After I gave birth to my son, one of the challenges for me was to alleviate back pain coming from breastfeeding. My solution was to use a nursing pillow that turned out to be rather helpful. Since breastfeeding is not just a one-or-two-time activity, you may want to make this process not only comfortable for yourself, but also safe for your baby. In other words, the nursing area should be free of flame retardants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, and other toxins. Hence, it is important to choose your baby feeding pillow based on the materials it is made of. In this post, you will learn about an organic nursing pillow that I like and recommend. Keep reading to find out why I consider it the best breastfeeding pillow on the market.
Nursing pillow materials to avoid
To begin with, when it comes to baby products, I have very strict criteria for selection. Therefore, many of the products that are popular, comfortable, and have lots of positive reviews are not acceptable to me. Thus, I do not recommend baby pillows with polyester fiber or non-organic cotton for casings and covers, or polyurethane foam for batting. These are the materials that such brands as Boppy® Pillow, My Brest Friend, and Twin Z Pillow use. The reasons I stand against these materials are as follows.
The estimates show that cotton uses only 3% of the world’s farmland, but 25% of the world’s pesticides. And the predominant user of these pesticides and insecticides is the United States. In addition, the harvesters use toxic chemicals to cause the leaves to fall off the plants so as not to stain the cotton fibers (1). There is no information as to whether and how much of the pesticides end up in the cotton fabric used in baby products, such as a baby feeding pillow.
The bigger concern is the dyes used on cotton and “no iron” and “stain-resistant” finishes because they contain formaldehyde. But with a certified organic nursing pillow you do not have to worry about these things.
First, to create polyester, a polymer must be synthesized from crude oil. Then, they must turn the polymer into a fabric. This process involves numerous chemicals at various stages of the manufacture of synthetic fabrics. To clarify, these chemicals act as lubricants, sizing agents, antistatic agents, bleaches, and wetting agents. On the one hand, manufacturers claim that these chemicals are removed before the fabric reaches consumers.
On the other hand, there are many other chemical agents that are frequently added during the later stages of fabric manufacture that are not removed. Rather, they impart a variety of features on the synthetic and natural fabrics, such as shrinkage, as well as wrinkle-, stain-, bacteria-, and antistatic-resistance, waterproofing, flame retardance, softness, moisture wicking, color, and ultraviolet absorbers (source).
Thus, in my opinion, both the casing and the cover of your baby feeding pillow should be made of an organic material. However, the batting in your organic nursing pillow is also important, and it should not be polyurethane foam.
Polyurethane is a combination of two main ingredients—a polyol, a type of alcohol that causes death if ingested, and diisocyanates, a petroleum derivative. While both substances are deadly, the major concern lies with diisocyanates.
For example, one of the main diisocyanates used in the manufacturing of polyurethane foam is called toluene diisocyanate (TDI). The US National Toxicology Program has classified it as “reasonably to be anticipated as a human carcinogen” (source).
Additionally, researchers from the National Research Foundation of Korea tested 5 different types of furniture and found that items made of polyurethane foam exhibited much higher VOC levels than others (source).
Moreover, US researchers tested how the emissions of four different types of crib mattresses affected mice. They found that mattresses made of polyurethane foam and covered with vinyl caused the highest lung irritation in mice (source).
Above all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths were attributed to workers’ exposure to diisocyanates via skin or inhalation (source). As a result, the workers who make polyurethane foam must wear full-body protective gear and respirators! Without a doubt, you do not want your baby to be around this material.
Baby feeding pillow materials to prefer
In contrast to synthetic fibers, the materials to prefer should be of agricultural origin and organically grown. For instance, an organic nursing pillow may use kapok or buckwheat for batting (Niche Feeding Pillow and Blessed Nest respectively). In fact, I had an experience with a buckwheat sleeping pillow. Frankly, it did not impress me much because it was noisy, too hard, and too flat. However, I have heard that some people love buckwheat pillows.
Therefore, the materials I like are organic cotton and wool because they have proven their quality and meet my strictest standards.
The importance of organic cotton in a nursing pillow
Ideally, the cotton should be not just organic but also certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). To clarify, GOTS certification guarantees not only the growth of cotton without toxic pesticides but also processing without hazardous chemicals.
For example, hazardous chemicals include alkylphenols, phthalates, and brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. In addition, there may be azo dyes, organotin compounds, perfluorinated chemicals, chlorobenzenes, chlorinated solvents, and chlorophenols. Plus, such chemicals as short-chain chlorinated paraffins and heavy metals including cadmium, lead, mercury, and chromium may be used in the processing as well.
What we know about these compounds is that they are toxic, persistent, bio-accumulative, and carcinogenic. Further, they are mutagenic, reprotoxic, and can act as hormone disruptors. Above all, their use poses risks for the environment and human health (source).
Wool batting in a baby feeding pillow
Wool is a great material for an organic nursing pillow batting.
First, if the wool is eco or organic, which we will discuss further, it has no toxins that could affect your baby’s health.
Second, wool is naturally flame-retardant, so the manufacturers do not need to add flame retardant chemicals to the product.
Third, wool possesses a temperature regulating property and keeps your baby’s body warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot. In other words, it acts as a cooling barrier by wicking perspiration away in hot conditions, and an insulating barrier by retaining heat in cold. Consequently, this temperature-regulating feature is crucial for newborns, especially premature ones or low birth weight babies, because of their undeveloped ability to regulate their body temperature (source).
Last, but not least, this study shows that premature infants who nursed and slept on lambswool gained weight more rapidly than those who used conventional cotton sheets. In other words, the soothing effect of the lambswool led to lower metabolic activities in the infants.
Best organic nursing pillow
In my opinion, the best option for a baby feeding pillow is Bo Peep Nursing Pillow by Holy Lamb Organics. By design, it helps you to lift your baby closer to your breast and relieves pressure on your arm and legs when you are trying to hold the baby up. When your baby gets older, the pillow is also useful as a prop to sit her up. Also, the sides of the pillow wrap around the baby to create a cozy and secure space.
Please know that Holy Lamb Organics carries two nursing pillows with a significant difference in price. Specifically, the Natural Nursing Pillow Bo Peep is less expensive than the Certified Organic Nursing Pillow Bo Peep. While both pillows are identical in design and function, their batting is different.
The Natural Nursing Pillow has premium eco wool batting and an organic cotton sateen casing. Alternatively, the Certified Organic Nursing Pillow is made with GOTS-certified organic wool and has a GOTS-certified organic cotton sateen casing.
What is the difference between the eco wool batting in the natural baby feeding pillow and the certified organic wool batting in the organic nursing pillow?
According to Holy Lamb Organics, they source their all-natural premium eco wool domestically. That is to say, the wool comes from small sheep ranches in the western US. Further, the ranchers follow the established criteria that ensure healthy, humane, and environmentally sound practices. In other words, they take care of the animals, the land, and the community.
Additionally, the sheep graze on hills and valleys out in the fresh air with plenty of room to roam. Also, the ranchers refrain from using herbicides and pesticides and monitor the sheep’s health continually (source).
Moreover, they do not carbonize or bleach the wool, and never practice sheep dipping. To produce the exceptionally clean wool, the mill scours it multiple times with hot water and a biodegradable soap. Then, the mill cards the wool several times to loosen and release debris, dirt, or vegetable matter. Also, carding shifts the wool fibers, so they all run in the same direction. As a result, the wool turns into a smooth batting with bounce and natural resilience.
The mill that Holy Lamb Organics works with is Woolgather Carding Mill, which maintains close relationships with eco wool farmers. It also sets forth strict standards for growing and processing eco wool, many of which overlap with organic standards (source).
In addition, Woolgather Carding Mill informed me that every two years they test eco wool through the UC Davis Animal Toxicology Laboratory. They do it to ensure there are no herbicides, pesticides, molds, or heavy metals. Hence, I believe your natural baby feeding pillow will be safe enough to use.
Certified organic wool
As opposed to the domestic sourcing of the natural wool, the GOTS-certified organic option for the organic nursing pillow comes from New Zealand. The sheep ranchers in New Zealand work with the same mill that provides and processes the west coast natural wool.
In the case of GOTS-certified organic wool, Woolgather Carding Mill told me they process it in a different pristinely clean facility to avoid any contaminants.
Plus, along with ecological and social factors, GOTS maintains very strict benchmarks for the entire supply chain. It ensures fair labor practices and environmentally conscious methods.
Conclusion about the best organic nursing pillow
To sum up, I believe the Holy Lamb Organics nursing pillow is one of the best on the market. Ideally, if you can afford it, I would recommend the organic nursing pillow Bo Peep that has a GOTS certification. However, certified organic or not, a baby feeding pillow with wool batting is much better than a polyester nursing pillow with polyurethane foam.
Although it may appear pricey, wool is a good way to go. In addition to the benefits we discussed above, there is one more crucial feature of wool. Namely, it is antibacterial. In other words, if you get spills, you do not have to wash it every time.
For more information about the nursing pillows and other non-toxic products they sell, please visit the Holy Lamb website.
Finally, if you need my assistance with choosing safe products for your family, feel free to book a consultation with me. Also, please check out my shop for various options of non-toxic items for you and your home.
Chen, H., & Burns, L. (2006). Environmental Analysis of Textile Products. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 24(3), 248-261.
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