There aren’t many baby products that give you the amazing return on investment that you get from a nursing pillow. It’s one piece of baby gear you’ll use for hours a day, months at a time. Finding the right nursing pillow can save your back and shoulders, help you relax and get your milk flowing—all while keeping baby comfortable too. Even if baby gets a bottle instead of the breast, a feeding pillow helps cradle your little one in a comfy position so your arms don’t have to do all the work. Sound like something that would make your life a bit easier? Here’s your handy guide to shopping for this handy must-have.
What Is a Nursing Pillow?
A nursing pillow isn’t just any household pillow. Bed pillows are generally so soft that your child will sink down too low, and throw pillows aren’t always comfy against the skin. Both types—which are generally rectangular or circular—are also the wrong shape. The best nursing pillow is rounded just enough to snuggle against your stomach; it’s also firm enough to keep baby positioned up where they need to nurse. And it’s not just for nursing moms—any parent can attest to how tiring it can be to hold baby up in the proper position while they feed, even from the bottle, and a great feeding pillow will maximize your and your child’s comfort.
How To Use a Nursing Pillow
Most feeding pillows are designed to curve around your waist while supporting baby at the right height to reach the breast or bottle. That said, there are many different nursing positions you can try, so definitely experiment and move baby and the pillow around to find a spot that works for both of you. Leigh Anne O’Connor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, advises new moms to avoid leaning into the pillow. Ideally, baby will be tilted toward you, slightly on their side (not flat on their back), and the pillow should be as close to your body as possible to avoid slipping out. You can also use the pillow to give baby a boost when trying upright breastfeeding positions, like the koala hold. Once you’ve found the sweet spot, your elbows should be comfortably supported, your back straight (remember, slouch = ouch!) and baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
But don’t stop there: The best nursing pillows can be used for more than just feeding. If you’re still pregnant, try using it as support while you’re sleeping. And after baby arrives, some pillow shapes are good for propping baby up during tummy time or helping a young child hold baby for the first time.
Lastly, as with any baby gear, you’ll want to make sure you’re using your nursing pillow safely and effectively. O’Connor advises parents to be mindful when using a pillow, and not to fall asleep or leave baby unattended on it. She also recommends holding your nursing pillow close to your body so that the baby doesn’t fall in between it and your body.
How To Choose the Best Nursing Pillow
You can nestle baby in your arms while you breastfeed (or bottle feed), but the weight of even an eight-pound baby, held for hours a day, begins to drag on your shoulders and cause you to hunch your back. The beauty of a good nursing pillow is that it effortlessly lifts baby up to the right height for feeding so you don’t have to throw your posture off. You can trust the pillow to do the work, allowing you to concentrate on other things, like perfecting baby’s latch, breathing deeply to help letdown or just chilling out while you breastfeed. When shopping for the best nursing pillow, you’ll want to consider:
- Size. Some moms prefer a sizable nursing pillow so baby has a wide spot to lie on while feeding. Others want a more compact, portable nursing pillow that’s easy to carry from one nursing spot to another and just as easy to pack for trips. Then there’s twin nursing pillows, designed specifically for moms of multiples.
- Price. The average breastfeeding pillow costs between $25 and $50. For about $70, you can upgrade to a plush, monogrammed slipcover. Looking for an organic nursing pillow or a twin nursing pillow? Then you’re looking at closer to $100.
- Washability. Will you need to wipe the pillow down, or does it come with a removable slipcover that can be tossed into the washer? While the former is less expensive, if baby is prone to spit-up or reflux, you may want to opt for the latter. O’Connor also highlights the importance of choosing a fabric that’s comfortable for parent and baby.
- Design and style. Nursing pillows are fabric-covered, so there are plenty of looks to choose from: solid colors, prints and even two-sided pillows featuring different patterns on either side. The variety makes shopping for one more fun!
- Extra features. Searching for a nursing pillow that has all the bells and whistles? There are options out there for you. Some breastfeeding pillows have pockets to keep essentials (think: Baby bottles or wipes) close by, says O’Connor. Others may have a wrap-around strap for added convenience. If choosing one of these designs, O’Connor recommends looking for a pillow with an easy-to-use buckle; while velcro is useful, it can be loud and startle baby.
Best Nursing Pillows to Shop
A great nursing pillow is a true game-changer, making those countless hours of breastfeeding that much easier on you and baby. Take a look at our best nursing pillow picks to see which one’s right for you.
Best classic nursing pillow
Boppy kicked off the nursing pillow trend in the 1990s when a mom realized that the pillow she had sewn to prop up her sitting baby was actually ideal for breastfeeding. The C-shape of this baby feeding pillow wraps around your waist and the firm inner pillow provides perfect support to baby. The cotton slipcover can be thrown in the wash. And, after the first few months, it transitions into a support pillow for when baby is ready for tummy time or sitting up.
Weight: 2.8 lbs. | Dimensions: 20” (L) x 16” (W) x 5.5” (H) | Material: Polyester and cotton
Best travel nursing pillow
Whether you have to feed baby on the go or stuff your breastfeeding pillow into an already-crammed suitcase, this is one of the best nursing pillows for travel. We’ve never seen anything quite like this innovative nursing sling before, but the design is genius. The adjustable shoulder strap and padded sling hold baby’s head to your breast so you can feed hands-free. Its compact shape and convenient pocket mean it can double as a crossbody purse on the go, or you can stash it away in the included travel bag.
Weight: 12.8 oz. | Dimensions: 22” (L) x 3.5” (W) x 5” (H) | Material: Polyester, cotton and spandex
Best wrap-around nursing pillow
The wide, flat top of the My Brest Friend nursing pillow wins major points with moms who worry that baby could roll off of other nursing pillows that don’t have a level surface. This popular breastfeeding pillow attaches around your waist, providing lumbar support for your lower back. A discreet side pocket can hold a burp cloth, a pacifier, your cell phone or even a bottle of water.
Weight: 1.4 oz. | Dimensions: 23” (L) x 15.5” (W) x 5.5” (H) | Material: Polyester and cotton
Best organic nursing pillow
If natural materials are important to you, Nook’s Niche feeding pillow is a great option. It’s made from organic cotton and kapok fiber fill to offer just the right amount of support. Bonus: The wide, square shape makes this a perfect tummy time pillow as well.
Weight: 4 lbs. | Dimensions: 22” (L) x 22” (W) x 6” (H) | Material: Tencel, organic lyocell, polyester, cotton
Best multi-use nursing pillow
This thick, firm, sturdy nursing pillow offers great versatility. It features a click-in strap that keeps baby securely fastened to the breastfeeding pillow, plus a concealed pocket. It can also be used as a baby lounger, with the seat wrap helping to keep reclined babies in place. Tuck the seat wrap in when you want to use the pillow for tummy time or as a support for your sitting baby. One caveat: There’s no removable slipcover, so you’ll have to wipe the fabric clean.
Weight: 2 lbs. | Dimensions: 20” (L) x 23” (W) x 7” (H) | Material: Cotton
Best twin nursing pillow
Two babies might be able to fit on a regular nursing pillow when they’re newborns, but it quickly becomes a tight squeeze as they grow. Enter the Twin Z Pillow, which was featured on Shark Tank. It’s a large breastfeeding pillow but flexible enough to wrap around in different configurations so you can feed one baby at a time or both at once. One mom of twins says, “We use this pillow all day, every day. It’s a must for breastfeeding simultaneously and it can work for bottle-feeding.”
Weight: 7 lbs. | Dimensions: 38” (L) x 25” (W) x 5” (H) | Material: Polyester and foam
Best adjustable nursing pillow
Like the pages of a book, the six layers of pillows in Infantino’s Elevate Adjustable Nursing Pillow flip back and forth so you can adjust baby to the height of your torso—how genius is that? It’s a great breastfeeding pillow for tall or petite women who haven’t found the right fit for their height.
Weight: 2.45 lbs. | Dimensions: 25.98” (L) x 11.02” (W) x 5.91” (H) | Material: Polyester
Best inflatable nursing pillow
Sometimes you need a second nursing pillow, whether you want to use it for travel, tote it in your diaper bag or to keep it at Grandma’s house. The inflatable version of the My Brest Friend has the same design as the original, but you can inflate it and deflate it as needed, so it can be easily stowed away when not in use.
Weight: 1 lbs. | Dimensions: 23” (L) x 15.5” (W) x 5.5” (H) | Material: Polyester
How We Chose the Best Nursing Pillows
The fourth trimester comes with a lot of new gear, to say the least. To help you find the best nursing pillow for you and baby, we browsed options from an array of trusted retailers and brands. We considered several aspects when sourcing products, including size, value, design, washability and, last but not least, style. We also read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these nursing pillows worked for real parents, and didn’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. Lastly, to make sure we’re highlighting products that are safe and effective, we chatted with a lactation consultant to understand safety tips to keep top of mind during shopping and usage.
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
About the expert:
Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant with more than two decades of experience based in New York City. She is a member of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) and the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA).
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
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