When I was working on pulling together our baby registry, one item that was on all of the must-have lists was a nursing pillow. Being someone who’d never breastfed before, the idea of a nursing pillow confounded me. I mean, after all, women have been nursing babies for long before nursing pillows existed—why did I need one? I was skeptical. And the price of them really made me skeptical. I had a hard time justifying $45 for something that I might never use. Now that I’m two months in to breastfeeding, I can safely say that a nursing pillow might not be an absolute necessity, but it certainly does help make the tough first few weeks of nursing a little bit easier. And it’s really a difficult time, so anything you can do to make go a bit more smoothly is highly recommended.
There are two different common styles of nursing pillows on the market today, and there is no way of really knowing which one is for you until you try it (which is pretty much the story of all baby items). I own both styles. I made this Boppy nursing pillow knock-off back when I was pregnant, and then also ended up purchasing a My Brest Friend (worst name ever) at the recommendation of my lactation consultant.
I definitely used the My Brest Friend the most when I was learning to nurse in the first few weeks. It’s firm and rigid, which helps when you’re trying to awkwardly get a squirmy baby latched on. And because it wraps around your body, you can use it to support the baby’s weight, giving you free hands to help get latched on.
But now that JuneBug and I are old nursing pros, we’re transitioning to being more lax with our nursing sessions—and that includes using the DIY nursing pillow that I made, which admittedly is a ton more comfy for both me and the little girl. This pillow also works as a comfy spot for JuneBug to lounge in. I’ve also heard of a lot of new moms using this pillow as a comfy cushion to sit on during the first few weeks postpartum.
I’m happy I have both pillows, but I’m definitely glad I decided to make my own Boppy instead of buying one. For about $10 worth of materials and an afternoon worth of work, I was able to get my own Boppy knock-off with fabric that I love (the irony of which is now that I’m breastfeeding, I’m off coffee because the caffeine affects JuneBug—this fabric is the closest I get to the stuff).
If I had to pick just one pillow to buy, it’d be the My Brest Friend, but like I said, it’s different for every Mom. I know some mothers who hated the My Brest Friend and swear by the Boppy. And some who hate nursing pillows all together! You really don’t know until you’re in it, and that’s why I think this tutorial is an awesome way to get to test out one style without shelling out tons of cash. I’m so glad I didn’t pay all that money!
To make your own Boppy knock-off, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 1/3 yard white cotton fabric, washed, dried and ironed
- 1 1/3 yard cover fabric (flannel or minky are both nice and cozy, I just used high-quality cotton), washed, dried and ironed
- 18″ zipper
- Polyfill (about 32 ounces)
- Pins, needles, thread, sewing machine, iron, scissors, etc.
First step is to print out the pattern, cut it out and tape the four pieces together following the diagram.
Once you have it taped together, you’ll have what looks like half of a DIY nursing pillow.
Trace around the edge of the pattern using a marking pen onto the white cotton fabric, making sure the right side of the pattern is lined up with the fold. I just used cheap-o white cotton muslin (the stuff that’s like $1 a yard), but honestly, you could use whatever you want. This is just to make the pillow form to go inside of the case.
You’ll want to cut out two pieces from the white fabric.
Unfold them, and then pin them right-sides together.
Using a straight stitch, sew the two pieces together using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Sew all the way around the case, except leave about six inches open at the top to allow you to turn the case and stuff it. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and the end to reinforce the seam—you’ll be stuffing this pillow very tight, and you don’t need your seam ripping in the process.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
And get to stuffing.
You want to stuff it until it’s very firm. A firm pillow is a good nursing pillow. If you make a floppy, soft pillow, you might as well just use regular bed pillows for nursing. You want it to be so tightly stuffed that you can’t even fit your hand in the case.
It should be so stuffed full that you have a hard time keeping the opening closed.
Once it’s nice and firmly stuffed, fold under the opening seams and pin it closed.
Since the pillow is so firm, you’ll need to hand-stitch this opening closed.
No need to worry about it looking nice—you’ll never see this part of the DIY nursing pillow—just make sure it’s nice and secure. I’d recommend going back and forth over the opening a few times to really secure it.
And your pillow form is done! That wasn’t so hard, now was it?
Set that aside, and start working on your slipcover. Repeat the same process with the pattern and your slipcover fabric. Again, you’ll want to cut two pieces, and make sure to line up the right side of the pattern with the fold of your fabric.
This time, instead of pinning the two pieces together off the bat, we’re going to measure for the zipper first (trust me, you want the zipper for cleaning later).
Place one of the pieces right-side-down, and center the zipper over top, right-side down. Curve the zipper around the top of the pillow gently, and pin in a few spots, just to get it secured. Using a marking pen, place a mark at the beginning and end of the zipper. Then remove it and the pins from the fabric.
Place the two pieces of fabric, right-sides together, and pin all the way around, leaving open the space for the zipper.
Sew around the cover, using a 1/4″ seam allowance (note, this is 1/4″ less than the pillow form in order for it to be slightly larger, but still use the same pattern). Make sure to leave open the space for the zipper.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
To insert the zipper, place it right-sides together with the front layer of the slipcover, lining up the top of the zipper tape with the top of the fabric of the pillow case. Pin it down, but make sure you only pin through the top strip of zipper tape and through one single layer of the pillow case.
Pin all the way around, working gently to make sure the zipper curves with the curve of the pillow.
Pull off the arm of your sewing machine, and put on a zipper foot (you could do this with a regular foot, but the end result wont be as nice and clean). Open up the cover and place it on the sewing machine, zipper up.
Begin sewing to the right of the zipper teeth—making sure you only have one layer of the pillowcase under the needle.
When you have about four inches left of sewing, stop the machine and unzip the zipper to back behind the presser foot. This is a little difficult to maneuver, but you can get it back there if you’re using a zipper foot. If you’re using a regular foot, you might need to lift the presser foot to get to back there.
Continue sewing to the end of the zipper tape.
Turn the pillowcase inside out, and repeat the process with the other side of the pillow. Align the top of the pillowcase fabric with the top of the zipper tape—right sides together. And pin, making sure to only pin through the top of the zipper tape and one layer of pillowcase fabric.
Place the pillow back on the sewing machine—this time, no need to place it over the sewing machine arm—and sew the zipper to the fabric, making sure to stop four inches from the end and unzipping it past the presser foot. Depending on your zipper foot, you might need to reattach it to switch sides of the zipper teeth (I did).
Next, you’ll want to finish your seams since this will be put into the washer pretty frequently. You can use a serger to finish the edges, but I like to use pinking shears. Nice and easy (plus, I don’t own a serger).
Turn it right-side-out, iron it again, and then place the pillow form in the cover and zip it up! All done.
The zipper covered is really nice for easy clean-up, and if you plan on making this for a baby shower gift, I’d actually recommend you make two or three for the mom-to-be.
Just like with the name-brand version, make sure to use caution with this DIY nursing pillow. It’s not meant for babies to sleep in, and make sure you’re always supervising when your baby is in or on the pillow.