The Best Nursing Pillows Review
Which nursing pillow is best for you and your baby? To find out, we tested eight of the top brands and models with babies ranging in ages from six weeks to six months, seven to 14 pounds, and wiggly to restful while feeding. After putting each product through a range of tests to determine quality, stability, and functionality we are confident we have determined which products truly optimize the comfort for both mom and baby while nursing. We at BabyGearLab have been working diligently to provide both new and seasoned nursing mothers with comparative product information to help them in finding the right nursing aids for their lifestyle and needs as well as articles to guide them through the involved process.
Read the full review below >
Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Nursing Pillow
Blessed Nest Organic Nesting
Read review: Blessed Nest Organic Nesting
Best Bang for the Buck
Boppy Two-Sided Nursing
Read review: Boppy Two-sided Nursing
Analysis and Test Results
With nearly 75% of mothers nursing their baby for some period of time, the number of breastfeeding products including nursing pillows, breast pads, nipple salve, breast pumps have also increased. The process of nursing a new baby can be both beautiful and difficult so the job of a nursing pillow is to provide the best support with the least amount of effort so you can focus 100% on baby. What seems like a simple accessory to register for as a new mother is actually a bit more complicated once you realize the vast array of options available on the market. In this review, we have tried to break down major differences between popular products in order to help you choose the best for you and your baby.
A woman's body will go through dramatic metamorphosis throughout both pregnancy and postpartum. The various forms in which nursing pillows are available in can be helpful to suit particular body types. The following are the the pillow shapes that we evaluated in this review:
- Crescent Roll — Blessed Nest Organic Nesting (above left), Luna Lullaby Bosom Baby (above center), Dr Brown's Gia (above right)
- O-Shaped — Wrapping around the entire body like the letter "O", My Brest Friend Original (below left), My Brest Friend Deluxe (below right). The My Brest Friend O-design has the advantage of wrapping around the entire waist with cushioned back support and an adjustable waist-belt for a snug fit.
- C-Shaped — Both the Boppy Original and the Leachco Cuddle-U Original are traditional, classic wrap-around C-shaped nursing pillows. Boppy has debuted its newest gem, the Boppy Two-Sided (below center) specifically for nursing with a plush, firm side for newborns and a cushy side for older babies. Like the My Brest Friend brand, it also includes an adjustable belt but does not have additional lower back support.
A few nursing pillows on the market offer either a buckle like the My Brest Friend Original (below left) or velcro strap system like the My Brest Friend Deluxe (below center) to help get a secure fit of the nursing pillow around the waist. Others pillows offer a more no-frills, simplistic approach which are designed to wrap around the front and either one or both sides of the body. The Leachco Cuddle-U (below right) wraps offers support to both sides for dual arm support.
The materials for both the pillow itself and the cover can make a big difference its overall quality, feel, and experience. The pillows in our review range from 100% synthetic, 100% cotton, synthetic-cotton blend, foam, and natural materials like buckwheat hulls and organic cotton. Each fabric type has its pros and cons and it truly comes down to personal preference and lifestyle.
For example, the Editors' Choice Blessed Nest Organic Nesting is an all-natural pillow featuring an organic cotton slipcover and pillow fabric with an internal filling of organic, pesticide-free buckwheat hulls. Although this gem costs double the other pillows in our review, some may feel its worth the added peace of mind that all natural materials offer. However, the Blessed Nest cover doesn't even compare to the snuggly softness that polyester synthetic covers offer as with the Luna Lullaby. In addition, many nursing pillows utilize foam internally to provide firm support so necessary for early infancy such as with the My Brest Friend Original pictured here (below right). Fortunately, My Brest Friend has removed the use of flame retardants in their foam in more recent years. And, according to the Boppy website, they have never used flame retardants.
Criteria for Evaluation
In testing these eight popular and highly-rated nursing pillows, our focus was upon the following four categories: Nursing Support and Comfort, Ease of Use, Materials, and Ease of Cleaning. As such, we put these pillows through day-to-day, hands-on, comparative use during it all: feeding, spit-ups, spills, cleaning, stuffing and reconstructing after cleaning. Throughout, we kept a laser-eye on materials and construction quality and ultimately came to a very good conclusion of which nursing pillows stand out from the rest.
Nursing Support and Comfort
Proper technique and great support at the beginning of a breastfeeding relationship can truly make a big difference in early nursing success between a mother and her infant. A good latch is the key to efficient and easy breastfeeding and if nipple integrity and comfort are compromised, things can cascade into a downward spiral quickly.
- For Mom — Dual arm support, lumbar support, snug fit, foot support. Baby's mouth needs to be at the level of mother's breast. Mom should not be bending over.
- For Baby — Head, neck, and body/back support with baby's nose and mouth positioned level to and facing mother's nipple. Baby will need to lead with its chin and open mouth widely to initiate a nice good latch.
Whether using a nursing pillow from the get-go in the hospital bed or at home on the couch, the extra can feel like a godsend to a mama's neck, shoulders, and lower back. While nursing, most of the time you will not be lounging in an expensive glider, but rather feeding where you and baby happen to be. So, for mom, arm support is critical.
When scoring, pillows that provided adequate arm rest on each side as well a space for mom's arms to cradle baby while feeding scored higher. My Brest Friend Deluxe (lower left) earned a 9 of 10 with a wrap-around design which provides both lumbar support and arm rests, an adjustable belt for a snug fit, and a nice firm surface for baby. The pillows that wrap around only part of the body tended to score lower in this category with one exception: the Blessed Nest Organic Nesting (lower center). This crescent-shaped pillow is so malleable that we found it very supportive and comfortable for both baby and mom. In contrast, one of the lowest scoring pillows with a 3 of 10, the Luna Lullaby Bosom Baby (lower right), has a long, firm crescent shape that fails to provide mother with neither dual arm or back support nor a snug fit resulting in her neck, shoulders, back, and arms to take up the slack.
Nursing pillows can also play a hugely helpful role early on in providing small infants with a much needed boost in height so that baby's head and mouth are at just the right position and angle for efficient and comfortable feeding. They also help maintain appropriate positioning for baby's body during feeding. Early on, keeping baby's head and bottom horizontal to each other is important. As baby grows older and stronger, a pillow also needs to be sturdy enough to support more movement during feeding.
Ease of Use
Ease of use comprises 20% of overall score. Nursing pillow use should be easy and not something else a new mother has to worry about mastering. In order to score each pillow's ease of use, we tested them in a variety of locations around the house and at all different times of the day, morning and middle of the night. Since baby's hunger typically dictates nursing location, mom will need to breastfeed baby in a multitude of locations. As such, it was important to us that a pillow was easily portable from room-to-room and easy to store. Extra features that make mom's job easier such as storage pockets for nursing items like burp cloths and nipple salve also bumped up scores. Ease of positioning and removing a pillow was also important in particular when it comes to securing straps. Unfortunately, we found that a strap's buckle(s) as with the Boppy Two-sided Nursing (below left) actually make a pillow more difficult and cumbersome in entry and exit, especially during nighttime feedings. Lastly, we considered how each pillow fit during different stages of the postpartum body and across women of varied body-shapes. The Boppy Original excelled in this metric with a score of 9 of 10. Even though simple in design without bells and whistles, we found it very portable in both size and weight, easy to place one-handed, and to fit most women equally well.
When taking a deep dive into materials, we considered three details: eco-health, quality, and shape retention. The pillow that blew the others away in terms of being friendly both ecologically and to health is the Blessed Nest Organic Nesting pillow. Its fill is 100% organic, pesticide-free buckwheat fill and the cover is 100% organic cotton. What blew us away is that it earned top score in support and comfort as well. At the other extreme, pillows that were synthetically based with polyester fibers and foam scored toward the bottom such as Luna Lullaby and My Brest Friend Deluxe.
In terms of quality, we focused on overall texture and feel of the material for both mom and baby, as well as the integrity of seams, stitching, and accessories like storage pockets, belts and velcro. We also focused a keen eye upon shape retention throughout continual use over four months with babies of various sizes and after a total of five washings each (following each manufacturer's instructions). As such, we were disappointed when the seams of the Leacho Cuddle-U began to tear. However, the cover of the My Breast Friend Deluxe was plush and the most well-made and durable of the bunch.
Ease of Cleaning
Although ease of cleaning received 5% of overall score, we felt it important to focus upon because they will indeed need cleaning and this is time you will be spending on this task. Our top performers with a 9 of 10 were the Boppy Original and Blessed Nest pillows with the Dr. Brown's Gia scoring a close 8 of 10.
Each pillow went through a spill test where we dropped a teaspoon of water on its cover to see if it repelled or soaked it up. A cover that readily absorbs liquid will entail more frequent washing. Some pillows were a cinch to launder as both the cover and pillow could be machine-washed and machine-dried (Boppy Original and Dr Brown's Gia). As such, this was a huge time-saver. We also timed how long it takes to re-cover and reconstruct each pillow after a full washing to get it back to its original, most supportive shape. Although this task sounds quite simple, it took us over ten minutes to put some pillows back together again correctly.
One of the beautiful things about becoming a mother is that it is an unpredictable ride, one in which you learn so much along the way. Babies teach us about true unconditional love. You may end up nursing for a shorter time than planned or you might nurse longer than you imagined possible, or maybe you never nurse where you imagined yourself bonding the most with your baby. No matter what holds true for you and your baby as you nurse, one thing remains true: you will need all the support you can receive and a nursing pillow is just the product to provide it. The variety available makes shopping and registering for one more fun than ever and we hope we helped introduce you to the options and provide you with the best feedback on each product to help you choose the product that will best suit your needs.
— Meg Benedik and Juliet Spurrier, MD
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.
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