How to feed without a breastfeeding pillow

by Laura Howells
6 mins reading time
(Updated )

There are lots of reasons not to use a breastfeeding pillow. I have a blog post about why you are better off not using a breastfeeding pillow to get a good latch.

There are also lots of practical reasons you might not have a specialized pillow, cost, they are big and bulky to take around with you when you are out of the house or you just don’t want to have to be running around the house with a hungry baby. Here are some practical ways to feed without a breastfeeding pillow.

Breastfeeding without a pillow or chestfeeding without a pillow

Breastfeeding or chestfeeding without a breastfeeding pillow is definitely possible and many mothers and parents successfully feed without one. Here are some tips to help you breastfeed or chestfeed comfortably without a breastfeeding pillow:

  1. Use regular pillows: You can use regular pillows to support your baby's weight while breastfeeding or chestfeeding. Lean back and use a pillow to support your arm and your babies bottom.
  2. Sit on a couch or bed: Lean back and get comfy so most of your babies weight is resting on you.
  3. Cradle hold: This position involves holding your baby with one arm so they are across your body. Place your baby's head in the crook of your arm, and guide it into your baby's mouth. This is challenging when your baby is little but as they get a little bigger and longer their little booty will reach your lap so you won’t have to hold up all their weight
  4. Laid-back breastfeeding or chestfeeding: This position involves reclining in a comfortable chair or on a bed and letting your baby lie on top of you to breastfeed or chestfeed.

Remember, the most important thing is to find a position that is comfortable for you and your baby. Don't be afraid to try different positions until you find one that works for you. The best position to breastfeed or chestfeed your baby in, is the one where you both feel most comfortable and your baby is getting enough to eat.

Breastfeeding in bed is a great place to feed without a brestfeeding pillow

Breastfeeding or chestfeeding in bed can be a comfortable and convenient option for many parents, especially during nighttime feedings or in your early postpartum when you still need a lot of rest. Here are some tips to help you set up pillows to breastfeed comfortably in bed:

  • Start with a comfortable mattress: Make sure your mattress is firm and provides good support. If your mattress is too soft, you may sink in and find it difficult to get comfortable.
  • Use a few pillows: Place two or three pillows behind your back to provide support and elevate your upper body slightly. This will make it easier for you to sit up and breastfeed or chestfeed comfortably.
  • Place a pillow under your arm: To support your baby's weight while breastfeeding, place a pillow under your arm. This will help you avoid straining your arm and shoulder muscles.I like doing one under each arm so when the baby switches sides you don’t have to fuss with pillows but this isn’t critical.
  • Experiment with different positions: There are many different positions you can try while breastfeeding in bed, including the cradle hold, the side-lying position and laid back breastfeeding or chestfeeding position. Experiment with different positions until you find one that is comfortable for both you and your baby.

Remember, it's important to make sure that your baby's head and neck are properly supported while breastfeeding. Always make sure that your baby's nose and mouth are clear and that they can breathe comfortably. This can be an indication of a good latch, if your babies chin is press deeply into the breast/chest and and their nose a little away from your breast/chest.

Side lying breastfeeding doesn’t require a special pillow

Cartoon drawing of a parent lying in bed on their side with their baby breatfeeding or chestfeeding

Cartoon drawing of a parent lying in bed on their side with their baby breatfeeding or chestfeeding

Side-lying breastfeeding can be a comfortable and convenient position for many mothers, especially during nighttime feedings, though I also think its a great position for hanging out at a park sitting on a blanket or at the beach. Here are some steps to help you sidelying breastfeed:

  • Lie on your side: Lie on your side with your baby facing you. Place a pillow behind your back (kind of tucked under your hip), another pillow under your head to support your neck and one between your legs
  • Support your baby: Use your available arm to pull your baby close to you, remember they should be looking up a little so don’t place them too high up towards your head.
  • Adjust the position: Adjust your position as needed to ensure that your baby is latched on properly and able to feed comfortably. You may need to adjust the height of the pillow under your head or the angle of your body to find a comfortable position.
  • Don’t roll away from each other: You may want to place a rolled up receiving blanket behind your baby so that you don’t gradually roll way from each other during the feeding.
  • Switch sides: After your baby has finished feeding on one side, switch sides by rolling onto your other side and repeating the steps above. Some people with more pendulous breasts or chest tissue may be able to fee from both sides without rolling over.
  • Practice: This position can take a little practice but it is well worth the effort. Practice during the day when you can see and are not quite as tired.

Breastfeeding in public without pillows

Breastfeeding or chestfeeding in public can feel daunting for a number of reasons, but with some preparation and practice, it can be done comfortably and discreetly(if that is important to you). if you are reading this and have a tiny baby who takes 5 minutes to latch on and you are still taking off your whole shirt to feed every time do not worry. Things will change with time, you and your baby will get more efficient and it will start to feel easier. Here are some tips to help you breastfeed comfortably in public:

  • Dress for comfort: Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to easily access your breast without having to fully undress. This does not have to be a specialty made nursing top or dress. I find wearing an undershirt that you can easily pull down with an over shirt that you can pull up works great and leaves you with very little exposure.
  • Use a nursing cover: If you prefer more privacy while breastfeeding or chestfeeding in public, consider using a nursing cover or a lightweight blanket to cover yourself and your baby.
  • Find a quiet and comfortable spot: Look for a quiet and comfortable spot to breastfeed, such as a nursing room or a quiet corner of a coffee shop or park. Young babies may not need it to be quiet, they are less easily distracted. If you get desperate the passenger side of the car works okay.
  • Practice good latch and positioning: Make sure that your baby is latched on properly and that they are positioned comfortably. Don’t get so distracted that you forget this step.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished: Keep a bottle of water and some healthy snacks nearby to keep you hydrated and nourished while breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
  • Be confident: Remember that breastfeeding is a natural and normal way to feed your baby. Don't be afraid to breastfeed or chestfeed in public if you need to. You are educating all the passers by about infant feeding and normalizing it for all who see you.

Best places to breastfeed in public or chestfeed when you are out in the world

  • A blanket on the grass or sand
  • A park bench
  • Display furniture in any super store or furniture store: find yourself a comfy couch and just blend in
  • That little room before the bathroom at a fancy place
  • Designated nursing space
  • Rocks placed comforably for sitting on in a park or garden

Mediocure places to breastfeed or chestfeeding out in the world

  • Passenger side of the car
  • Dressing room

Awful places to breastfeed or chestfeed when you are in public

  • Public restroom
  • Drivers side of the car
  • picnic benches (either the table is where the baby needs to be or you are leaning against the sharp edge of the table if you face the other way)
  • Public transit (it's not too uncomfortable to people often end up stairing at your exposed breast/chest and then get awkward pretty fast)

Remember, in many countries, laws protect a parents's right to breastfeed or chestfeed in public. In the US you are protected to do so in all 50 states in any location that you are permitted to be in. So, don't feel ashamed or uncomfortable about breastfeeding your baby when you need to. With practice, you'll become more comfortable and confident breastfeeding or chestfeeding in public


Headshot of Laura

Laura Howells (she/her) is an IBCLC and postpartum doula who works with clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been happily supporting growing families during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and the first years since 2009.

Book a lactation appointment

Latest posts

Read the blog

Woven newsletter

Free breastfeeding, chestfeeding, & pumping log.

Download this printable baby feeding log when you sign up for my newsletter. Helps with tracking how many diapers per day and how many feedings per day your baby has in the first days and weeks. The chart also features daily notes and reminders about what to expect from weight gain, feedings, temperament, and eliminations. Read more about the resource here.

Parent feeding baby on body as icon Line drawing of baby on scale Line drawing of swaddled baby Diaper/nappy in simple lines

Delivered about once a month, the Woven newsletter includes updates from the blog and occasional offers and giveaways. Your information isn't shared and you can unsubscribe any time.