In a Nutshell:

  • Pregnancy/nursing pillows aren’t necessary, but many new parents find them very helpful for things like arm relief and comfort, plus belly and back support during pregnancy.

  • For a healthy and non-toxic nursing pillow, you’ll want to look for natural materials like organic cotton, latex, and wool.

  • Pregnancy & nursing pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you’ll want to consider your own personal preferences when shoping.

If you’re looking for the best non-toxic and organic pregnancy and nursing pillows, check out this guide.

But if you’re still undecided about whether or not buying a nursing pillow will actually be worth and what you should look for while you’re shopping, then keep reading!

I hope this guide will help make your shopping (and nursing!) experience a little easier.

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.

Featured Image Credit: Naturepedic

Are Nursing Pillows Really Necessary?

You can definitely rig standard pillows for use during pregnancy and for breastfeeding, but body pillows and u-shaped pillows can have a lot of great benefits when it comes to belly, back, and baby support.

Here are the main reasons you may want to use special maternity and nursing pillows:

1. Belly Support During Pregnancy

As your belly grows, you may find it helpful to put a pillow underneath it as you sleep to relieve some of the weight and pressure. This can not only be more comfortable but can also help to keep things in alignment for a more restful and restorative sleep.

2. Spinal / Body Alignment During Pregnancy

Of course, you might want to give some of your other body parts some extra support as well:

  • Putting a pillow in between your legs can help keep your hips and spine aligned and provide some relief for your lower back and pubic bone.
  • Putting a pillow underneath your feet can help relieve swollen ankles.

These things can help minimize the pressure of carrying your baby, help maintain proper circulation, and generally help you get better sleep and feel less exhausted during pregnancy.

3. Acid Reflux

Since many soon-to-be-moms experience acid reflux and morning sickness, a wedge pillow underneath the head and upper back can help decrease this discomfort.

4. Arm Relief and Comfortable Nursing Position

After your baby is born, a nursing pillow that wraps around your waist and holds your baby up can provide a relaxing and comfortable position for both you and your little one. You don’t have to hold your baby with your arms the whole time you’re feeding (whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding), and your baby will be comfortable as their whole head and body are supported and aligned by the pillow.

And any moms with twins know how crucial a good nursing pillow is for two-sided nursing!

5. Baby Bumper & Support

A quality body pillow improves spine alignment and provides pressure relief for the lower back and hips. Depending on its shape, it can support your belly, your back, or both. It can improve circulation, relieve heartburn, and ease leg cramps.

butterr nursing pillow - are they worth it?
Image: Butterr

Which Materials Are Best for Pregnancy & Nursing Pillows?

When considering the materials used for your nursing pillow, you’ll mainly want to consider the outer and inner materials.

The outer material includes the outer layer of the pillow itself and any covers and finishes—this is the part that will be right next to your and/or your baby’s face and body.

The inner material includes the filling/stuffing. It’s the part that makes the pillow firm or fluffy and is what most of the pillow is made of.

Here are the main materials you’ll want to look for as you shop for organic pillows for you and your babe:

1. Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is what most of the brands below use both for the outer layer of the pillow itself as well as the removable cover. Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic pesticides, which is better for overall environmental and human health.

Organic cotton is durable and easily machine washable. Some of the brands below have designed their organic cotton covers with a super-tight weave, which provides a certain amount of water resistance without adding any toxic PFAS chemicals.

2. Wool

Wool is a common natural material you’ll find for the inner stuffing of nursing and pregnancy pillows.

Compared to cotton fill, wool is springier and fluffier. It is naturally resistant to flames, mold, and dust mites. It’s also very breathable and allows proper airflow for the baby’s safety.

A Note About the Smell of Wool

Be aware that many of the organic brands listed below use wool that’s only been minimally processed without any harsh chemicals. For that reason, organic wool pillows may come with a certain “sheep-y” smell that may be bothersome for some individuals.

According to Holy Lamb Organics, this is because “the wool retains 1% of the naturally occurring lanolin oil, which helps condition the fibers and keep them fluffy and soft for years to come.” Most of the time, this wool smell fades after a couple of weeks. But if you are very sensitive to smells and/or just don’t like that kind of smell, you might want to go with a different material.

3. Kapok

Kapok is a plant-based fiber that is kind of similar to cotton in texture: fluffy and cloud-like. It’s a silky fiber that surrounds the seeds of kapok trees, which are mostly found in tropical regions.

Not only is it a vegan alternative to wool, but it can also be harvested without hurting the trees at all. (The process actually helps to spread the seed, leading to forest regeneration.)

4. Buckwheat

Buckwheat hulls are another plant-based, vegan option for pillow filling. The hulls are actually the outer shell of the buckwheat grain, but they are too hard to be eaten by humans or animals, so they’re kind of considered a “waste” product.

Buckwheat hulls are less soft than cotton, wool, or kapok. When put inside a pillow, it’s closer to how sand might feel—it conforms to your body while being firm and supportive. Buckwheat filling also makes for a heavier pillow compared to the other materials. It also will hold its shape and won’t need to be “re-fluffed” the way cotton, wool, and kapok will.

5. Latex

Natural latex is a great alternative to polyurethane (PU) foam cushions, which are not only unsustainable from an environmental perspective (they are a fossil fuel product and are not biodegradable at all) but are not healthy for mama or baby either.

Over time, PU foams can “off-gas” known toxins such as benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde. (If you want to dive deeper into the problems with synthetic foams, you can do so in our sofa guide.)

Latex, which is a plant-based material made from rubber trees, has a similar feel to PU foam. It’s a bit bouncy and will form your body but is still firm enough to provide great support. (This is why many non-toxic and organic mattresses also use latex.)

Latex is a vegan material but is obviously not suitable for those with latex allergies or sensitivities.

With the other filling materials listed above, you can usually remove or add some of the fillings to the pillow to make it more or less firm or flexible, based on your preference. With latex, you can only do that if the fill is made out of shredded latex. But if it’s a single, pre-molded cushion (such as what Butterr uses), then you’re not going to be able to customize the filling.

Third-Party Certifications

All third-party certifications come with their own pros and cons, but they do provide a certain level of accountability for brands and assurance for consumers that the materials and finished products are indeed organic and safe.

Here are some of the common certifications to look for:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which most often certifies organic cotton and wool
  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), which certifies latex.
  • OEKO-TEX, which verifies that a finished product is free from a list of toxic chemicals.
  • GREENGUARD Gold, which certifies that a finished product emits only a minimal amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • USDA Organic, which can certify agricultural materials sourced from the U.S. (such as cotton).

These third-party certifications are not necessary, but they are a good thing to look for as you shop!

Which Materials Should You Avoid in Your Nursing Pillow?

Synthetic materials that are commonly found in pregnancy and nursing pillows include things like polyurethane (PU) foam, which is mentioned above, as well as synthetic fabrics like polyester. These are petroleum-based products and are not sustainable or non-toxic.

You also may see some pillow covers made out of conventional cotton as well. I would say conventional cotton is better than most synthetics, but not as good as organic. Not only is it grown using potentially toxic pesticides, but it’s also more likely to be processed using harsh chemicals.

However, it’s still made from a natural material and can be a more affordable option than organic cotton. So if you have to choose conventional instead of organic cotton because of budget reasons, that’s okay!

It’s also worth noting that a lot of the ‘conventional’ pregnancy and nursing pillows we looked at weren’t transparent about the materials used. If you can’t actually find out what the pillow is made out of, or if the ingredient details are unclear, that’s usually a red flag that the pillows may be made using questionable materials.

Water and Stain Resistant Finishes

Be careful of pillows and other products that are advertised as “waterproof” or “stain-proof.” Many “water-resistant” products are treated with toxic PFAS, a.k.a. “forever chemicals,” which are linked to a long list of negative health concerns, including pregnancy complications, miscarriage, and birth defects.

As of right now, companies are not required to disclose whether or not they add any PFAS to their products, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them and ask if you need to.

If you want to go with a waterproof pillowcase, you’re best bet is to go with an organic cotton outer fabric that’s lined with a thin layer of PU or TPU. Savvy Rest and Naturepedic both have good options.

You can learn more about what to look for in non-toxic waterproof bedding here.

What About Flame Retardants?

Toxic flame retardants actually used to be a lot more common than they are today, especially in products made out of PU foams since they are very flammable.

However, in recent decades, as flame retardants have been exposed as not only toxic but also mostly ineffective, many companies have voluntarily removed them from their products.

Some legislation has even banned synthetic flame retardants in certain consumer goods, including upholstered furniture and children’s products. (Whether or not pregnancy/nursing pillows fit into those categories is unclear.)

Although products still have to meet a certain amount of flame resistance, natural materials like wool and cotton are naturally flame-resistant enough to meet these legal standards (at least in the US).

So the good news is that you don’t have to worry about flame retardants nearly as much as you used to. But again, if you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the company in question and ask.

organic body pillow for pregnancy from obasan
Image: Obasan

Other Factors to Consider When Picking Out Your Organic Pregnancy & Nursing Pillows

Here are some more things to think about as you choose your pillows. Most of these factors will come down to personal preference!

1. Shape & Size

The brands in our guide offer a variety of different shapes and sizes of pillows for pregnancy and nursing. Here are the main differences:

  • Standard Rectangle or Cylinder: Many body pillows are essentially just normal pillows, but longer. You can usually find a variety of different lengths, so you can get one that matches your height, bed size, and sleeping position preference. These don’t take up a ton of space in the bed and are more versatile (more easily used after pregnancy, etc.).
  • C-Shaped: The c-shaped pregnancy pillow will usually support your belly and then curve up to your head and down between your legs.
  • U-Shaped: Compared to the c-shaped one, a U-shaped pillow usually provides more comprehensive, full-body support. (It also tends to take up more space in the bed.)
  • V-Shaped: A v-shaped pillow has two sides of the same length that you can put on each side of you for feeding.
  • Moon or Crescent Shaped: A moon-shaped pillow is fuller in the center and then becomes more narrow on the ends. While they are great for nursing because the smaller ends can more easily fit behind your back, they can also be used for pregnancy support and as baby bolsters.
  • Wedge: A wedge pillow may not be great for nursing, but it can provide helpful support for your pregnant belly. They also tend to be smaller, which is great for travel. After pregnancy, wedge pillows can be helpful for snoring and acid reflux.

2. Firmness

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to firmness, but in general, you want something that will form your (and your baby’s) body, but still provide a certain amount of firmness to hold things up.

In general, kapok and wool tend to be more ‘fluffy’ and less firm, while cotton, buckwheat, and latex tend to make for a firmer pillow.

3. Customizability

Something neat about many of the organic pillow brands below is that they allow you to actually open up the pillow to either take out some of the stuffing or add more. Or, you can even change it up based on your stage of pregnancy or what exactly you’re using the pillow for at that time.

Some of the pillows come intentionally overstuffed, and other brands offer extra stuffing, which you can buy separately.

4. Versatility

Depending on what shape and size you choose, some of these pillows are more versatile than others.

For example, a standard rectangle body pillow or wedge may be more easily transitioned to a post-pregnancy pillow or used by other family members. Some pillows can be used for both belly support during pregnancy and then again for breastfeeding after your baby is born. Not only that, but many of these pillows can also be used to help your baby sit up or as a play-pin bumper.

So, you may want to buy separate pillows for your different needs, or you may be able to save some money (and space!) by purchasing one pillow that can do multiple jobs.

5. Washability

Most nursing and pregnancy pillows either come with washable covers or have covers available for purchase separately. However, you will notice that some of the pillows themselves are actually machine washable too, while others can only be spot-cleaned.

Washability is an important factor to consider since spills, spit-ups, and accidents are obviously common occurrences with babies. If being able to throw your pillow in the washing machine is important to you, just make sure to check before buying.

About Abbie

Abbie Davidson is the Creator & Editor of The Filtery. With almost a decade of experience in sustainability, she researches and writes content with the aim of helping people minimize environmental toxins in an in-depth yet accessible way.

Related Posts

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *