According to the US Surgeon General and the CDC, the number one reason parents don’t reach their self-determined lactation goals is lack of support. This includes structural societal support, family support, workplace support, health care provider support, community support and peer support.
The reality is that support is critical, not only in lactation but in all of parenting. But what does support – support that counts – look like?
Types of Lactation Support
There are many different types of meaningful nursing support that may help caregivers in reaching their goals. Some examples include:
- Consult an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) before Baby arrives
- Take a breastfeeding class for new parents
- Share your lactation goals with friends and family and discuss what their support would look like for you
- Meet with an IBCLC as early as possible after Baby is born to troubleshoot any difficulties
- Join an in-person and/or online support group
Most who breastfeed or chestfeed their babies will find they need physical support in doing so as well – particularly in those early days. Down to earth, practical, material support, support that is reliable, safe and comforting, support that meets them where they are and reduces stress and strain – we all could use that kind of support! One great physical support aid when nursing is a nursing pillow.
Choosing the Right Nursing Pillow
It may be tempting to choose the first nursing pillow that appears in your search engine results, the one you recognize from TikTok or even the one that matches your aesthetic. But your baby may very well spend hours every day in direct contact with your nursing pillow – and so may you! Researching an option that is made with healthier materials, doesn’t compromise on safety and is designed for convenience is well worth the effort.
As far as nursing pillows go, I cannot recommend the Naturepedic Organic Cotton/PLA Nursing Pillow enough. Certified non-toxic, size-inclusive and easy to clean, this pillow combines soft, breathable organic cotton with PLA batting made from non-GMO sugarcane – with a machine-washable, waterproof cover.
As a lactation educator, I can tell you that there is usually no one-size-fits-all option that is the one and only best nursing pillow for everyone. But if there were, it would be Naturepedic’s. It certainly checks all my boxes!
Other Factors to Consider for a Nursing Pillow
When it comes right down to it, only you can decide what is the best nursing pillow for you. Here is what I teach to keep in mind when looking for the best nursing support pillow for your lactation journey.
Your Body Shape and Size
Nursing support pillows often fit a very limited range of sizes. One option may be the most popular pillow … but does it fit your body well? Will it dip or crater, creating an uneven surface as it is adjusted to fit? Will it fit closely and comfortably, allowing for optimal posture and comfort for you and Baby? Will the pillow press against a surgical site? Will it accommodate your changing body through the postpartum period?
Type of Breast Tissue
Mammary glands come in all shapes and sizes, just like bodies. If your breasts are lower, you may want a pillow that doesn’t lift your baby too high. Or, you may actually want an option that supports your baby well and high enough that you will have at least one free hand if not two to help you support your breast. This may take some trial and error to figure out.
Pro tip: If your breast tissue is voluminous, dense or pendulous, you may find that a lightweight swaddling cloth rolled up and tucked under the breast may lift you for easier visibility when latching Baby and optimal positioning of Baby at the breast.
If you have a long torso, chances are you’ll want a pillow with more loft. If you have a shorter torso, you may prefer a pillow that’s a little more flat. Of course, this may depend on the above considerations as well along with the seating surface you’re most likely to use.
Using a variety of nursing positions, particularly when starting out, is recommended to prevent certain lactation complications, to fully empty the breast and to find the position that is most comfortable and works best for you and your baby. This can also prevent sore nipples, strained backs and necks, and reduce fatigue.
Some pillows can actually limit the positions you can try with them. Being able to use your pillow in the classic cradle or cross-cradle positions as well as the popular football hold, laid back feeding position, and side-lying position will allow for regular diversity in nursing positions with proper posture. (No hunching over Baby or leaning forward to bring the nipple to baby’s mouth – we want support that brings Baby to the breast.)
If the seating surface you plan to use the most (be sure it is comfortable for you!) is very soft, your hips may sink and a lofty pillow may position your baby too high. On the other hand, if your seating surface is firm, a low loft pillow may lead to the baby being too low. This can also lead to nipple damage.
Look for a pillow that makes sense with the seating options you’re most likely to use most often: your bed, the comfortable chair in your room or the baby’s room, or whatever seat is your favorite in the general family space.
Your Values and Health Priorities
Aside from their crib mattress, your baby is likely to spend more time on their nursing support pillow than just about any other place for the first 6-12 weeks of their life.
If it is important to you that your baby spends that time on a safer, healthier surface, or if you’re dedicated to sustainable parenting, then you want to be sure your nursing support pillow fits that bill. Look for MADE SAFE®, GREENGUARD® Gold and U/L Formaldehyde Free certifications/validations.
Support that counts, support that really makes a difference, is reliable, safe and comforting. It meets people where they are and reduces stress and strain, fitting their needs and the realities of their lives. True support listens to those it is supporting. Everyone deserves that kind of support – over the long haul and for those big goals and in the everyday, moment-by-moment, smaller goals, too.
You shouldn’t miss out on your lactation goals because of a lack of support. And that starts with your nursing pillow. Read my full review of Naturepedic’s Organic Cotton/PLA Nursing Pillow here!