What is a Nursing Pillow

As a mother, your priority is your baby's health and comfort, especially when feeding them. A fussy baby can quickly turn blissful moments into chaotic days and sleepless nights. One thing you can do to keep them from squirming too much is to use a nursing pillow as you breastfeed.

Nursing pillows are U- or C-shaped pillows that support your arm, letting you cradle your baby comfortably while breastfeeding. It helps you position your little one at the right height and angle for a comfortable and efficient latch. With breastfeeding rates dropping to 43% at six months, a nursing pillow can also offer comfort and convenience to help mothers like you continue this beneficial practice. (1)

Would you like to feed your baby better without the fuss? Read on to learn more about nursing pillows, their multiple benefits, and other considerations to turn feeding time into an unforgettable bonding moment.

A Brief History of Nursing Pillows

Believe it or not, nursing pillows aren't an entirely modern invention. Mothers across various cultures have used different support tools and methods for breastfeeding. Moms in some parts of Africa used slings or wrapped fabrics to hold their babies close, while others used cushions or pillows made from natural materials.

The contemporary breastfeeding pillow appeared sometime in the late 20th century. It's designed with improved ergonomics and ease of use and comes in many different colors, shapes, and sizes.

The Benefits of Using a Nursing Pillow

Whether or not you're a new mom, breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging tasks you'll do. But with a proper nursing pillow, you can experience the following benefits:

  • Improved comfort for mom

A breastfeeding pillow isn't only great for a baby but for their mom, too. One study revealed that breastfeeding mothers who used one had a significant decrease in maternal discomfort. The same study also suggests that the improvement in comfort may suppress the release of stress hormones and increase hormones that produce breast milk. (2)

With a breastfeeding pillow, you won't have to strain your back or neck. You'll also achieve better arm and shoulder positioning, relieving painful pressure points from unnatural angles.

  • Optimal positioning for baby
breast feeding positions

Nursing pillows can assist babies having trouble latching on and suckling by aligning their little bodies with their mothers' bodies. The support they provide lets your baby feed in a comfortable position, making feeding sessions less stressful.

When you're using a breastfeeding pillow, you may also notice improved digestion and reduced gas from your baby. They may experience less colic pain, which is usually the cause of constant crying and sleepless nights.

  • Versatility beyond breastfeeding

Think nursing pillows are only for breastfeeding? You'd be surprised to learn that they're multifunctional tools you can use for various tasks in your baby's first year, such as:

  • Propping for tummy time
  • Support for learning to sit
  • Comfort for bottle feeding
  • Support for parents during playtime

Just keep a constant eye on your baby while they're on or next to the nursing pillow. Safety amongst pillows is paramount, especially for infants under a year old.

Considering the Downsides

For the benefits breastfeeding pillows provide, it's also crucial to acknowledge their potential disadvantages. Here are a few things to note:

  • Over-reliance

The nursing pillow is meant to be an occasional aid, not a constant companion. You can't always bring it with you everywhere due to its size and bulkiness. So, if you're dependent on one, breastfeeding in public or other places may become challenging without it.

Practice breastfeeding while having a pillow behind you or using another comfortable position, such as lying on your side or reclining. Soon enough, your baby will also grow and learn how to support their own body, making it easier for you to carry them as they feed.

  • Positioning issues

Breastfeeding pillows aren't quick fixes to improper positioning, either. Even with one, you must pay attention to how you sit and cradle your baby while you feed them. If you're unsure of how to position yourself and your baby for breastfeeding properly, consult your healthcare provider for the correct techniques and practical advice.

  • Cost

High-quality nursing pillows may come at a steep price. If you're on a tight budget or are prioritizing other baby care essentials, they might be a significant investment. 

However, don't feel pressured to get the most expensive one. Do your research and find options that fit your budget and suit your needs. Otherwise, consider alternative methods like using rolled towels or blankets to add support to your baby's feeding sessions.

  • Potential for overheating and choking

Some nursing pillows, particularly those made with synthetic materials, may not be as breathable as others. This quality can lead to potential overheating for your baby, especially during warm weather or extended feeding sessions. You can avoid this by choosing breathable pillows and keeping an eye out for overheating symptoms like flushed skin and sweating. 

Also, avoid leaving your baby alone for too long with a breastfeeding pillow, no matter how safe it looks. Sadly, around 154 infant deaths involving nursing pillows were reported from 2010 to 2022. The shape may be the reason for this dreadful occurrence, as the curve of the pillow could block the baby's airways. (3)

Safety and Considerations

young woman is sitting on bed with a nursing pillow and her baby


Despite the drawbacks, nursing pillows are still fantastic to have and use from time to time. It all boils down to being aware of safety and other considerations when browsing for options. Keep these factors in mind:

  • Choosing the right pillow: Your nursing pillow should be the appropriate size for you and your baby. If it's too large, it could push your baby far from your body. On the other hand, if it's too small, it might not provide adequate support.
  • Cleaning and maintenance: Wash your breastfeeding pillow regularly, more so if it has spills or stains on it. It's best to have at least two different pillow covers so you can switch them when needed.
  • When to stop using: In time, you'll eventually have to stop using your nursing pillow. Babies aged four to six months old typically no longer need the support it provides as they can already sit up independently.
  • Potential dangers: Nursing pillows are generally safe when used as intended, but any wear and tear should be observed. Some pillows may have tiny beads or pellets that could leak out and potentially cause choking hazards.

Seek guidance from your healthcare provider or consider joining mom groups to find a nursing pillow most mothers trust for their babies.

When to Start Using a Nursing Pillow

Contrary to what you might believe, you can start using breastfeeding pillows even before your baby arrives. Here's how you should use one in every step:

  • Prenatally: While you're still pregnant, practice using your pillow, finding the perfect angle and position that's comfortable for you. Practicing helps you feel more confident about breastfeeding your baby once they're born.
  • Postpartum: Right after the delivery, you can start using the nursing pillow immediately. It could be a lifesaver, especially when giving birth has made you too tired to cradle your newborn baby.
  • Throughout the breastfeeding journey: As your baby grows, your breastfeeding positions may change, too. Adapt as needed to ensure you and your baby remain comfy throughout feeding sessions.

Even as your baby becomes more active and starts to sit up on their own, a nursing pillow can provide support and stability. It can also be a comforting and familiar object for your little one.

Materials and Fillings

Now that you have a better general understanding of nursing pillows, it's time to learn the types you'll encounter.

  • Common materials

Nursing pillows often incorporate baby-safe fabric like cotton, which is known for its softness and breathability. Polyester is another option great for pillows due to its durability and ease of cleaning.

Consider organic materials like bamboo fabric, too, if you're looking for an eco-friendly and hypoallergenic choice. But remember to consult your baby's pediatrician to check for potential allergic reactions to different materials.

  • Buckwheat hulls and millet hulls

While most breastfeeding pillows contain either organic or synthetic stuffing, more options now include buckwheat hulls or millet hulls. The latter fillings are also becoming increasingly popular among today's new moms due to their various benefits.  

Buy our natural buckwheat hull filled pillow that offers conformability, breathability, and temperature regulation, ideal for warmer seasons and locations. The fillings are made from 100% Japanese organic buckwheat hulls, which are safe for those with allergies. Nursing moms also prefer this material more due to their ability to reduce pain through proper muscle support. Seventy percent of respondents in one research even stated that they received good sleep after using a buckwheat mattress in this instance. (4)

On the other hand, check out our millet hull filled pillow if you're looking for a less noisy pillow. This material is great for mothers and babies who are light sleepers. Our millet hull filled pillows only use the highest-grade shells as fillings and have been UV-treated to eliminate bacteria. Both buckwheat and millet pillows use natural materials that are hypoallergenic and typically safe for mom and baby.

  • Other fillings

In addition to buckwheat and millet hulls, breastfeeding pillows can be filled with other materials. Memory foam is a popular option, known for its contouring and supportive properties.

Microbeads are another filling choice, offering a lightweight and moldable feel. However, they may not be as breathable as natural materials and can be more difficult to clean if the pillow develops a leak.

Other Factors to Consider

closeup image of a young woman holding here newborn baby on a nursing pillow

Aside from the notable physical aspects of a breastfeeding pillow, it's important to consider other factors.

  • Weighing the pros and cons

While nursing pillows offer many benefits, they may not be necessary for every breastfeeding mother. Some find that they can achieve a comfortable and effective breastfeeding position even without a pillow.

However, for many mothers, a nursing pillow could make a significant difference in their comfort and confidence during breastfeeding. It can help alleviate pain and strain, promote proper positioning, and provide a sense of security for both mother and baby.

  • Alternatives

In a pinch, you can use rolled towels or blankets to create a makeshift breastfeeding pillow. While less comfortable or supportive than a dedicated pillow, it can work in some situations.

Regular bed pillows or couch cushions could work well for you. Additionally, you can use a combination of pillows and blankets to create a customized support system. The key is finding what works best for you and your baby.

  • Listen to your body

Pay attention to how you feel during breastfeeding sessions. If you're experiencing discomfort or difficulty positioning your baby, a nursing pillow might help. But if you're feeling comfortable and successful without it, there's no need to change a thing.

Don't forget how your baby feels! A pillow might be comfy for you, but if your little one isn't up to it, you might have to consider their needs above your own. Try the alternatives mentioned or look for different options. Keep experimenting until you find a suitable fit.

  • Seeking professional help

As with anything involving infant care, feel free to consult lactation consultants or healthcare providers. They'll offer personalized guidance on breastfeeding and positioning techniques that work for you and your baby.

Remember, there's no shame in asking for help. Breastfeeding may be natural for some new moms, but for many, it's a learned skill. It's common to need some extra support and guidance along the way.

Do You Really Need a Nursing Pillow?

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use a nursing pillow or not is up to you. With the information presented in this guide, you now have the extra knowledge to choose. Consider the pros and cons, materials and fillings, and potential safety risks before you finally decide.

Once you're sure you want a nursing pillow, why not try out a buckwheat hull filled pillow? It's a comfy and hypoallergenic option, perfect for families with allergies or sensitivities. If the noise is holding you back, get a millet hull filled pillow instead. This option produces less noise and feels less heavy, too.

Breastfeeding is a rewarding journey, but it can also come with challenges. A nursing pillow can ease things for you and your little one. Find what works best for both of you.



  1. "Breastfeeding: Surgeon General's Call to Action Fact Sheet", Source: https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/reports-and-publications/breastfeeding/factsheet/index.html
  2. "The use of breastfeeding pillow to reduce discomfort for breastfeeding mothers", Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7463134/
  3. "CPSC advances first safety requirements for nursing pillows after dozens of deaths", Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nursing-pillow-rules-consumer-product-safety-commission-rcna103585
  4. "Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment of Buckwheat Husks as a Material for Use in Therapeutic Mattresses", Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7922527/
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