On my list of things to buy before my baby was born, the feeding pillow was nowhere to be seen. In hindsight, it should have been an essential item.
I had always planned to breastfeed my son. I won’t get into a debate about breast over the bottle, or any of the other polarising arguments that surround this topic. One of my primary reasons was the simplicity; no waking in the middle of the night to makeup and cool a bottle, less washing and sterilising of all the accoutrements, which makes for more sleep for Mama. Other reasons include the bonding times and the belief that I was doing the right thing for my child (he’s healthy).
I knew, going in, that starting the breastfeeding process would be difficult. We don’t live in a country with good maternity leave (and nothing for the self-employed freelancer), there are still many doctors and nurses pushing formula feeding (have a look at my series about the first 5 days after birth). I had a caesarian section at birth, out of choice and circumstances, and I knew that I would need to persevere until my milk came through.
Obstacles: not just my own inexperience
We struggled but persisted. The obstacles were as follows:
- The last months of my pregnancy had hurt my back (badly)
- A very sore incision site
- A recurring issue in my right shoulder
- I had to sleep upright or on my back for the first two days (see point one)
- Nurses gave my baby a pipila (that’s dummy or pacifier if you aren’t Greek speaking)
- One nurse kept insisting that I would need formula.
Baby and I had all the usual issues, like struggling to find the right feeding position, the right way to get him to latch, etc. However, I was also in a lot of pain for which I couldn’t take the stronger drugs because, hey, breastfeeding.
Even after I went home and was far more relaxed, my milk came in properly, and I could sit in a proper chair (with arms and back support and a strategically placed cushion), but I was still hurting. While I was hurting, my baby could feel my tension and would stop feeding to cry. I knew how he felt; I wanted to wail too.
The feeding pillow saved my breastfeeding journey
When my parents arrived, nine days after the boy entered the world, I was almost ready to quit. Both of my shoulders were tight with knots the size of golf balls lodged under my shoulder blades. The strategically placed cushions weren’t cutting it. Every feed was a battle, my incision site was sore from having a four-kilo baby resting on my sagging belly, I was a mess.
After only a day seeing me struggle, my parents went out for the day (it was a holiday for them as well as meeting their first grandchild). That evening they came home with a plethora of baby-related things (they had also been to Protaras and been unimpressed). The best and most amazing thing they brought with them was The Feeding Pillow.
Yes, it deserves the capitals!
Regardless of the temperature (July baby, in Cyprus, it was HOT), that feeding pillow was around my waist at every feed. I could still cuddle and bond with my baby boy, and I could feed him without straining my shoulders or my back.
Why would you need one?
Try holding a three or four-kilo baby in the crook of one arm for half an hour or forty-five minutes – that doesn’t sound too hard, does it?
Now, maintain the same position and use your other hand to either give a bottle or hold your breast in the precise way that baby wants it – is that a bit harder? You can already feel the pull in the back of your shoulders, can’t you?
And, do that every 3-4 hours (or more if you’re feeding on demand or a growth spurt means they’re cluster -feeding) – that’s a lot of time spent holding the baby in one position, with muscles cramping and spasming.
There’s more. The baby gets a lot bigger and heavier over the next six months.
Add to this feeding timetable the time spent walking around holding them, maybe they won’t fall asleep without movement or they want you to soothe and bounce them. That same arm that holds them while feeding gets to do a lot of work in the rocking and bouncing stakes.
Maybe you had a c-section as I did. Having the weight of a baby on tender and painful tissues that surgeons cut and prised apart, to allow for the birth of baby bub, is unpleasant.
Maybe you’ve had (or will have) a baby at the height of summer (in a hot/tropical) country – yes, some of us didn’t think about this in advance. You want to cuddle and bond with your baby, but you are so hot that you can’t bear to hold them for longer than absolutely necessary.
Hey, maybe you have twins and they both want to feed at once…
How the feeding pillow helps
It’s horseshoe-shaped and fits around the front of your waist* and rests on the top of your thighs.
Essentially, it creates a platform that is approximately the right height for most of your baby’s weight to rest there and you can comfortably feed them without having to support any more than their head (and gentle any kicking feet).
There are several on the market in different sizes, appropriate materials and stuffing levels (from soft and squishy to rather firm). Try a couple out before you buy. Different heights and body shapes may require a different size. If you are tall and get quite a small one, it probably won’t lift the baby high enough to prevent you from having to support all of its weight while breastfeeding. Conversely, if you’re tiny and get one that is too big and firm, the baby will aim for your collarbone instead of a nipple.
*C-section ladies, it completely blocks the delicate and sore area.
Why I recommend a feeding pillow to any new mother
The feeding pillow, that my wonderful parents brought for me, saved my breastfeeding journey. I was all set to quit breastfeeding, pump for the next 5 months and give feeding duties to Dad, just to give my battered body some respite.
Even throughout a long, scorching summer (born at the beginning of July), I spent a lot of time holding and bonding with my baby boy, without both of us becoming unpleasantly sticky and too hot. I could spend as much time as I wanted, holding, cuddling and just watching him sleep in my arms (I dare 75% of first-time mothers to deny that they wanted to do the same).
My incision site got a little infected and remained sore for a long time, I couldn’t stand any weight in that area. Hello, feeding pillow!
In the end, I breastfed for twenty months. I went from wanting to quit at seven days, to continuing a breastfeeding journey that went beyond a year, and that wonderful pillow made it possible.
At eighteen months, my baby boy was over 11 kilos (go back and try the exercise at the top with eleven kilos)
And There’s More
Do you know they can double up as a semi-support for just sitting babies? It doesn’t hold them up, but it acts as a buffer for sitting babies that haven’t quite got the strength to stay upright while reaching for toys and waving their arms about.
Has your paediatrician advised you to practice “tummy-time”? Yes, the baby boy liked it far better when he had the feeding pillow under him.
***I have no affiliation with any manufacturer of feeding pillows. I just think they are AMAZING***