retardants. But the absence of flame retardants in these tests is reassuring on that count. Personally, I would probably try to replace it. But it depends on the context and what else you are trying to green -- higher priority than a changing pad, lower than a crib mattress.

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  7. that was exactly what i was looking for (the link) thank you! this blog is so helpful, thank you so much for all the helpful information and your informative and accessible writing style.

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  8. Thanks for posting this. I have been using My Breast Friend since I love that it can wrap snugly around me so that nursing is hands-free. I had the same suspicion that the foam must have flame retardants. I have used a Boppy and I find that I still have to use additional pillows underneath it to get the baby high enough to reach my breast. Which of the more natural alternatives are taller and can be more hands-free?

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    1. Hmmm, I am going to say the buckwheat one. If you made the buckwheat pillow completely even, it would definitely be thinner than the Organic Caboose one. BUT, you can shift the buckwheat around -- I usually put 2/3 or more in the side under the babies head (so the babies body slopes diagonally downward from her head), and sometimes do take my arm out from under her head while she is nursing.

      That being said, remember that these pillows are not even steven flat like the My Brest Friend -- I would say the buckwheat is pretty stable though.

      Hope that helps.

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