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All About Nursing Pillows & How To Use Them

They’re a baby registry must.

When you make the decision to try to breastfeed your baby, one way to set yourself up for success is to get the right gear. You’ll probably want to make a breastfeeding station, have some good nursing bras and you’re going to need a lot of support — literally — for your body. In time, you’ll find a breastfeeding position that’s best for you and your baby, and even if it’s pretty comfortable, holding yourself in the same position, day after day, can be hard on your body. Enter a nursing pillow — not exactly a necessity, but certainly helpful to have if you’re breastfeeding 24/7.

What is a nursing pillow?

Stroll through any baby section of your local super store and you’re bound to find nursing pillows, also called breastfeeding pillows. You also have probably heard that nursing pillows are a must to add to your baby registry. Shaped a bit like a partial doughnut, nursing pillows are designed to wrap around a nursing person’s mid-section during feedings to support your arms as you cradle the baby, and yes, having one can make breastfeeding a whole lot easier. “A nursing pillow is a pillow designed to support nursing parents,” Jada Shapiro, certified lactation support counselor (CLSC) tells Romper. “It provides physical support for your baby and keeps your baby at the perfect height for nursing, lessening the strain on your arms, wrists and back.”

How to use a nursing pillow

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See that hole in the center of the nursing pillow? That’s where you go, and your baby goes on top of the pillow. “Depending on the nursing pillow, usually you just slide it over your stomach and place your baby on it, generally while sitting,” Katie Clark, a certified lactation educator and breastfeeding specialist tells Romper. “While they can be helpful, I recommend making sure you are still vigilant about good positioning of your baby. I see a lot of babies that aren't held close or secure enough while using a nursing pillow.”

While most nursing pillows look somewhat similar, and are created to serve the same purpose, they’re not all created equal. A lot of people are very loyal to Boppy brand nursing pillows, while others swear by the My Breast Friend. As with so many pieces of newborn baby gear, it can be helpful to borrow a few different ones from friends and see what works best for you and your baby. Once you find the best nursing pillow for you, you may even decide to invest in more than one, so that you have a nursing pillow at the ready at every nursing station in your home. “With so many different types, shapes and options each pillow may vary slightly so it’s important to read the instructions,” Shoshanna Levine, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a labor and delivery nurse explains. “That being said, the primary purpose of the pillow is to provide you with support and comfort so test out a few positions when you’re using your pillow for the first few times.”

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How do you wash a nursing pillow?

Your baby is going to be spending a lot of time on the nursing pillow. So when you think of all the things that happen on it (such as sweat from both you and your baby, to spit-ups and even diaper accidents), your nursing pillow should be cleaned frequently. But how? “Generally you can wash it in the washing machine, but I would check the manufacturer instructions,” advises Clark. “I find that having a nursing cover pillow helps keep things easier. You can easily wash those in the washing machine and they protect the actual pillow from damage.” If it’s just a small area that you need to clean, you can always spot clean it with a sponge. Otherwise, you should remove the nursing pillow cover and wash according to the instructions.

Is a nursing pillow really necessary?

For someone so tiny, a baby brings a lot of stuff with them. If you’re looking to decrease the clutter in your home, you might wonder if a nursing pillow is worth it. For many breastfeeding parents, it absolutely is, according to Shapiro. “A nursing pillow is totally worth it if used properly because it takes the constantly increasing weight of the baby and reduces the amount of arm strength necessary and wrist use while nursing,” she says.

And it’s not just comfort that a nursing pillow provides, but confidence as well. “In my experience, especially with your first baby, a nursing pillow is definitely worth it,” adds Levine. “Once you find a comfortable position, confidence in your nursing and feeding skills will drastically increase.” That said, you have to make sure that your nursing pillow is always placed at the proper height,

A nursing pillow can make breastfeeding your baby more pleasant by having your baby at the right height. We have a hunch you’re going to love it, without having to hunch over your newborn and thus avoiding all those unpleasant back spasms.

Sources interviewed:

Jada Shapiro, certified lactation support counselor (CLSC) and founder of boober

Katie Clark, a certified lactation educator and breastfeeding specialist

Shoshanna Levine, IBCLC, a labor and delivery nurse and lactation counselor