A little bit of relief on the arms and shoulders is all we want. A long breastfeeding session will lead to that dull ache that creeps into your muscles, as you hold your little one just above what would be considered a natural position.
The nursing pillow is a simple prop that takes the weight of your baby, and allows you to achieve a position close to your breast without that lingering physical strain.
Simple in theory, but they come in all shapes and sizes that are suited to different people.
Our comprehensive guide will allow you to choose what pillow aligns with your intended use, body shape, and baby's size.
What is a Nursing Pillow
Not every mother needs a nursing pillow, but it can definitely be a lifesaver for many.
Nursing pillows are typically firmer than regular bed pillows which gives baby more support and positions them at just the right height for feeding (right at the breast).
With the pillow holding the baby up, it can take strain off the mother’s back, neck, and shoulders when breastfeeding.
A great many benefits can be associated with nursing pillow use.
As previously mentioned, the pillow itself holds the baby up. This takes strain off the mother’s neck and back since she doesn’t need to bend down to meet the baby’s mouth. This promotes better posture and makes breastfeeding much more comfortable.
In addition, it also takes strain off the mother’s shoulders and arms. All she needs to do it support her baby’s head and neck; there is no need for her to hold her baby’s weight while feeding since the pillow is doing all the work.
Both of these things together also allow for better posture when breastfeeding. I have heard several mothers regret their aches and posture years after they have breastfed due to the months of leaning over to breastfeed.
Nursing pillows can also be lifesavers for C-section mommies. I can personally attest to this one. With the right pillow – one that sits on the lap rather than the belly – it can keep the incision protected and prevent discomfort.
The benefits don’t stop at breastfeeding. Most nursing pillows can double as support for your little baby during floor time. They can be used to prop your baby up on their back – elevating them to prevent reflux after eating – or on their tummy, and it can be used to support babies who can’t quite sit on their own yet.
There are very few risks when it comes to the use of nursing pillows, but they can be deadly if they are used incorrectly.
When I was scouring through various product reviews and related articles, I was shocked to see how many people were allowing their babies to sleep on their nursing pillows in their cribs.
This is extremely dangerous. Any soft or squishy objects in a baby’s crib, such as pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals, pose a risk for suffocation. This includes nursing pillows, even if they seem firm.
In addition, the angle of the pillow also poses a risk. With enough squirming, the baby can fall off the pillow, rolling onto their faces on the mattress, or they can slide down the pillow, tilting their head forward and cutting off their airway.
If your baby does fall asleep while laying on their pillow on the floor, be sure you do not leave them unsupervised even for a moment. Your baby’s safety should be first priority.
Ideally, nursing pillows should be made with non-toxic and hypoallergenic materials. Babies’ skin is highly sensitive, and subpar materials could result in irritation or allergic reactions.
Most pillows come with either a cotton or polyester cover that is easy to clean, but you can sometimes find covers made with bamboo fibers, which are even better for sensitive skin.
The pillows themselves, as previously mentioned, are typically firmer than most bed pillows. They are usually made with some sort of foam or are overly stuffed with polyester batting to help the pillows keep their shape.
Nursing pillows are known for their unique shape and their ability to wrap around the mother’s body for maximum comfort.
Here are the most common nursing pillow shapes you will come across:
- O-Shaped: this type typically has a belt that buckles around the mother’s waist, creating that complete “O” shape and offering lower back support.
- C-Shaped: this is the most common type you will come across. They fit most waist sizes and can usually double as a floor support pillow for baby.
- Crescent-Shaped: you can also call this an L-shaped pillow if you like. Rather than wrapping around the mother’s entire front, this pillow is smaller and usually covers one side at a time. Oftentimes they are better for portability.
- Other Unique Shapes: you may come across a few other styles that don’t fall into the above categories, and I will even go through some of these in the list that follows.
Best Nursing Pillow Reviews
When you think nursing pillow, it’s usually the Boppy that first comes to mind, and for good reason too. This is one of the best all-around and versatile nursing pillows on the market.
Perhaps one of the things Boppy is best known for is their variety in adorable covers for their famous pillow. Each is made from a soft polyester and cotton blend and usually features a super cute design.
The covers and the pillow itself are machine washable, so there is little need for you to worry about the accidental leak or spit up.
Versatility is the other thing the Boppy pillow is best known for. The firmness of the polyester/cotton blend filled pillow as well as it’s “C” shape make this pillow great for propping your baby up on the floor.
You can lay them on their back so they are slightly inclined, preventing reflux after eating, as well as on their tummy to strengthen their neck. As your baby gets older, you can even use this pillow as an additional support as your baby is learning to sit up on their own.
The biggest downside to this pillow is its size. It is rather bulky, making it not the most ideal choice for smaller framed mothers and preventing it from being travel-friendly.
The lack of a waist strap makes it easy to take on and off, but it also means that the pillow may slip away from your body easily, creating a gap that your baby may slip into.
Beloved and recommended by mothers, doctors, and hospitals around the world and the winner of 2017’s Family Choice Award is the My Brest Friend pillow.
This O-shaped pillow wraps around your entire body, fastening with a small belt and buckle around the waist. This keeps it in place while you are feeding your baby, preventing slipping and separation from your body.
The O-shape also provides a small pad at the back that provides additional cushion and support.
The belt is not without its disadvantages. This pillow may not work for larger women since he belt supports up to a 40-inch waist, and the usage of the strap makes it somewhat inconvenient to put on and take off when you are feeding.
There are 18 patterned covers to choose from (made from 100% cotton), which are removable and machine-washable in when the inevitable mess happens. The pillow itself is made from a comfortable and flexible foam that can be spot cleaned when spills happen.
In addition, a water-resistant cover can be purchased separately if you feel that you need a little more protection.
This pillow supports just about every breastfeeding hold, ensuring that you can find something comfortable for you and your baby.
However, the pillow itself is a bit thin; many mothers find that they still need to lean over to meet their babies’ mouths. The pillow itself and the zipper on the cover are lacking in quality and may require replacement sooner rather than later.
Infantino is known for their affordable yet effective baby products, and this nursing pillow doesn’t fail to deliver just that.
This pillow has quite a unique shape. Three foldable layers on either side of the central cylinder allow you to adjust the pillow’s height to your specific needs. The ability to breastfeed your baby in an elevated position also helps to prevent reflux.
The pillow does not have a removable cover, but the whole thing can be machine-washed and is even dryer-safe.
It folds up nicely which makes it travel-friendly, and it has raised edges, which keep your baby from sliding and rolling off the side.
It is a bit awkward to use, however. The central cylinder part of the pillow sticks out a little far preventing you from being able to get it right up next to your body. The shape of the pillow may also make it difficult to use in any hold other than football.
The Leachco Cuddle U is similar to the Boppy in shape and firmness. It is just as versatile, allowing it to be used to support or baby while lying or sitting on the floor.
There are a few differences, however, some of which make this pillow superior and others that fall short of Boppy’s design.
A Velcro-fastened strap keeps this pillow close whereas Boppy has been known to slide away. The strap can also be used as a harness for your baby when they are propped on their back to prevent them from sliding off the pillow.
It is slightly larger than the Boppy and doesn’t have a removable cover, which means that you can’t even use a Boppy cover as a substitute to keep it clean. The pillow also cannot be machine-washed and is recommended to spot clean only.
The Cuddle U is also on the more expensive end of the scale for a simple nursing pillow like this.
The NurSit meets Boppy’s standards where the Leachco Cuddle U falls short.
It is similar in size, and even though the NurSit doesn’t have a removable cover, the Boppy covers will fit if you need some extra protection. The pillow itself is also machine-washable like the Boppy.
It is very firm with loads of stuffing made from 100% hypoallergenic polyester batting. There is also a small zippered opening that allows you to adjust the firmness if need be.
The NurSit’s shape is also similar, which makes it versatile and able to use with your baby for floor play time.
You do get what you pay for with the low price point. Several users have claimed that the pillow’s stitching comes unraveled after a short period of use.
Alternative Nursing Pillow Designs
Sometimes you just need to find a pillow that fits a certain purpose rather than one that is made for all-around use.
As you saw with the pillows mentioned previously, many are not suitable for travel due to their bulkiness. The Lanisoh Nursie, on the other hand, is perfect for traveling.
This pillow is quite different from other nursing pillows. Rather than a large pillow that sits on your lap it’s almost like a small muffler that goes over your arm. It creates a bit of cushion between the baby’s head and your arm.
It is machine-washable and the lining and filling are made from 100% polyester.
Its compact size allows it to easily fit in the car or a suitcase for traveling, but it is still a little big to fit into a diaper bag or purse. The small size also means that you will likely still be hunching over to feed your baby since it doesn’t raise them up very high.
You may not be able to use this pillow to prop up your baby like you would a Boppy, but it can double as a travel pillow for you or your little one if needed.
One of the biggest problems with most nursing pillows is that they don’t support tandem breastfeeding for twins. This isn’t always a necessity, but there will be times that both babies are hungry at the same time and you need to be prepared.
Thanks to ABC’s Shark Tank you now have the Twin Z pillow available to you, the ultimate nursing pillow for twins.
Not only does it provide great back support and allow for tandem breastfeeding, but it can also be used as a prenatal pillow to cradle your pregnant belly and can be shared by twins well into their early childhood years as a hangout spot.
There are a few downsides to this pillow, however. It is one of the most expensive nursing pillows I have come across, making it unsuitable for some bargain hunters.
In addition, due to its unique shape, this pillow is really only good for a football hold even when you are only nursing one child.
The pillow is easy to clean thanks to its removable machine-washable cover, and it is very soft and comfortable for you and your baby. This also makes latching difficult since your baby’s weight will cause the pillow to squish down, away from your breast.
From the same creators of the Twin Z pillow you also have the 4 in 1 Z pillow, which is the perfect pillow for those who need a little extra back support.
Just like the Twin Z pillow, there is a waist belt that keeps the pillow close to you, preventing slippage that can create gaps for your baby to fall into. The waist belt also fits some larger women, fitting up to a 52” waist maximum.
There is also a removable soft polyester cover that can be machine washed and dried when leaks and spills happen. The pillow itself, however, can only be spot cleaned.
The back support cushion is one of the largest and cushiest I have seen on a nursing pillow. It is sure to give proper support to women who have chronic back pain, especially when breastfeeding.
With as thick and cushy as this pillow is, it can be bulky to wear, making it difficult to maneuver as you try to put it on and position the baby on your own.
It also makes it nearly impossible to wear in a chair or rocker that has arms as the pillow is too wide.
Sometimes you just need a pillow that is easy to move from room to room in your home without all the bulk that pillows like the My Brest Friend and Boppy have. Of course, it’s an added bonus if you can easily take it outside the house with your too.
The Luna Lullaby Lil’ Something is a great pillow if you are looking for something slightly more portable than the typical nursing pillow.
This pillow is basically a mini version of the original Luna Lullaby. It is crescent-shaped, so there isn’t as much bulk as there is in a full wraparound pillow.
It is only 20 inches wide and can easily fit into a diaper bag or under the stroller for use on the go. Its small size doesn’t prevent it from being used for tummy time, though.
It is a bit too small to use on your lap, however. You will get the best support and height if you use it as a cushion between your arm and your baby’s head.
The quality may not live up to some of the other higher end pillows you’ve seen. It is similar to a travel pillow, both in quality and size, but you can also use it as a travel pillow between feedings thanks to the shape that will support your neck.
Unfortunately there are no good pillows that can give you support while breastfeeding in bed lying down, but you still need a good pillow to help you breastfeed while sitting up.
Depending on how soft your mattress is, some nursing pillows don’t give enough support.
The Ergobaby Natural Curve is a great pillow to use when sitting it bed. It is extremely firm, which may not seem comfortable at first thought, but you can be sure that your baby will be supported no matter how soft your mattress is.
There is a handle on the outside for easy carrying, and the pillow itself is very lightweight. It is still a little big to really be considered portable, but it easy enough to move from room to room in your home.
The shape and angle of this pillow can make a bit difficult to use for some. It is not a complete “C” shape, so it doesn’t stay right up against the body when breastfeeding, and the way the pillow angles into your chest will have your baby rolling toward you if they’re not positioned correctly.
The firmness of this pillow also makes it ideal for mothers recovering from a C-section. You don’t need to worry about the pressure of your baby pushing the pillow into your incision site.
Tips for Use
No nursing pillow is one-size-fits-all. What works for your friend, sister, or cousin may not work for you. Every woman’s body and breasts are shaped and sized differently. The best way to determine what works for your is through trial and error.
Don’t be afraid to try multiple pillows. If you have friends and relatives with different nursing pillow styles, ask if you can borrow them for a couple of days to try them out and see what works for you.
You should also try multiple breastfeeding holds. Most pillows support every type of hold, but there may be a specific hold and pillow type that works just right for you.
Cleaning and Hygiene
Throughout my list, I have made it a point to mention each pillow’s recommended method of cleaning. Babies are messy and so is breastfeeding.
You are bound to have milk leakage, spit up, and diaper blowouts that will get your pillow messy. It is important that you know how your pillow needs to be cleaned to maintain its quality and to know what is going to work for your lifestyle and schedule.
Ideally, your nursing pillow will have a removable cover that can be thrown into the washing machine for easy cleanup. It would also be ideal if it can be machine-dried as well, but air dry is just as hassle-free even if it’s not as fast.
Some pillows even have the option of a water-resistant cover you can purchase separately for added protection. This will help to create an extra layer to keep the pillow itself dry and odor-free.
You do need to be aware of how the pillow itself should be cleaned, especially if you aren’t using a water-resistant cover. Liquids can soak the cover and seep into the pillow leaving long-lasting stains and odors.
The best option is to find a pillow that can also be thrown into the washing machine. Sometimes spot cleaning just isn’t enough, and depending on the pillow’s material (i.e. foam), soap and water can soak into the pillow and make it very difficult to dry.
Nursing pillows can be beneficial to any mother, no matter their baby’s age, their body type, or their method of delivery. They provide additional support when breastfeeding, reducing back and neck pain and taking pressure off the baby’s head and mother’s arms.
If you are looking for a good all-around nursing pillow, I highly recommend the Boppy. It can be a bit bulky, but overall, it is still a good fit for most mothers. Its firmness and shape also make it highly versatile and able to support your baby through all stages of floor play time.
What do you think of nursing pillows? Do you have a personal recommendation you didn’t see on the list? Let us know!