Best Nursing Pillows
There’s a lot of different nursing pillows on the market, and you’ll get lots of advice telling you which one is best.
While personal preference does vary across moms, I have found that these pillows tend to work the best overall.
Here are my picks for the five best nursing pillows, depending on what your needs are.
Read Our Nursing Pillow Reviews
– The best nursing pillow for C-section recovery
This pillow is probably the original nursing pillow that most people know of. It’s a pillow that’s been most recommended to me by lactation consultants and friends and family over the years. It’s also the pillow I’ve used to nurse both of my babies. This C-shaped pillow is pretty large. The opening in the middle, the part that goes against your body when your nursing, is also pretty big. I’m average size for a woman, and this pillow fits me perfectly. I also like that it’s large and stuffed enough to support a large baby. Both of my babies were always in the 90th percentile or above on both height and weight, and they never seemed to outgrow this pillow. I have a long torso, and I have found that this pillow doesn’t quite get baby up to the right level unless I cross my legs for more leverage underneath it. This isn’t something that’s bothered me, but I know many moms struggle with getting this to support them correctly. I have found over the years that you have to really snuggle it all the way around you to get it to work without baby rolling in between you and the pillow. This becomes less of a problem as baby gets older and bigger.
I’ve rated this as my favorite pillow for recovering from a C-section because I have been there and done that. I’ve also talked to other friends who have had C-sections and they stated that this was the most comfortable nursing pillow they had found. Not only does it provide proper positioning for breastfeeding your baby, but it provides extra support during recovery from the surgery. I used this pillow in the hospital to nurse my baby, but I also used it on the ride home to hold against my c-section incision as we drove over bumps in the road. Then, I used it at home to nurse my baby, but I left it on my lap all the time to brace my stomach in case of a laugh or sneeze. It helps keep me comfortable and I don’t think I could have recovered as quickly from the C-section without this essential piece of equipment.
This pillow is made from 100% polyester fiber. These fibers are not treated with any chemicals or flame retardant of any kind. I have found that my Boppy has retained its shape and fluff through two kids and over the course of almost 5 years.
My favorite feature about the Boppy is that the entire pillow can be thrown in the washer. I have washed this pillow more times than I can remember, and it has never done any damage to the shape or materials. This pillow is truly well made and will hold up.
The cover that’s included with this original boppy is made from cotton. Another great thing about boppy covers is that you can find them from many different retailers and in many different patterns. You can even find really cute ones on Etsy or have custom ones made to match your nursery decor. The original Boppy covers are not waterproof, so you may want to purchase the additional waterproof cover. That way, you have your pillow, with a waterproof cover over it, and a cute cotton slipcover on top of that.
This is probably one of the best basic nursing pillows on the market. Many, many users have used Boppys for years and love them. The shape and size of this pillow work particularly well for recovering from a C-section and breastfeeding at the same time.They are a little higher on the price range, but I find that you get what you pay for. I also like their versatility, because you can use them for tummy time and sitting baby up, as well as for a napping lounger for baby. The selection of cotton covers is amazing, and I like that it’s easy to buy or sew a custom cover for this pillow. A helpful and time-honored nursing pillow choice.
– The best nursing pillow for extra back support
Second only to the Boppy, is the My Brest Friend Original nursing pillow. This nursing pillow offers an alternative for people who have tried the Boppy and didn’t like it.
Instead of being more of a multi-use pillow, the O-shaped nursing pillow is meant to help while nursing only. It has a C-shaped pillow on the front that’s made of a very firm foam. This pillow also features two bumps on the sides to help keep baby from rolling off. Attached to this is a thin side strap and a thick foam back piece. This piece is designed to give mom back support while she nurses the baby. This makes it a really good option for people who prefer to nurse on a straight-back chair or on the floor. It provides the extra back support that you might be lacking if you nurse somewhere that isn’t as cushioned. It’s also a really good pillow for moms that have previous back problems or injuries. Having that proper support will help keep the muscles from tweaking and aching in your back.
It has a strap that keeps the pillow in place, which is really nice because you won’t have to worry about the pillow and the baby squirming around. The straps can be loosened to accommodate a waste up to 40 inches, so even moms who are a little bigger will be able to comfortably use this pillow. The strap does make it hard to move around for different nursing positions, like football hold.
The main part of this pillow is made from a foam. This foam is they phthalate, lead, BPA, and latex free. The foam maintains its shape well over time, but it can’t be washed. Putting this foam in the washer will destroy it, so you only have to spot clean. This means that the pillow has the potential to get very dirty over time. It also means that the foam can’t be washed before the baby uses it, and this is a problem for this pillow. The foam has a distinct plasticky, sort of chemical smell when it comes from the manufacturer. Some airing out and some sunshine take care of some of the smell, but not all of it. It does take a considerable amount of time for the foam to off-gas enough that you don’t notice the smell.
The My Brest Friend does come with a cotton slipcover. The slipcover is difficult to get on and off, but it can be removed and washed, which is a plus. I also like that the slipcover has a pocket attached to it in the front. This means that you can keep breastfeeding essentials, like nipple cream, breast shields, or even burp rags close by no matter where you are nursing.
This is a quality nursing pillow that is very helpful for a lot of moms. The fact that you can secure it to you helps eliminate the problem of getting an improper fit from a nursing pillow that slides away from the body. The firm and supportive foam really helps to get baby at the right level, but being so flat might not be good for baby’s reflux. The foam pillow itself isn’t washable, but the removable cotton cover is. The good news about this pillow is that it is a little bit cheaper than some of the other more popular options on the market. Overall, this will provide great support at a great price, and works really well for moms who want additional back support for themselves and firm foam support for baby.
– Best multi-purpose nursing pillow
This wonderful nursing pillow is a C-shaped nursing pillow, although the curve is so round that I would almost call it more of a U shape. This pillow is designed to go around the torso of the mom so that she can have support under her arms while holding the baby to nurse them. If you have a long torso, you will definitely have to use your arms and this pillow, or some kind of rolled-up towel or blanket and this pillow. If you have a shorter torso, you might be able to use this pillow as the only means of supporting baby while you nurse hands-free. This pillow is unique from other C-shaped pillows in that it has an awesome strap to hold in baby. The strap is shaped sort of like a y, and to me looks almost like a pair of underwear. The velcro on each side holds the strap in place so that you can place the baby in the pillow to take supervised naps. I have found that this made the pillow really useful for baby. It made it a great place for baby to take a nap when she was small and wouldn’t wiggle, and I also made a really good pillow for tummy time and for cushioning baby when sitting up. The large size kept baby comfy and protected. That’s why this pillow is my pick for best multi use nursing pillow.
This pillow is constructed from polyester fiber filling. I like this feeling because it’s very thick and fluffy. It seems to retain its shape overtime. My complaint with this pillow is that it doesn’t seem to have high quality workmanship. There seems to be fibers coming out of the pillows, and the seams don’t seem very sturdy. In fact, many users have complained that their pillow has burst at the seams after a very short time of use. I think this is maybe just a quality problem from Leachco, not a problem with the design of the pillow.
The cover on the pillow is made from cotton. Now, when you buy this basic Cuddle-U nursing pillow, the cover is not removable. This poses a big problem for me. If you have a baby who likes to have leaks from one end or the other, this pillow is going to get very dirty very quickly. The manufacturer recommends that you spot clean only and not machine wash. If you are brave enough, you could probably machine wash this pillow on gentle cycle and dry it on gentle cycle, low heat in the dryer. However, I feel like this is going to affect the longevity of the pillow. The best idea is to purchase the removable and washable cover that you can buy separately. You may even be able to use another pillow cover from brands like Boppy. One fantastic thing about this cover is that it features a small pocket for you to store the baby strap in when not using it.
This nursing pillow provides great support and really fixes is the strain on your neck shoulders and arms. The fact that baby can also safely take naps in it is fantastic, because napping upright right after eating will help to reduce reflux. This is the best nursing pillow for getting different uses out of it for that reason. You can feed with it, nap with it, or use it for tummy time or playtime sitting up. Even though it’s not machine washable, it is cleanable, and you can purchase a separate, washable cover to keep the pillow protected. The price is lower than some other similar pillows on the market. This makes it a smart money choice for nursing moms.
– Best nursing pillow for plus size moms
This nursing pillow from Luna Lullaby actually has a very unique shape. It’s v-shaped, so while it acts similar to a C-shaped nursing pillow, it allows for a little bit more versatility. One end of the V has a curved edge, while the other end of the V has a straight edge, like a rectangle.
The V shape means that you don’t just have to put it around your torso in the front. You can switch it from side to side and shift it where you need it. That means that if you have some extra curves on your body, you won’t have to worry about fitting into the shape of this pillow. Instead, you can make the shape of this pillow fit you. That means that it provides really good elbow and shoulder support when you’re feeding the baby.
While the pictures don’t do it justice, this thing is actually a very large and very full of stuffing. So, this means you’ll want to really consider where you’re going to use the pillow before you purchase it. If you’re going to nurse in a very padded area like a couch or chair, this pillow might be too big and just too much stuffing for you to properly breastfeed. But, if you prefer to nurse in a straight-back chair or rocking chair, this might be the ideal pillow for you. It’s large enough that it will go from armrest to armrest on a wooden rocking chair, which will give your baby a comfy place to nurse. Being so big makes it good for nursing older babies, as it still is large enough to support a longer and heavier baby.
The unique shape and big size also means that it works well for different breastfeeding positions besides the traditional cradle hold. This particular pillow works really well for the football hold. Also, this pillow can be used for twins. It’s not the best pill on the market for twins, but you can definitely adapt it for that use.
The stuffing on this pillow is made from 100% polyester and zero chemicals or flame retardants. This polyester filling is very soft and fluffy, but it does compress under the weight of a larger baby. I think that’s why they make it so over-stuffed to begin with.
They don’t recommend that you machine wash or dry the pillow, but that you spot clean it instead. I personally don’t like this feature, as the 100% cotton chenille cover doesn’t repel water or moisture very well. Several messes have soaked through both the cover and the pillow and then I feel like the pillow just doesn’t get clean enough. But, I really like the cover on this pillow. The soft cotton chenille is both plush and breathable for baby. It’s also nice that it’s neutral and doesn’t necessarily look like a breastfeeding pillow.
Which leads me to my next point- this pillow can be used for more than just nursing. This makes a great maternity pillow for placing between the knees or to support the belly. It also works really well for tummy time and for propping baby up when they’re learning to sit on their own. It can even be used as a sleeping pillow for adults.
Overall, this is a very good nursing pillow. This is the best pillow for plus size women, since it doesn’t constrict in any way. Any body shape could benefit from this pillow, though. Do keep in mind that this pill is very large and full, so if you are very small, it might be too much pillow to be comfortable while breastfeeding. For the price, this versatile pillow will serve you well during breastfeeding, especially if you plan to breastfeed as your baby gets older. This pillow also wins my pick as best for any nursing position because of its unique shape.
– Best nursing pillow for twins
This nursing pillow for twins is O-shaped and very supportive. It features a large, curved front pillow that’s attached to a small back support pillow. You have to use the strap to fasten this pillow around you. Unfortunately, the straps can’t be removed, so you’ll have to use them no matter what. The straps fasten using a velcro, which is easier to do and undo with one hand, but is also more scratchy on your skin. Having that back support is really handy when you have the added weight of two babies on the pillow and at the breast.
This pillow is great for two babies, but it’s also good for women of different sizes. This pillow will probably fit a average to plus-size woman better than it will fit a very slender woman. If you are slender and would like to use this pillow, you’ll probably have to use rolled up blankets to fill in the gaps between the pillow and your body. Still, the design of this pillow is fantastic.
The pillow itself is made from a thick, cushioned polyester foam. This foam is very supportive for two babies, but it also provides a flat surface for the babies to lay on. This means that when you’re nursing your babies, you won’t have to worry about them rolling off of the curved edges. This makes tandem feeding your twins totally doable and almost a hands-free experience. There is enough space on the this pillow to support the heads and bodies of two babies, whether using the cradle hold or a football hold.
The 100% polyester foam is covered by a 100% polyester fabric cover. This cover is completely removable and machine washable. It seems to be soft and breathable without being too plush. You can’t wash the memory foam insert itself, but you can’t hand wash it in the sink. This means that you’ll still get it mostly clean, but the memory foam will hold up over time because it isn’t constantly getting wet and drying. On the cover, there is a small pocket in the front for keeping things that you’d like close by you. It works great for almost everything, from a small water bottle to a TV remote to a cell phone to nipple shields and breast cream.
This pillow is a must-have for any mom of twins who wants to try breastfeeding. Breastfeeding one baby is hard, but breastfeeding two babies is a whole other ballgame. This pillow makes it not only possible, but comfortable as well. The back, side, and front supports mean that you will be able to comfortably feed your babies on a flat surface and not have to worry about them rolling around. Even if you only have one baby and prefer the football hold, this pillow could be very helpful to you. This pillow is definitely worth the money and will be a lifesaver to any mom of twins.
Nursing Pillow Guide: How the Right Pillow Can Create a Positive Experience
Breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon. And while it’s instinctive to humans, it’s incredibly hard to do in our busy world. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that you breastfeed your baby for at least six months, and optimally, up to one year. If you have decided that you want to breastfeed, you may be thinking “Now what?” As a mom who has nursed two kids into toddlerhood, visited several different lactation consultants, and had every nursing problem that you could possibly encounter, I am here to guide you! I am going to give you the breakdown on nursing, including the science behind it and the day-to-day aspects of feeding a baby from your own body. Then I’ll let you in on my secrets to successful nursing, including my ace in the hole: a great nursing pillow. I’ll help guide you through the best nursing pillows. I’ll give you my experiences and my advice so that you’ll feel better prepared to tackle breastfeeding.
The Physiology of Breastfeeding
If you stop to think about it, breastfeeding is actually a really cool process for the human body. A woman’s body can make everything it needs to sustain a baby through the first couple of years of life. But in order to do that, the body has to go through a lot of changes. Here’s how the body actually makes breast milk.
The whole process starts in pregnancy. Two main hormones that are abundant in the body during pregnancy are progesterone and estrogen. Both of these hormones are responsible for getting your body ready to produce milk. They tell the breast tissue to prepare for milk making by increasing the amount of milk glands and ducts in the breast. They can also help to increase the size of existing milk ducts and get them ready for milk production.
However, these hormones also work to keep the body from making too much milk. That’s why you don’t make an abundance of breast milk during pregnancy. Instead, during maybe the first, but usually the second trimester, the body begins to produce what is called colostrum. This thick yellow substance is the precursor for actual breast milk. It is very nutritionally dense and will provide a newborn baby with much-needed things such as carbohydrates, proteins, and special immunoglobulins, which protect baby from microbes.
Once the baby is born and the placenta is delivered, the amounts of estrogen and progesterone in the body plummet. The body knows that this sudden decrease in these hormones means it’s milk making time. That’s when oxytocin and prolactin, the two hormones responsible for active milk production take over. Prolactin is a hormone that’s responsible for the breast actually making milk. Every single time a mom nurses her baby, prolactin is produced. As long as breastfeeding begins immediately after birth and continues on a consistent and regular basis, milk production will be equal to the baby’s demand.
Oxytocin is the hormone that is responsible for the release of milk. Without this hormone, the breast would simply sit full of milk. That’s why in between nursing sessions, you can feel the breast tissue become enlarged and fuller, as the breast alveoli fill with milk, produced thanks to the prolactin. Each time the baby sucks at the nipple, oxytocin is released. That causes the body to remove the breast milk from the breast alveoli. The milk then travels down through the milk ducts and collects at the nipple, where it’s released during MER, which is milk ejection reflex. This is more commonly known as milk let down.
As far as milk production is concerned, the baby is actually the driving factor behind how much milk the breasts make. According to one expert from La Leche League International, breast milk production falls in an 80:20 ratio rule. This rule states that roughly 80% of all available milk is removed from the breast during any given nursing session. This 80% is the demand created by the baby for the breast milk. The additional 20% is left in the breast in case of an increase in appetite. If the baby does remove more than the standard 80% during his nursing session, the body will increase milk production to regain the 80:20 ratio. Likewise, if less than 80% is removed, the body will produce less breast milk in order to maintain that ratio.
This means that a breast that is emptied more thoroughly and more frequently will actually produce more milk. Also, a breast that is empty will produce milk more quickly than a breast that has an existing stash of breast milk. For many moms, this is a tricky concept to grasp. If a breast doesn’t seem full, they may worry that their supply is too low or that something’s not working properly. However, most experts agree that moms should use their baby as the gauge of milk production, not the look and feel of their breasts themselves. This is especially important during the first few months of life, as the body’s milk making process does take some time to regulate. It is not uncommon for moms early in the postpartum period to experience engorgement or low supply as baby’s needs change daily. With regular nursing, the body regulates and becomes more efficient at making milk. Just because the breasts are not engorged, that doesn’t mean they aren’t making milk.
How Breastfeeding Affects the Body
Once you understand the physiology of breastfeeding, it’s easy to see that your body has to do quite a bit of work in order to breastfeed. So what does that mean for a nursing mom? It means that you have to keep some special considerations in mind when living your life. Here are just a few things that nursing mothers have to deal with because of the way nursing affects the body.
- Hormonal roller coaster. After birth, hormones are all over the place, and nursing doesn’t exactly help that. The two main nursing hormones, oxytocin and prolactin, have profound effects on the body. For example, while oxytocin is amazing for making mothers feel less stress and also encouraging them to have stronger maternal instincts, it can also make women very tired and somewhat numb to emotional stress. As for prolactin, it’s great for milk production, but not so great for sex drive and fat metabolism. So while many new mothers think that there emotional and hormonal chaos ends with childbirth, they’re usually shocked to find that the hormonal fun goes well until you are done nursing.
- Special dietary concerns. During pregnancy, you probably got a big, long list from your doctor of foods to avoid. While some of these foods are back on the menu once the baby is out of your body, many of them should continue to be on your no-no list.
- The most obvious food to avoid is alcohol. While research on the subject has given mixed results, we do know that some amount of alcohol is transferred to the breast milk. Some moms who want to continue to drink while nursing will simply pump their breast milk for 24 hours after consuming alcohol and dispose of it. Other moms opt for using at-home test kits that will measure the amount of alcohol in your breast milk. Certain studies have shown that breast milk containing less than a certain percentage of alcohol is safe for baby. Other moms may choose prohibition until nursing has ended.
- Nursing moms should also be wary of certain herbal teas. Since caffeine is recommended only in very low doses during nursing, many moms turn to herbal teas instead. But drinking the wrong herb can harm milk supply or the baby. If you have questions concerning one of your favorite teas, ask a lactation consultant for consuming.
- Other foods to be mindful of while breastfeeding include: processed foods, fish containing mercury and some fermented foods. Finally, when it comes to food while nursing, you have to be mindful of your own body and your baby’s tastes. While it’s still unknown what the effects of certain foods are on the taste of breast milk, some babies seem to respond differently to milk after certain foods have been eaten. For example, I know that every time I ate very spicy Mexican dishes, my baby would have gas and an increase in stools for a day or two after. Maybe it was just me being paranoid, but I do feel like certain foods affected my babies in certain ways.
- Special physical considerations. Besides being concerned about what you should eat, you should be concerned about how much you eat. Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 extra calories a day just for the simple processes of creating and expelling milk. That means you have to be eating enough calories to keep up with the physical demands on your body, but of course it can help you lose the baby weight too! After the initial postpartum period, if you choose to exercise, you have to keep the extra physical toll in mind as well. If you are breastfeeding and you do strenuous exercise, you could lower or even stop your milk production. Hydration is another key consideration, as a dehydrated body will not produce enough milk to keep up with baby’s demands. So remember to consume enough calories, exercise only moderately, and drink plenty of water if you want your milk production to stay at its peak level.
- Mental taxation. Perhaps the biggest effect of breastfeeding on the body is not a physical one, but a mental one. Breastfeeding is challenging and it is a huge commitment. Spending so many hours tending to your baby can be exhausting. If you are the only person that can feed your baby, it can also be a very burdensome task and it can be lonely at times. Before deciding to breastfeed your baby, be prepared for the unexpected toll it takes on your emotions and sometimes, your sanity.
- Challenges and complications. Since breastfeeding is quite the process, there are a lot of things that could go wrong along the way. You may have to deal with engorgement, mastitis, low milk supply, bacterial or fungal infections, sore nipples, or a baby who doesn’t want to nurse. I can say that I’ve dealt with a few of these challenges myself. I’ve had mastitis 3 times (once it turned septic!) and have had to nurse a baby with a tongue and lip tie. While difficult, feeding my babies during these hard times wasn’t impossible. I had the proper medical support and my friends and family to help me get through. Challenges to breastfeeding are really common, so don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance.
Why It’s Hard to Breastfeed
While I just touched on the subject briefly, I want to go more into the concept of why it’s so difficult to breastfeed. Many moms look at breastfeeding and think, “Women have been doing it for centuries and the human body is designed for it, so what could be so hard about nursing my baby?” The truth is, breastfeeding is hard! I have successfully breastfed two babies into toddlerhood, and it was so hard! For the two years that each of my babies breastfed, I pretty much had to give up my normal life and instead be at the beck and call of my baby. I worked while I breastfed one of my kids, and was able to stay home full-time with the other one. Both times were difficult.
Being a nursing mom and working mom takes a lot of hard work. You have to be able and willing to pump when you’re away from your baby. Then you have to tackle the hurdles of getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle and breast equally. And if your baby is exclusively breastfed, it’s very difficult and that it is hard for you to get anything done. Leaving the house, or your baby for that matter, for longer than an hour or two is almost out of the question for the first year. Yes, you can breastfeed in public, but it’s just not as easy as breastfeeding in the comfort of your own home.
Also, submitting your body to the hormones and difficulties of breastfeeding is not an easy choice to make. I think the difficulties behind breastfeeding are reflected in the rates of breastfeeding. For example, in the United States, 79.2% of women decide to breastfeed when the baby is born, but only 49.4% continue breastfeeding at the 6-month mark. All of this being said, breastfeeding is totally doable. Although I struggled with breastfeeding at many different points and for many different reasons, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It is something special that I shared with my children, and in a way, it’s an accomplishment for myself. Breastfeeding is hard, but it’s not impossible, and with the right help, it can be a very positive experience.
How to Breastfeed Successfully
I wish that I could give you a magic formula or three special steps to get you to have the perfect nursing experience. But such a thing just doesn’t exist. Each and every nursing journey is different for each and every mom. Even for me, my two nursing journeys were vastly different from kid to kid. I do think there are some universal truths when it comes to helping moms breastfeed successfully. Here are a few tips I’ve found and learned over the years that have helped me to breastfeed successfully.
- Commit! I’ve known many moms that have said that they would just give breastfeeding a try and see if it works. Nearly all the moms with this attitude don’t end up breastfeeding their children as long as they want to. Other moms, who have approached breastfeeding with a do-or-die attitude, are much more successful. Having a no-holds-barred, committed attitude towards breastfeeding means that when a challenge comes up, you will be mentally prepared to tackle it, instead of folding under pressure or giving in to stress. With my first son, I decided to breastfeed for two reasons. First, I knew that breast milk was a naturally good food for my son and I felt like it was the best choice nutritionally. Second of all, we just couldn’t afford formula! We were newly married couple and I was just out of college looking for my first job. I knew that buying formula for my baby was going to send us into near bankruptcy. So with my son, I decided that I was going to breast feed him no matter what it took. Unless my body physically didn’t make the milk, I was going to breastfeed. This attitude helped me through three bouts of mastitis and many hours spent pumping at work.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I remember when my son was born, I went to feed him and realized that I had no idea what to do. This was not something that anyone had ever shown me or taught me. And while I got the basic concept, there are a lot of things that many moms just don’t know how to do. Aspects like proper latch, how to hold the baby, how to burp the baby, how long to let the baby nurse for, etc. All of those things were completely foreign to me when I start nursing. Thank goodness my hospital had a very hands-on and helpful lactation staff. Lactation consultants have helped me when both of my babies were born, and have helped through all my nursing years. I have never been afraid to call a lactation consultant to ask for advice, even in the middle of the night! Also, I’ve asked other nursing moms what they would do in certain situations or how they handled certain obstacles. Even though I can be an embarrassing subject to discuss, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help from someone who has the knowledge and power to help you with your problems.
- Find breastfeeding mommy friends. Mommy friends are great thing to have no matter what. But if you have a couple of moms in your contact list that are also breastfeeding, it can be very helpful. You guys can get together and share frustrations and triumphs. They might be able to show empathy and understand where you’re coming from. For example, my best friend bottle fed all of her babies. And when I would complain about having to wake up 5 times at night to feed my baby, she just didn’t understand because she and her husband took turns feeding the baby at night. Whereas when I would discuss that subject with breastfeeding mommy friends, they would commiserate with me, and it would make me feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one having sleepless nights because of nursing my baby. Misery does love company, and on days where you need the emotional support, having a nursing friend is priceless.
- Include your family in the nursing process. Just because friends and family can’t actually feed the baby doesn’t mean that you have to become a hermit during your breast feeding time. For me, I would include my husband in the breastfeeding process by letting him burp the baby afterward when he was at home. I would make nursing sessions into special times to read, cuddle, or just have a conversation with my other kid. My family didn’t feel abandoned or ignored and I didn’t feel so lonely while nursing.
- Get comfortable nursing in public. You can’t stay home all the time, and chances are, your baby will get hungry when you’re out and about. So you’ve got to learn to feed your baby in public. For me, that meant getting a great nursing cover and learning how to nurse in front of other people. A nursing cover gave me the confidence I needed to be able to nurse in front of people I didn’t know, and even those I did. This meant that I could hang out with friends and family even when I had to nurse my baby. This helped me to feel much more social and reduced the emotional toll of breastfeeding.
- Get comfortable. For me, this meant picking my favorite spot in the house to nurse and creating my very own nursing station. I have my own spot on the couch that’s next to a side table. Every time I nurse, I make sure that I have a drink of water, my phone, a good book, the remote to the TV, and my favorite nursing pillow. With all of these things and a comfy spot to sit on, I know that no matter how long a nursing session lasts, I will have everything I need to keep myself entertained.
- Show yourself some grace. Also, while nursing my kids, I’ve had to not be so hard on myself. I am most definitely a Type A go-getter. And when I was breastfeeding both my kids, I felt guilty because I couldn’t do as much as I normally could. After all, it’s very hard to get things done when you spend up to eight hours a day feeding a baby! In the end, I just had to learn to let things go. During my breastfeeding years, my house wasn’t as clean as it usually was, my workouts were much shorter than they usually work, and I accomplished a lot less overall. However, I did get irreplaceable time with my children. Breastfeeding taught me the important lesson of being kind to myself.
The Importance of Comfort While Nursing
One thing that I learned very quickly when nursing my first child was that nursing is easiest when you are comfortable. Every lactation consultant I’ve ever worked with has encouraged me to find a comfy spot to nurse. This helps your body relax, which helps produce that oxytocin which will let your milk come down. If you are uncomfortable, it can cause undue stress which can have a negative impact on nursing. Plus, most nursing sessions last for at least 10 or 15 minutes, and sitting in an uncomfortable position or juggling your baby in a strange position won’t be fun.
Also, from a occupational therapy standpoint, nursing is very hard on your muscles. The increased size and weight of your breasts tend to pull the chest forward and downward, which creates strain on your neck and shoulders. Sitting up straight, with good back and lumbar support, will help your muscles to not strain from nursing.
For many women, this means that they will need a pillow or other device to help get their baby up to breast level. That’s why I recommend a good nursing pillow to each and every mother. There are so many different designs and styles, and you can find the shape and size that works best for you and your baby. Having your baby at proper breast level will help them to get the best latch. This means that they will be able to get the milk out of the breast more quickly and efficiently. It also means that because they are emptying the breast, your milk supply will be stimulated and will continue to flourish. But please, don’t underestimate the importance of a great pillow! It can be a huge difference maker in your nursing sessions.
Finding the Best Nursing Pillow
If you’ve worked with a lactation consultant before, you’ve probably tried some kind of nursing pillow. Each person has their own favorite shape and design, and each pillow will work differently for different moms. Here’s a guide to help you choose the best nursing pillow.
Size and Shape
Once upon a time, nursing pillows only came in a couple of different varieties. Now, you can find many different shapes and sizes to accommodate pretty much any and every nursing need.
Before I go over the different shapes of nursing pillows, I want to address the size of nursing pillows. Similar to pregnancy pillows, nursing pillows are different depending on who is using them. Your own body size, where you nurse, and how long you nurse for will all help determine which pillow you should use. Smaller pillows will work well for traveling and will also work better for women with smaller bodies. Larger pillows work best for those who are exclusively breastfeeding because they’ll provide the most support and usually the most durability.
Also be aware of the height of the nursing pillow. If you have a short torso, the nursing pillow might not be the right size to get the baby at proper nipple level. If you have a long torso, make sure that your nursing pillow is tall enough to get the baby to the right height. Under either circumstance, consider whether or not you want to hold your baby and have the pillow support your arms, or whether you want to let your baby lay directly on the pillow and nurse them hands-free.
This might seem like a small detail, but it’s very important. Getting the baby to the right height at the breast will ensure that they have proper latch. This will make feedings more comfortable and more efficient. It will also protect milk supply. Plus, if you’re going to be feeding your baby upwards of six hours a day, you want to make sure that you and baby are both comfortable and well supported.
C-shaped pillows are often the most common and most versatile nursing pillows. They provide good support across the entire torso for the nursing mom. This means that no matter which side you’re nursing baby on, your arms will be supported. This type of pillow also works well for moms of all body shapes and sizes, because you can adjust the fit to where you need it. This is the shape of pillow that I have personally used to feed two kids, and I love it! I have traveled with it and use it as a nursing pillow, a neck pillow for myself, and a support pillow for baby during nap and play time. In my opinion, this versatile shape gives you the most use from a nursing pillow.
O-shaped pillows are much less common, but they’re the most supportive type of nursing pillow. They’re called o-shaped pillows because they go all the way around the body. Most of the pillows have a sort of C-shaped or crescent shaped pillow in the front, as well as a back pillow attachment for mom. The two pieces are usually connected with some kind of velcro or buckle strap. This does make it tricky because you will have to fasten yourself into this pillow. So if you have a screaming baby in your arms, it can be difficult to sit and take the time necessary to strap yourself into an o-shaped pillow. However, it does provide the best support, So if you are going to be nursing a lot, especially if you’re going to be nursing exclusively during the first year, this type of pillow may be worth the money.
Crescent or V-shaped
The third type of nursing pillow is a crescent or v-shaped pillow. This is very similar to the C-shaped pillow, except it is usually fuller and larger on one end than the other. This type of pillow works really well for curvier moms, since it doesn’t take up as much space on the body. The more flexible shape is good for many different nursing positions, too. One downside of this pillow is that you have to flip it when nursing your baby from one side to the other. This is hard to do if your baby is getting sleepy in between breasts. You’ll have to wake them up so that you can lift and flip the pillow to nurse them on the other side. However, this type of pillow is usually the smallest and therefore the easiest to travel with.
Fillings and Fabrics
I’ve touched several times on the fact that exclusively breastfed babies nurse for several hours per day. This means that they will spend a lot of time laying on a nursing pillow. Just like you would put the time and effort into finding the best crib mattress for baby sleep on, you want to make sure that baby has a high-quality pillow to lay on during nursing sessions. Carefully consider the pillow fillings and fabric cover materials, as well as their washability, before selecting your nursing pillow.
You can find a variety of pillow fillings for nursing pillows. Here are the three most common fillings.
- Polyester. Many of the nursing pillows on the market use a polyester or cotton or other fiber stuffing. This makes them similar in size, shape, and heft to a regular bed pillow. The good thing about this kind of filling is that you can usually adjust it to support where you need it, and also to evenly fill the pillow. This type of stuffing also retains its shape generally well. My favorite thing about this type of pillow filling is that it is usually machine washable. I personally have a nursing pillow that I can stick the entire pillow into the washing machine. This has saved me many times when a leaking diaper went unnoticed and soaked into the pillow itself.
- Foam. A new and wonderful trend in nursing pillows is foam nursing pillows. These pillows usually use some type of memory foam to fill them. Some of the pillows may even be double-sided, featuring a firm foam on one side and a soft foam on the other. This is nice because you can customize the level of support according to your nursing location and the baby’s age. Be sure to carefully research the durability of foam pillows. Many of them may wear down after time and will be permanently indented where you use them the most.
- Natural and organic options. A final filling that I have come across a few times when looking for nursing pillows are natural and organic feelings. Some of these include natural cotton fibers or organic buckwheat hulls. These types of materials are wonderful because they don’t expose your baby to chemicals, like some other pillows might (Foam pillows and synthetic fiber pills seem to be the biggest culprits for having flame retardant chemicals in them). With these natural fillings, you won’t expose your baby to those chemicals, but you also lose out on some other great features. Many of the natural fillings are not machine washable, so cleaning will become a chore. Also, pillow texture and shape may be different if a natural filling, like buckwheat hulls, is used.
The pillow cover is another very important aspect of nursing pillow. The best nursing pillows usually have removable and washable covers. These covers can be made from nearly any material, but usually a soft cotton or polyester is the best bet. Having a cover that is either waterproof or water-resistant is a good idea. That means that every drop of milk, spit up, or other body fluid won’t immediately seep into the pillow. That gives you time to quickly wipe them off and keeps you from having to wash the whole pillow.
How the cover comes on and off the pillow is important. I have used a nursing pillow in the past that had a large zipper on one side of the pillow or baby would like, and this just made it really uncomfortable for my baby. I can only use one side of the pillow and comfortably nurse my baby. Pillow covers with zippers on the seam or with envelope-style encasement work best.