When Should I Stop Using My Nursing Pillow?

Updated
Is it time to finally throw in the pillow?

Are you a new, breastfeeding mom? We often hear “breast is best,” but who knew it could be such hard work?

I, for one, did not know there was such a thing as “breastfeeding technique” before my first child. No wonder I initially struggled with breastfeeding.

Having a nursing pillow was a huge help, but, after a while, I started wondering – will I have to use this forever? Using a nursing pillow is also a personal choice, and not a requirement for a good breastfeeding technique. Some moms may find a variety of other nursing positions to be more effective and comfortable (1).

Let’s explore when you can stop using the nursing pillow, and what to do with it once you’re done nursing with it!


When To Stop Using Your Pillow

Unlike with car seats, there are no hard and fast rules as to when to stop using the nursing pillow. It is a matter of personal preference and comfort.

Here are some things to consider:

1. How Big Is My Nursling?

As your child grows, your need for the nursing pillow will likely lessen. In the early newborn days, I felt the need to have mine with me when I nursed; it felt less comfortable when I didn’t.

As your baby grows, gains the ability to hold their head up independently and control their movement, you may find the pillow unnecessary.

Keep in mind though, even when your child doesn’t need it, some babies might prefer nursing this way simply because they’re accustomed to it (2).

2. What Is My Body Type?

While there are no specific sizes for nursing pillows, they are not “one size fits all”. Although a pillow works well for your BFF’s body, it may not work as well for you.

There isn’t a standardized size chart for nursing pillows. But we’ve gathered some things which impact the fit of the pillow, and how long you may need its additional support:

  • If you’re a tall mom: You’ll want a larger pillow to lift the baby higher and closer to your nipple. With your height, you may need the support more than a shorter woman who can rest parts of baby on her lap. This need will also lessen as baby grows and can sit up more.
  • If you’re a small mom: Try pillows of different heights. You’ll find pillows designed for average height women may lift your baby too high, especially as he or she gets bigger.
  • If you are thicker through your midsection: Pillows with belts and smaller openings may be less comfortable. They may also be more difficult for you to put on, especially in the early newborn stages while you are rarely hands-free.

Some of these situations will change as your body changes post-partum, and as your baby grows.

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3. Is It Helping Or Hurting?

Your baby and body are constantly changing during this time, so it is a good idea to re-evaluate the fit of your pillow periodically.

Don’t just go into nursing on auto-pilot. Assess your posture, how your body feels, and your baby’s latch to ensure your nursing pillow is providing proper support. You don’t want your pillow encouraging poor nursing form. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a checklist to help moms determine if they are using a successful breastfeeding technique (3).

If the pillow is not suited to your body or baby, it could cause you to position your body awkwardly, leading to latching issues (and sore, cracked nipples, which nobody wants).

In addition to these tips, you might find it helpful to review this guide for buying a nursing pillow from BabyCenter:

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Other Uses For Your Nursing Pillow

When it’s time to stop using the nursing pillow, you don’t have to feel like it’s “goodbye” forever. The nursing pillow can support you in other ways as you enjoy the days with your little one.

Here are some ways I’ve used mine with my kids as they grew:

  • To prop you up in bed: I often used the nursing pillow behind my back as an extra support cushion to keep me upright (especially on softer surfaces like the bed). If you’re recovering from a vaginal delivery and find sitting a bit painful, the hole in the pillow provides relief from pressure while sitting.
  • For snuggle support: Anyone who has ever been couch-bound under a sleeping baby can attest that as cute as they are, your arm muscles do get quite the workout holding a baby for an extended period. Using a nursing pillow under your arms can support your arm so can you enjoy the snuggle, not the muscle pains. My kids also loved holding their new baby sibling independently with the nursing pillow for support (with adult supervision of course).
  • For tummy time: Once your baby is old enough to hold their head up, you can place them on their tummy on the curve of the nursing pillow, and drape their arms over the front of it. This gives them more mobility compared to regular tummy time, as they can play with toys in front of them. Although 2 to 3 month olds are able to lift their heads up for short periods, they easily become tired. Most 4 to 6 months old have more stamina, and the use of the nursing pillow for tummy time is better tolerated (source). Once your infant is making attempts to creep or crawl, there is no need to use this pillow.
  • For back laying: The curved pillow can provide a snugly little nest for baby to lie in. The hole cradles their lower back and tushie, while the pillow provides support for their upper back and neck. Plus, they can look at the world around them!

    Take Note

    This is only recommended for periods when your baby is awake. Nursing pillows are not safe for sleeping (4).
  • For supported sitting: This was my son’s favorite item as he was learning to sit up, and gaining core strength and stability. I would simply place him in the hole of the nursing pillow. Then, wrap it around his back, to provide support and extra cushioning for if (when) he fell over.

It’s Okay To Let Go

Maybe you’ve grown tired of dragging your nursing pillow around with you everywhere. As your baby grows, there will be signs you two may be ready to stop relying on the pillow.

Reevaluate every couple months as your body changes and your baby grows, keeping in mind the following:

  • How big is baby?
  • What is my body type, and what support do I need?
  • How does breastfeeding feel?

If you’ve decided to let go after reading this, you can now move to using the pillow in other creative ways with your baby!

Have you found any other ways to use your nursing pillow outside the ways we mentioned? I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below!

Headshot of Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Reviewed by

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Leah Alexander, M.D. FAAP is board certified in General Pediatrics and began practicing pediatrics at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey in 2000. She has been an independently contracted pediatrician with Medical Doctors Associates at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey since 2005. Outside of the field of medicine, she has an interest in culinary arts.
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