How to Sleep With A Pregnancy Pillow: Positions, Tips and Benefits

Pregnancy pillows help moms-to-be get comfortable and find the best sleeping positions during all three trimesters. But getting used to maneuvering around an extra-large body pillow takes some adjustment.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll offer tips and techniques on how to properly sleep with a pregnancy pillow. We’ll cover ideal positioning, recommended pillow shapes and fills, and the many benefits a maternity pillow provides for expecting moms.

With the right pregnancy pillow strategies, you can reduce pain and discomfort during rest to wake up each morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

Why Pregnant Women Need Special Sleep Support

Between a growing belly, shifting body weight, hormonal changes and constant aches and pains, comfort can be elusive for expectant mothers at bedtime.

Pregnancy brings physical and physiological changes that can impair quality sleep:

  • Discomfort from back, hip and joint pain
  • Frequent need to urinate interrupting sleep
  • Difficulty finding comfortable positions
  • Heartburn and acid reflux flaring up while lying down
  • Nasal congestion impairing breathing
  • Restless leg syndrome and leg cramps
  • General discomfort from extra weight and swelling

On top of physical challenges, mental worries and “pregnancy insomnia” are common especially in the third trimester.

A pregnancy pillow helps overcome these hurdles for the best sleep possible during pregnancy by:

  • Providing cushioned support between legs, behind back, and for the belly
  • Keeping mom-to-be comfortably aligned in side sleeping position
  • Reducing strain on the back and hips
  • Elevating the head to minimize acid reflux
  • Promoting air circulation to ease breathing and temperature regulation -Absorbing restlessness to minimize disruptive tossing and turning

Now that we’ve covered the rationale, let’s explore how to optimize pillow positioning to reap these rested benefits.

How to Position Your Pregnancy Pillow

The key to sleeping comfortably with a maternity pillow is proper positioning. Let’s look at how to best position pillows during all three trimesters as the body changes.

First Trimester

The first 12 weeks of pregnancy bring fluctuating hormones, nausea and fatigue – but a barely noticeable baby bump. A pregnancy pillow helps even early on by:

  • Propping between knees to take pressure off the back
  • Supporting the breasts which may be tender and sore
  • Placing under head or stomach for cushioning comfort

Since the belly isn’t very enlarged yet, minimal support positioning is needed. Choose a pillow size that allows hugging or nestling.

Second Trimester

Starting around week 13 until week 27, a growing baby bump brings aches and pains as ligaments stretch. A maternity pillow provides relief by:

  • Tucking between knees and ankles while side sleeping
  • Supporting the back to prevent strain
  • Elevating the head which reduces acid reflux
  • Placing beneath the bump for belly lifting support

A medium to large pillow with sufficient fill provides necessary cushioning as abdominal expansion ramps up.

Third Trimester

The final weeks from 28 to 40 bring the biggest belly along with swelling, breathing difficulties and insomnia. A pregnancy pillow really comes in handy during home stretch by:

  • Positioning between knees to align hips
  • Supporting the back to prevent too much arching
  • Lifting the belly to reduce pull on the spine
  • Boosting circulation in legs to minimize swelling

Larger pillows that allow complete body alignment support are most suitable as the due date approaches.

Now that you know basic positioning, let’s dive into the best sleeping postures by trimester.

Sleeping Positions By Trimester When Using a Pregnancy Pillow

Finding comfortable positions for resting becomes especially tough from the second trimester onward. Here are ideal pregnancy sleeping postures to try while using your maternity pillow.

First Trimester

The first 12 weeks allow the greatest position flexibility before a growing bump limits options.

Recommended positions:

  • Back sleeping
  • Stomach sleeping
  • Side sleeping

You likely can sleep in your usual pre-pregnancy preferred position thanks to a barely-there belly. Just place a pillow lightly between legs or under head for added comfort.

Second Trimester

As the belly emerges, side sleeping becomes essential with a pillow for support:

Recommended positions:

  • Sleeping on left side
  • Propped on either side with pregnancy pillow

Avoid:

  • Sleeping on back
  • Sleeping flat on stomach

Side sleeping prevents added pressure on internal organs and improves circulation. Place a pillow under the bump and between knees for comfort.

Third Trimester

The biggest belly size limits options to exclusively side sleeping with robust support:

Recommended positions:

  • Left side only
  • Pillow tucked under bump and between legs

Avoid:

  • Right side
  • Back
  • Stomach

Only the left side allows optimal blood flow to mom and baby. Add lots of cushioning support under head, belly, behind back, and between knees.

Now that you know the optimal posture by stage, let’s look at the best pregnancy pillow types and fills to allow you to sleep comfortably in recommended positions.

Types of Pregnancy Pillows

There are several common shapes and styles when shopping for the best pregnancy pillow:

Full Length Body Pillows

Extra long straight pillows support the entire body from head to ankles:

Pros

  • Fits height no matter how tall
  • Allows squishing and adjusting

Cons

  • Can feel overwhelming and massive
  • Difficult to reposition in night

Best for

All trimesters of pregnancy. Provides complete support.

Shaped Body Pillows

Curved pillows mold around pregnant body in specific shapes:

Pros

  • Naturally supports contours
  • Stays positioned once situated

Cons

  • Less flexibility to adjust
  • Limited length may not fit tall women

Best for

Second and third trimesters when belly is larger.

Wedges

Dense supportive cushions elevate belly, back, and legs:

Pros

  • Very portable and space-saving
  • Affordable and easy to position

Cons

  • Less overall body support
  • Can slip out of alignment

Best for

First trimester when support needs are minimal.

There are also specialty pillows like leg supports, fetal positioners and more that target specific needs.

Once you’ve selected a pillow shape, it’s also important to consider the interior fill and cover material.

Pregnancy Pillow Filling Material Options

Supportive fill is what makes any pillow comfort-boosting or just lumpy. Common maternity pillow fill options include:

Memory Foam

  • Retains shape well
  • May feel very firm at first but molds
  • No noise when moving

Polyester Fiberfill

  • Light and fluffy
  • Softer initial feel but flattens over time
  • Makes swooshing sounds

Microbeads

  • Soft feel and flexible shaping
  • Conforms closely to body
  • Makes light swooshing sounds

Organic Fill

  • Natural materials like wool, cotton, bamboo
  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Biodegradable and renewable

Air/Inflation

  • Lightweight when deflated
  • Adjustable firmness
  • No shifting or flattening

Consider your firmness preference, tendency to overheat, and sustainability preference when choosing fill. An inner core of firmer memory foam covered by a layer of fluffier fiberfill offers a nice balance.

In addition to interior fill, the cover fabric matters for coziness and hygiene.

Pillow Cover Fabric Options

The right cover helps you rest easy against the pillow during vulnerable sleep:

Cotton

  • Soft, breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Stays cooler than synthetic fabrics
  • Lower price point

Bamboo

  • Thermoregulating and very breathable
  • Hypoallergenic and resists odors
  • Sustainable material

Polyester

  • Colorful selection of easy-clean fabrics
  • Durable and good for allergy sufferers
  • Cheaper price point

Percale Cotton

  • Tightly woven to resist yellowing or pilling
  • Crisp, cool and breathable
  • More expensive but very soft

For maximum comfort, look for soft, breathable cotton or bamboo covers that feel nice against the skin and don’t absorb excess body heat.

Now that you know what to look for in a pregnancy pillow, let’s go over tips for getting settled sleeping with it at night.

How To Get Comfortable With a Pregnancy Pillow

Adjusting your sleep position and environment is key for sleeping soundly with a supportive maternity pillow:

  • Rotate pillow orientation until filling provides optimal support and comfort.
  • Loosen pillow case so fill can shift and move with you.
  • Fluff and re-scrunch sections to provide customized support.
  • Use extra cushions under bump, knees, or neck for added lift.
  • Try mattress toppers to soften an overly firm bed.
  • Wedge pillow under head to boost lift if one pillow is insufficient.

Take the time to model and adjust your pillows each night to find the most comfortable configuration as the pregnancy progresses.

Having a partner assist in positioning and adding supplemental cushions as needed takes the strain out of getting settled.

Soon you’ll find your perfect pregnancy pillow sleep sanctuary!

Pros and Benefits of Using a Pregnancy Pillow

Beyond basic cushioning and support, pregnancy pillows deliver a host of benefits during maternity and postpartum:

Reduces Discomfort in Joints and Muscles

The extra weight carried up front during pregnancy strains the back and hips. Pillows minimize this discomfort in spine, legs and pelvis by providing comforting support.

Allows Side Sleeping

The preferred left side position gets uncomfortable without cushioning. Pillows make side sleeping achievable for extended periods.

Lifts and Aligns the Belly

The additional belly lift eases downward pulling on the abdomen and back. Proper alignment minimizes pain.

Promotes Air Circulation

Dense maternity cushions elevate and ventilate the abdomen and legs reducing heat buildup.

Alleviates Heartburn

Propping the head and torso at an incline helps keep stomach acid down and reduces nighttime heartburn.

Boosts Blood Flow

Insufficient blood flow from cramped legs and hips causes swelling. Elevating extremities improves circulation.

Lessens Restless Leg Syndrome

Pregnancy hormones and extra pressure on nerves cause restless legs. Pillows provide soothing cushion between legs for relief.

Minimizes Tossing and Turning

The cocoon-like support cuts down on nighttime repositioning and disruptions helping achieve sounder sleep.

Clearly, pregnancy pillows address a wide range of physical discomforts and issues experienced during maternity to enhance rest day and night.

Tips for Maximizing the Benefits of Your Pregnancy Pillow

Follow these tips to get the most out of your maternity pillow for better sleep during pregnancy:

Start using early – Even during the first trimester before you visibly “show”, a pillow can ease hormonal sleep disruptions and nausea.

Center pillow on bed – Placing in the middle allows positioning flexibility for support between legs, behind back, aligning hips, etc.

Add supplemental cushions – Use extra pillows, wedges or crib bumpers for customized belly, knee and back support.

Maintain good sleep hygiene – Keep room cool and dark for uninterrupted nights with your pillow.

Use pillows during day – Sitting and lounging with supportive cushions continues aligning the body correctly.

Try different styles – Experiment with shapes and firmness to determine your ideal pregnancy pillow.

Carefully launder – Follow washing instructions to help pillow maintain its loft and support.

Invest in a quality maternity pillow early on and use it consistently to prevent worsening aches, swelling and discomfort throughout pregnancy so you feel your best.

Troubleshooting Common Pregnancy Pillow Problems

While extremely beneficial, pregnancy pillows come with a learning curve. Some potential problems and solutions:

Can’t Get Comfortable

  • Try different pillow styles and firmness levels
  • Adjust positioning and increase supplemental support
  • Loosen pillow case so fill can shift around you

Pillow Retains Body Heat

  • Ensure cover is breathable like cotton, bamboo or percale
  • Try chilling pillow before bed in cool room
  • Use lighter fills like microbeads versus dense memory foam

Pillow Lacks Neck Support

  • Stack pillow beneath your head pillow for more lift
  • Use microbead filled cushions which conform closely around neck

Pillow Shifts During Night

  • Tighten pillow case so fill doesn’t slide too much
  • Place wedges against pillow sections to prevent movement

Partner Disturbed by Pillow

  • Use king bed with pregnancy pillow in the middle
  • Try smaller pillow or position higher between legs

Adjusting fill, firmness, positioning or size can resolve most issues. But don’t hesitate to replace if a pillow truly fails to provide comfort and support.

Maintaining Your Pregnancy Pillow

Caring properly for your maternity pillow keeps it clean and supportive:

Cleaning

  • Check tag and use suggested wash and dry methods
  • Spot clean pillow cover between full laundering
  • Sanitize interior fill 2-3 times per year

Storage

  • Store on side or edge to retain shape
  • Don’t tightly compress or seal in non-breathable plastic

Fluffing

  • Frequently fluff and reshape to maintain even fill distribution
  • Consider replacing flattened fibers every 1-2 years

With some basic care, a quality pregnancy pillow provides the lasting support and comfort needed through the maternity journey and even after giving birth during recovery.

Working With Your Partner Around Your Pregnancy Pillow

Adding a massive pillow to the marital bed requires some accommodation from partners:

  • Compromise on ideal room temperature that suits both parties
  • Use a king bed for each to have their own space
  • Communicate when you need help repositioning
  • Rotate sides to allow alternating snuggling time
  • Ensure partner has enough covers and doesn’t feel crowded
  • Try types like wedges that take up less room at start and end of bed

With understanding and flexibility, both parties can sleep soundly together despite the pregnancy pillow “third wheel” in the mix.

When to Stop Using the Pregnancy Pillow

Given the multitude of benefits during pregnancy, at what point after giving birth can you retire the maternity pillow?

During postpartum recovery, pregnancy pillows continue providing support and pain relief as the body recovers, hormone levels stabilize, and weight normalizes.

Many women find their pillow remains helpful and comfortable up until:

  • No more breastfeeding and nursing discomfort
  • Reaching pre-pregnancy weight
  • Abdominal muscles strengthen again
  • Energy and stamina levels balance

For some, this takes 4-5 months postpartum. Others may use a pillow well into the baby’s first year for soothing comfort through the demands of motherhood.

Let your own body tell you when it feels strong enough to maintain comfort without the extra cushioning until then.

The Takeaway on Sleeping With a Pregnancy Pillow

Pregnancy pillows aren’t a luxury – they are a sleep-saving necessity for expectant moms to find restful overnight positions.

Use this guide to select the optimal pillow style, material and firmness for your body and trimester. Position and adjust it using the techniques outlined. Add supplemental cushions for further customization.

With the proper pillow at your side and these positioning strategies, you’ll minimize pain and discomfort for the deep, uninterrupted sleep both you and baby need. You’ll wake each morning feeling your best during this special but challenging time.

FAQs About Sleeping With Pregnancy Pillows

When should I start using a pregnancy pillow?

Aim to start using a maternity pillow by week 12-14 even if you have a barely visible bump. At this point, hormonal shifts and increased blood volume begin impacting sleep comfort.

What is the best pregnancy pillow for a side sleeper?

Side sleepers need a pillow that fits snugly between knees and cushions the bump. A contoured U or C-shape pillow works well.

Where should you place a pregnancy pillow?

Place the pillow lengthwise on the bed starting at hip level. This supports bump, back, knees and head alignment. Having it extend past your feet provides flexibility to adjust position.

Should I sleep with a pregnancy pillow while nursing?

Yes, pregnancy pillows remain extremely helpful after giving birth while nursing to support sore areas and help you find comfortable resting positions while feeding baby round the clock.

When can you stop using a pregnancy pillow?

Most women find pregnancy pillows valuable for 3-6 months postpartum as the body recovers, hormones rebalance and strength returns. Let your body tell you when extra cushioning is no longer needed.

Investing in a quality pregnancy pillow tailored to your sleep style provides the resilient support for rested nights during pregnancy and beyond. Follow these pillow positioning strategies so you and baby get the deep sleep you both need.

Originally posted on September 18, 2023 @ 6:30 am

Author

  • Dr. Barry Jarvis

    Dr. Barry Jarvis is a renowned sleep specialist, dedicating their illustrious career to the intricate world of sleep medicine. Holding a medical degree from a prestigious institution, Dr. Jarvis has cultivated a deep understanding of the complex mechanisms that govern sleep and its pivotal role in overall health and well-being. With a compassionate approach and a meticulous eye for detail, Dr. Jarvis has helped countless individuals reclaim restful nights and vibrant days. Beyond their clinical expertise, they have contributed to groundbreaking research in sleep medicine, unraveling the mysteries of sleep disorders and pioneering innovative treatments that stand at the forefront of the field.

    View all posts

Dr. Barry Jarvis is a renowned sleep specialist, dedicating their illustrious career to the intricate world of sleep medicine. Holding a medical degree from a prestigious institution, Dr. Jarvis has cultivated a deep understanding of the complex mechanisms that govern sleep and its pivotal role in overall health and well-being. With a compassionate approach and a meticulous eye for detail, Dr. Jarvis has helped countless individuals reclaim restful nights and vibrant days. Beyond their clinical expertise, they have contributed to groundbreaking research in sleep medicine, unraveling the mysteries of sleep disorders and pioneering innovative treatments that stand at the forefront of the field.

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