Are you a new, breastfeeding mom? We often hear “breast is best,” but who knew it could be such hard work?
Having a nursing pillow can be a huge help, but after a while, you might start wondering – will I have to use this forever?
Let’s explore when you can stop using the nursing pillow and what to do with it once you no longer need it for nursing.
- Using a nursing pillow is a personal choice and not a requirement for good breastfeeding technique.
- The need for a nursing pillow may decrease as the baby grows and gains the ability to hold their head up independently and control their movement.
- The fit of the pillow should be reevaluated periodically as the baby and postpartum body change.
- Nursing pillows can still be used for other purposes after breastfeeding, such as propping up in bed or providing support for baby when sitting.
When To Stop Using Your Pillow
Using a nursing pillow is a personal choice and not a requirement for good breastfeeding technique. Some moms may find a variety of other nursing positions to be more effective and comfortable (1). 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 decrease. In the early newborn days, when your baby is tiny, the nursing pillow is useful for positioning your baby high enough to reach your breast, lessening the strain on your supporting arm.
As your baby grows and 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 little one no longer needs it, some babies might prefer nursing this way simply because they’re accustomed to it.
2. What Is My Body Type?
While there are no specific sizes for nursing pillows, they are not “one size fits all.” Although one brand may work well for your BFF’s body, it may not work as well for you.
We’ve gathered a list of some things that may 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 her baby on her lap. This need will also lessen as your baby grows and can sit up more.
- If you’re a small mom: Try pillows of different heights. You may find that thicker pillows lift your baby too high, especially as they get 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 postpartum body changes and your baby grows.
3. Is It Helping or Hurting?
Your baby and body are constantly changing during this time, so it’s a good idea to reevaluate your pillow’s fit 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 (2).
If the pillow is not suited to your body or baby, it could cause you to position your body awkwardly. This could lead to latching issues (and sore, cracked nipples when breastfeeding, which nobody wants).
In addition to these tips, you might find it helpful to review this guide for buying a nursing pillow:
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 gone forever. The nursing pillow can support you in other ways as you enjoy the days with your little one.
Here are some ways we’ve used ours with our 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 you can 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 babies who are 2 to 3 months old can lift their heads for short periods, they can easily become tired. Most 4-to-6-month-olds have more stamina, and using the nursing pillow for tummy time is better tolerated. 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 snug little nest for your baby to lie in. The hole cradles their lower back and bum, while the pillow supports their upper back and neck. Plus, they can look at the world around them!
Take NoteThis is only recommended for periods when your baby is awake. Nursing pillows are not a safe sleeping space (3).
- For supported sitting: This was my son’s favorite item as he was learning to sit up and was 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 of months as your body changes and your baby grows, keeping in mind the following:
- How big is your 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!