Considering you’ll use your nursing pillow multiple times a day (and night) for months, you want to make sure you pick one that’s perfect for you. In this guide, we’ll outline what a nursing pillow is, whether you need one and what to look for in a nursing pillow.
What is a Nursing Pillow?
A nursing pillow is essentially a pillow designed specifically to support you and your baby while you’re breastfeeding. They tend to be firmer than bed pillows so you or your baby won’t sink into them. Many moms are most familiar with the c-shaped nursing pillow that fits around your waist, but nursing pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet individual preferences.
To use a nursing pillow, you can either lay your baby on top of the pillow or cradle your baby in your arms and rest them on the pillow. Then simply position them so your baby is lined up with your breast. Unlike trying to balance your baby on your arm, a nursing pillow lifts your baby up to the right height. Nursing pillows allow moms to nurse their babies comfortably in a variety of positions. They can also be helpful for parents who bottle-feed.
Do I Need a Nursing Pillow to Feed my Baby?
While a nursing pillow isn’t exactly a necessity for breastfeeding a baby, many moms find it to be very helpful. And when you consider how difficult it can be to adjust to breastfeeding, a nursing pillow can feel like an essential tool. In fact, despite the many benefits associated with breastfeeding, many moms experience so many challenges in the first few weeks that they feel they have to stop. A nursing pillow may help you breastfeed longer, more comfortably.
There are a variety of reasons you might use a nursing pillow, including:
- Learning to breastfeed: There is certainly a learning curve associated with breastfeeding, and using a nursing pillow can help you feel like a pro more quickly. Achieving a good latch is one of the most important steps for effective, pain-free nursing. Using a nursing pillow can free up your hands to guide your baby into a good latch. You can also easily adjust the pillow so your baby is at the correct height.
- Comfort and support: Considering you might be nursing eight to twelve times a day in the first few weeks, you want to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. Even though newborns are tiny, you still don’t want one resting on your arm for thirty minutes without any support. Nursing pillows prop babies up so you can avoid hunching over and hurting your shoulders. Some even come with lumbar support to protect your lower back.
- Breastfeeding multiples: Moms of multiples may wish they had more than two hands, but nursing doesn’t have to be one of those times. A nursing pillow can allow moms to more easily prop one baby at each breast.
- C-section recovery: Breastfeeding can be especially difficult for moms recovering from c-sections. A nursing pillow can allow these moms to breastfeed more comfortably without a lot of movement. The pillow can even be used to facilitate laying back with your baby in the “football hold,” which is one of the more comfortable positions for c-section moms.
What should I Look for in a Nursing Pillow?
No two moms breastfeed in exactly the same way, so you want to choose the nursing pillow that’s just right for you and your baby. Below, we’ll run through the most important considerations to keep in mind when choosing a nursing pillow.
Nursing pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on your needs and preferences. The most common include:
- C-shaped: The c-shaped nursing pillow is the most common. It fits partially around your waist, allowing your baby to lay on top. This shape is great for versatility and can be used to prop your baby as he or she gets older, but some would rather have a pillow with more back support.
- Wrap-around: Some nursing pillows are designed to wrap around your waist and back to provide excellent back support and stay in place. Some moms swear by this style, while others feel they’re difficult to put on and take off.
- Comma-shaped: These pillows are larger on one end and taper to a point on the other. They’re great for plus-sized moms or those recovering from c-sections. They can also allow you to position your baby on an incline, which is helpful for babies with reflux.
- L-shaped: L-shaped pillows don’t fit snugly around the user so they can be more versatile than other styles. Some also have a larger surface that many moms prefer.
Proper support in a nursing pillow depends on your preferences and how you’re going to use it. Be sure to find a pillow that props your baby to the right height. If you’re especially long-waisted, you may want to look for a taller pillow so you can avoid hunching over.
Some moms enjoy the versatility of a more minimal nursing pillow, while others prefer wrap-around styles that provide added back support. If you find yourself slouching while breastfeeding or experience back pain, a nursing pillow with added lumbar support might be the way to go.
You also want to ensure your baby is properly supported. Some nursing pillows are firmer than others. You might want a firmer pillow when your baby is a newborn with little to no head control. As he or she grows, a plusher pillow may work fine.
Many moms are picky when it comes to the material that touches their baby’s delicate skin. Some prefer nursing pillows with soft, blanket-like covers, usually made from polyester. Others prefer to only use natural or organic materials. There’s also variation when it comes to fill. Most nursing pillows are filled with foam, but some use natural materials, like buckwheat hulls. No matter your preference, a little searching will reveal the pillow with the right feel for you and your baby.
Your nursing pillow is guaranteed to get dirty, whether it’s from spit-up or an unfortunate diaper blow-out. You’ll want to find a nursing pillow that’s easy to wash. Some pillows are entirely machine washable, which some parents find to be the easiest option. Depending on the accident, it may also give you peace of mind to know that the entire pillow was run through the wash. Other pillows simply have a removable cover, which some parents find to be completely adequate.
Some nursing pillows are only designed for feeding your baby, while others can be given a second life when you no longer need them for breastfeeding. Wrap-around pillows tend to only work well for feeding, but other styles can be used for other purposes, such as tummy time or propping your baby when he or she is learning to sit up. If you like multi-purpose products, then a versatile nursing pillow may be the best fit for you.
Warranty and Return Policy
A lot of expecting parents may receive a nursing pillow prior to their baby being born, or they might buy one and realize it isn’t the right choice for them and their baby. Knowing the return policy, and the warranty should anything not be as advertised or quickly malfunction, is always a good rule of thumb.
A perfect fit is crucial when it comes to a nursing pillow, which is why warranties and return policies are so important. Many parents receive nursing pillows before their babies are born, making these even more crucial. Most nursing pillows have a one-year limited warranty, meaning any manufacturing defects are covered. Return windows tend to be between 30 and 45 days.