All About Baby Nursing Pillows
Is a baby nursing pillow really necessary?
Of course not. However, neither are strollers, jump-ups, exer-saucers or swings but most of us think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on those items, many of which have a very short useful life.
The truth of the matter is that you will end up breastfeeding for a good portion of your waking hours in the early weeks and months. If you are not physically comfortable supporting your baby when you breastfeed you are likely to experience carpal tunnel and/or other wrist strain, shoulder and/or neck strain, or upper and/or lower back pain. Even worse, if you are not paying rapt attention to the position in which you are supporting your baby, you are may experience nipple pain from the baby being too high or too low.
One common reason that women discontinue breastfeeding or begin supplementing with formula is physical strain and discomfort. Knowing the benefits and joys of continued breastfeeding, wouldn’t you want a simple aid to make you as successful as possible?
Feeding your baby on an angle is important so why are all other baby nursing pillows flat?
If you are not supporting your baby in a position that facilitates proper digestion your baby may experience gas or reflux that could contribute to colic. You may fairly easily get a throw pillow underneath your arm that supports the baby on an angle. However, you need to be very careful that your baby’s spine is completely straight. Imagine a garden hose with even the slightest kink in it. Water does not travel through the hose with the same ease or speed. It’s the same with your baby’s throat and esophagus.
Your baby may not seem to mind or even spit-up if you feed him lying flat. Your baby can’t tell you what the most comfortable position is. In fact often times babies with reflux don’t spit up.
Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.
First, swallow liquid sitting up with your spine completely straight. Now tilt your head slightly to the side and take another swallow. It requires more effort to swallow and you are more likely to take in air when your head is tilted even the slightest bit.
Second, odds are if you are reading this then you have been pregnant. Think back to your third trimester. You probably experienced reflux at least once. In what position were you most comfortable? Would you even dream of swallowing liquid while lying down? I wouldn’t, and I am an adult with a fully developed lower esophagus valve.
One thing we do know is that 40-60% of all newborns experience reflux to some extent in the early weeks and months because they do not have fully developed lower esophagus valves. So why would you want your baby to breastfeed in the same position in which you yourself would not want to swallow liquid?
What should you look for in a baby nursing pillow?
Everyone seems to have a difference of opinion but here are some things you should consider:
Companies seem to think there is one proper height to baby nursing pillows. That can’t possibly be true since no two women are built alike. The correct height for a baby nursing pillow is dependent on the length of a woman’s torso, the size of her breasts, the length of her arms and the size of her baby’s head. To further complicate things, your baby’s head will constantly grow and your breasts will constantly change size. You want a baby nursing pillow that you can easily adjust as often as needed.
Every baby nursing pillow claims to be ergonomic. A baby nursing pillow that requires you to support your baby’s weight, even though it supports you while you are doing that, is NOT ergonomic. A baby nursing pillow that is not the right height and thereby causes you to slouch down is NOT ergonomic. A nursing feeding pillow that supports your baby’s weight at the correct height, thereby allowing you to comfortably sit up straight alleviates the physical stressors involved with breastfeeding and IS ergonomic.
A baby nursing pillow should be easy to use and work in a variety of positions. Beware of any baby nursing pillow that comes with a videotape of instructions. Additionally, straps, buckles, Velcro and arms can be very cumbersome to fiddle with while you are trying to breastfeed a baby. They also mean that a baby nursing pillow is meant to be used in one position only. You and your baby will likely find new breastfeeding positions as you become more familiar with breastfeeding.
An inflexible baby nursing pillow will not support that. You also want to be sure that your baby nursing pillow fits in any chair you decide to use. Many of them have arms that are too wide or back supports that will dig into your back when you lean back in the chair. And once you are done breastfeeding, you want to easily remove the pillow while you are holding your baby.
Many doctors are now beginning to attribute colic to undiagnosed reflux and/or improper digestion. Feeding your baby in the angle that best facilitates digestion is critical to your baby’s comfort and possibly to your sanity.
Look for a baby nursing pillow that has an inner waterproof cover and a removable, washable outer cover. If you wash an outer cover but allow spit-up or urine to enter the pillow itself you are inviting bacteria to breed. Anytime you wash a fiberfill pillow you want to be 100% sure that it is completely dry inside or you are inviting mold.
Look for a pillow that grows with your baby. You may not need a nursing pillow to take you into toddlerhood but you will certainly want one big enough for a 3 month old. Many popular baby feeding pillows today are very narrow, despite their bulk. In addition, a fiberfill pillow will bunch or sag over time and use and will further deteriorate with washings. Look for a pillow that will remain in good condition and last through breastfeeding several babies to make it an especially good value.
The very best baby nursing pillow is not a pillow at all. It is a firm foam wedge that meets all of the above criteria.
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