Not My ‘Brest’ Friend

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time; since I read the little white tag attached to my nursing pillow.  Unfortunately, I was prompted to read this tag long after I stopped using a pillow to nurse my son. What I read horrified me. I was distraught and defeated and felt so betrayed.  I cried for 2 hours straight. My husband did all he could do to console me.  What could be so bad about a nursing pillow?  They are wonderful aids to one of the most sacred acts between two human beings.  My tiny little baby, fresh and new to the world laid trustingly upon the baby-blue velour; soft against his tender cheek as he suckled vigorously until completely satiated.  His eyes rolling back, mouth open in a drunken milk-induced state, trusting that I would keep him safe.

My baby slept in organic pajamas on an organic crib mattress (after co-sleeping with us), was swaddled in organic cotton blankets, is not vaccinated, drank only breast milk, then organic homemade baby food, and has never been on antibiotics, yet he has been exposed to toxic flame retardants from contact with MY NURSING PILLOW!  California Technical Bulletin 117 which covers home furnishings flammability requirements includes foam nursing pillows and padded foam high chairs. I hardly see, (through my bleary, teary, bloodshot eyes) how a nursing pillow is a “home furnishing”.

The first tag reads:

That’s not the offending one.  Here it is:

You mean to tell me that my baby and I were exposed to toxic chemicals to protect the babies of smoking mothers?!  Mind you, I believe in protecting all babies – even those whose mothers choose to enjoy a Virginia Slim or Marlboro Light while nursing their wee one. But, the word “cigarette” should never be connected to anything related to babies and nursing!   Are you as shocked as I? Do you really think that mothers who would actually smoke while nursing would choose to breast feed in the first place?  I mean, most nursing mothers choose health reasons as one of their main reasons for breast feeding. Smokers obviously don’t care about their health. But, to be fair, I guess they may care about their child’s health. So, good for their babies, if an ash or fully lit cigarette should slip out of a sleep-deprived new mum’s mouth and accidentally drop onto their “My Brest Friend” nursing pillow, their tender babe won’t go up in flames. And the rest of us who care about our own health, as well as our baby’s, get a nice dose of flame retardant at each nursing session. (Which, may I remind some of you, is 8-12 times each day for newborns!) No wonder flame retardants are found in increasing amounts in breast milk! Here is an excerpt from the EWG:

Our tests found fire retardants called PBDEs in the breast milk of every one of 20 first-time mothers who volunteered for our study, at average levels 75 times higher than those found in breast milk of women in Europe. These fire retardants can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones that are critical to the proper growth and development of the brain, nervous system and many other organs and systems in a baby’s tiny body. Breast milk is still near universally considered a better food for babies than formula. But breast milk free of toxic industrial chemicals is better still.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also studied mothers and their children ages 1-4 and found 3 times the levels of flame retardant in toddlers than in their mothers. This is a reason for concern. I realize this law isn’t specifically protecting smoking persons, but c’mon!  The word ‘cigarette’ is on my freakin’ nursing pillow.  I can’t get over it! I have two nursing pillow covers for changing out when washing. Each time I removed the cover I was exposed directly to the treated foam. @#%$!  What’s a mom to do?

Well, last year I wrote a scathing passionate letter to the company to get more information and reveal my indignation displeasure about their product. I am being completely honest and copying it exactly the way I wrote it. I am a bit embarrassed, as I was fuming mad and very distraught when I wrote it. It was a bit like drunk dialing. I am more tactful in my approach when contacting companies now.


















“I have one of your pillows and used it to nurse my baby after a lactation consultant recommended it over the Boppy.  I have been reading about PBDE’s and discovered that they are not just used in mattresses and electronics, but some home furnishings, like padded high chairs and gliders.  An article mentioned nursing pillows and I thought – of course, no one would put toxic flame retardant on a nursing pillow used for one of the most pure and sacred acts between a mother and baby.  And lo and behold I pulled mine out of the closet and read the tag to find that the foam inside is indeed treated with flame retardant!  Why would a pillow need to be treated?  Of course, I disagree with anything being treated with it.  Just because something is made of foam it shouldn’t need to be treated. A nursing pillow of all things shouldn’t have toxic chemicals in it. It’s bad enough that PBDE’s are found in breast milk in increasing quantities.  Your pillow may be better support for a baby, but the Boppy and other similar pillows are not made of foam and therefore not treated. I am getting rid of My Brest Friend pillow and will order an organic nursing pillow in the future!  I will also let my pregnant friends know, as well as all the moms in the 3 mom’s groups I am in NOT to use your brand.”

Their first repsonse:

Dear Deborah,

First I would like to thank you for your concern; it is a big area of concern for us too.  While we are required by law (CA TB117) to  treat our products with fire retardant, we do so without the use of PBDEs.   Please let me know if there are any other questions that you have about our  products.

And my reply:


How is nursing pillow considered a home furnishing?  I’ts more of an accessory.  I don’t see why it falls under 117 at all.  Are you using phosphorus-based flame retardants?

Erica’s reply:

Dear Deborah,

Unfortunately Customs considers it a cushion, thus falling under 117.  The flame retardant is anti-blaze V6, the most user friendly retardant we could find, and I’m not sure about phosphorus.

Here is some information about Antiblaze V6:

ANTIBLAZE V6 flame retardant is a high-molecular-weight phosphate ester for polyether, high-resilience and molded foams.  It is particularly suited for automotive and furniture applications where resistance to migration after ageing is a flammability standards requirement.

Well, I am somewhat relieved that they don’t use PBDE’s and have opted for the version used more widely in Europe. Those Europeans seem to care a little more about the health of their nations’ people. And after I calmed down I realized I can do something about some of the toxins in my environment. I can become politically active to help make changes.  I can support organizations, like the EWG who work to get legislation passed to protect us. And, at home, I can just eliminate environmentally-unfriendly foam products.  I sold my Peg Pereggo foam high chair that had the same offending tag and switched to a booster seat for my son to join us at the big table.  I will be donating my nursing pillow and next time (if there’s a next time ;-) ) I will opt for an organic nursing pillow.  The My Brest Friend is a great design with more firm support than others.  Maybe one day someone will make a latex nursing pillow. I think the same result could be achieved without the use of toxic chemicals.

Ahhh. Breathe in. Breath out. That feels better. I got it off my ‘brest’.

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35 thoughts on “Not My ‘Brest’ Friend”

  1. Great article Deborah!!! Very good to know. I will not use mine again, ‘if there is a next time’ :) However, I will spread the word! I will recommend, not donating any carcinogen. Better yet, maybe donate it to a car repair place, maybe a pillow while repairing automotive, seems a more appropriate place for them! Not sure…:) When I replaced all my cleaners with Natural products, I just threw out all my toxic chemical cleaners. No sense in sharing the bad stuff. I will keep reading…always thankful for the information you provide.

  2. So sad…
    I don’t use that brand of nursing pillow but checked mine just incase and don’t see anything on it indicating flame retardants but my suspicion is that there is…never occurred to me when I bought it, as I’m sure is the case with most moms.

  3. It is so great that you wrote this. I don’t think many moms would ever think to check the tag of their nursing pillow, nor would many of them even understand the issue with using flame retardants. This is a wonderful informative post on both ends and I hope it reaches lots of moms. I will tweet and stumble this for you and for everyone out there who needs to learn this valuable information. Thanks for flagging me down to read this.

  4. Wow, your story is really sad, I’m glad it ended well!

    There is a new no-no everyday, we simply can’t catch up. We must go shopping with a loooong list of bad stuff and ask the staff about each? They won’t know.

    I am really sad we can’t trust the FDA and other organisation ;o(

  5. Deb, I’ve known for some time that the very pillows we sleep on have been treated with flame retardants. It’s disturbing, I agree. Many things that surround us are disturbing and some are hard to eliminate – water and air. I guess, you can opt out to use water filtration system or move to a cleaner air place. Those changes cost money. Just to live a “pure” life costs a lot of money.

    As for my Boppy pillow, I couldn’t live without it even though I didn’t breastfeed. The convenience it provides is unsurpassed. Granted it’s not healthy for your baby but my we used it only for 4 months. Denzin holds his own bottle now.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this. I can completely understand why you were so upset. It is really frustrating to live in a society where the methods used to obtain health and safety and the very things that work against our health and safety.

    I’m glad you contacted the company and wrote this post.


  7. Thank you for sharing this with us! We are an eco boutique for babies and kids in the Netherlands and have been trying to find just the right nursing pillow, as we want to avoid all un-natural products as much as possible. We currently carry an organic spelt nursing pillow, but due to price and weight (it’s heavy!) we are debating carrying nursing pillows filled with non-flame-retardant treated polybeads. Do you have any advice/experience with these?

  8. thank you for this info…i had never even thought about the safety of my nursing pillow…it’s a freaking pillow for goodness sake…at least i went with the boppy on comfort recommendation…why would anyone put chemically treated stuff on something intended to touch a babies skin let alone face and mouth! again thanks for sharing…robin & abby

  9. Hi Deborah, thank you for this informative article! I had no idea, I had the same pillow and loved it. Love it less now :( Here we are trying to do everything right in terms of organic, etc., and then this…


  10. Kim – what further follow up are you looking for? I am informing other mothers of what is inside this particular pillow, so they will make an informed decision when purchasing one. They may want to find an all organic, non-foam (petroleum-based) product instead. I wish I read a post like this before I bought mine.

  11. I guess Kim means she wants you to tell us another pillow to buy… but geez, you already did us a great service by telling us about this, so, sigh, I’ll let you off the hook on this one… :)

    Seriously, thank you. I used my Brest Friend all the time. I hope with baby #2 I’ll be good with just the Boppy, and I’ll tell my friends about the chemicals in the Brest Friend. Too bad, that thing rocks.

  12. I was also completely distraught when I read that tag as I washed the outer cover for the first time. I thought- What? This was recommended by a holistic lactation consultant in New York City- I didn’t think I’d have to worry about chemicals on something my baby would be so close to, so many times per day. I quickly found an amazing alternative called the Blessed Nest- made of organic cotton and filled with organic buckwheat. I am still using it with my 15 month old son, and it has also become a necessity for air travel- I put it on my lap so he can comfortably nurse and sleep without the seatbelt poking him. It worked beautifully for an 11 hour flight! Thanks for the great post.

  13. SO sad…it sometimes feels impossible to keep it all away from them huh? i sometime dream of going to an island & starting over with the huts & primal living. i know not so practical cause how wud i get online:)?! anyway thanks for the good info!

  14. Hi Deb,

    I found your comments enlightening but the fact that you are “donating” the pillow alarming. If you are so concerned about the issues related to the pillow, why would you pass the item along to another?

  15. I gave it away with full disclosure. Some people are not as concerned with chemicals. The person wasn’t as worried as I was because it has a removable washable cover. It was that or straight to a landfill which isn’t good either. It helped someone who couldn’t afford a nursing pillow and helped her breastfeed. The greener option all around was to donate it for those reasons.

  16. I was looking for info about the foam in the pillow as well and saw your post. I also called the company directly and am happy to say they no longer use any flame retardant in their pillows. Please call the company directly for more info 415-673-3260.

  17. I totally understand your frustration. I felt the same way when I read the tag on My Brest Friend. But I kept using it because the flat surface really helped me with my nursing troubles. I find it a little disconcerting though, that you cried for 2 hours over this. Parenthood is going to be very rough on you.

  18. great blog. came across it for the same reason you wrote it – i found this tag just now on the nursing pillow given to me…

  19. I, too, am a nut about chemicals in my baby’s products (and proud of it!). I have e-mailed all of the companies that we have products from. So far, I have been pleased to find out that the following companies do not use hazardous chemicals in their products: Boppy, Hugga-Bebe, Orbit Baby… but, in articles that I have recently read, they referenced a nursing pillow that did contain PBDEs… by the way they wrote, it sounded like The Brest Friend pillow, perhaps it was an older version? Someone said they stopped using the harmful chemicals…

    @Deborah- That letter was by no means nasty!!! You are protecting your baby! I am glad you wrote them, and I wish more parents did… then, maybe we would have more companies willing to change their manufacturing procedures and better protect our little ones.

    I too have surrounded our little girl in an Organic World. I was horrified to find out that so many products contain these hazardous chemicals — they are even sprayed on clothes to keep them “nice”/bug-free/not wrinkled at the story. Hmmm… which is more important, my child not inhaling the poison, or a wrinkled shirt…..

    Anywho, thanks SO much for posting this! I wish more mamas out there banded together and stood up for our babies. The more organic we buy, the more prevalent it will be (I hope!).



    The article was written in 2009, so I called the company directly and spoke with Jenny (who picked up the phone immediately – no answering service) at Brest Friend. Jenny she explained to me that the pillows no longer contain PBDE’s and haven’t since 2008. The pillows are manufactured in China and the tags still contained this warning although in 2008 California made them exempt from household products category. New pillows do not have this warning tag (or currently manufactured pillows).

    In addition, when I looked at my BF pillow case, on the tag, mine says that it has a shipped date of November 17, 2007. Therefore the pillow that I have been using contains PBDE’s, I had bought it used. I will no longer be using that pillow. BUT I WILL BE BUYING A NEW BREST FRIEND NURSING PILLOW!!

    Their customer service is wonderful, I’m truly impressed. Jenny was not only professional, polite but informative and knowledgeable.

    BTW, BOPPY pillows have labels that state that they contain flame retardant materials and I’m not sure if that still is the case or if they also received an exemption.

    Although I appreciate the power of information, I prefer to research on my own and confirm the validity of such statements prior to making any assumptions.

  21. My pillow was purchased in May 2007. Did the rep at the company tell you HOW it passed the flammability requirements since it is made of foam and highly flammable? It has to contain some type of flame retardant. I just bought a Blessed Nest organic pillow for my new baby. No concerns at all now.

  22. I have a 2008 Boppy Nursing pillow and it has the tag. California banned use of pentaBDE and octaBDE, the two commercial mixtures of the PBDE flame retardants, in 2004 and is phasing out others. The European Union also enacted a ban on pentaBDE and octaBDE in Europe that took effect in 2004. But instead of PBDE’s phosphate esters (which are also referred to Tris)are used as flame retardant in pillows, stroller, carseats etc. simply everything with polyurethane foam and most likely also everything with polyester cushion fill. There is no other way that this cushions pass the California fire code without any treatment. Some companies claim they use hydrated silica as treatment a more natural solution but this treatment is not possible with polyurethane foam which is HIGHLY flammable untreated (like solid gasoline). So just because companies say they don’t use the toxic PBDE’s does not mean that they are no chemicals they are just not regarded as “toxic” by the INDUSTRY. But Tris are far from ok they are from the family of nerve toxins in the same group as NERVE GAS and pesticides! But it seems that this is the least toxic the industry could come up with wow – where is all the research going not to come up with a better solution? This tags are everywhere. The problem is the California law which needs to be changed ASAP!

  23. Does anyone have recomendations on non toxic car seats, high chairs, play yards?
    Help! Want only the best for my new grandson! Thanks in advance, having a direction to go in helps to expedite this arduous process!

  24. Just put your kid in a bubble, thats what you are trying to accomplish. and no vaccinations? are you living in the 1800’s??

  25. This is such a good post, I feel the same way! I used a Boppy for my first child born in 2007, had no idea I was exposing him to such toxins. Was horrified too. I’m so much more educated with my second child just born in May and trying to improve on things as best as I can and can afford. I just bought a Blessed Nest pillow, hubby thinks I’m crazy spending so much on a pillow but I feel so much better now knowing what I know now. I do wonder if these older toxic items which have had time to off gas are as toxic after all these years? Curious what you think.

  26. I was very happy to find this post, before being completely unaware of the issue until a friend told me about the chemicals. The latest on the breastfriend is that it no longer meets the California TB117 law at all–and the tag on the pillow I just received confirms this. However, not all pillows for sale are the newest ones with the new tag–before buying, check the tag–if it says does *not* meet California law TB117, it’s a newer pillow without the chemicals.

  27. Thanks for article. I was looking at this for my wife and was concerned with some of the flame retardant information I was reading about regarding My Best Friend. Some of the comments prompted me to look deeper into the issue and see if they have indeed stopped using flame retardants.

    Here is the link where the company addresses the concern:

    Hopefully it will put some people’s minds at ease, at least those who unknowingly used later-model pillows with their nursing babies.

    Although I can get behind most of your concerns with the chemicals we unknowingly intake into our bodies, I am very skeptical on one of your proposed solutions of getting the government to fix the problem. Remember, someone else got the government to work on a problem that caused them to mandate that the pillows be treated with fire retardant in the first place. Our politicians have a long history of coming up with solutions that are worse than the problems.

  28. As of the end of 2010, they no longer use ANY flame retardants since the law changed! YAY!It’s because of pressure from moms like you, and I’m so glad.

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