London - Breastfeeding pillows can make it harder for mothers to feed their babies and may even leave them in pain, experts have warned.
The pillows are placed on the mother’s lap, with her baby nestled on top to feed.
They are meant to help support the baby and make it more comfortable for both mother and child.
However, they often leave babies too far from the breast to feed properly. If the mother is tall there is a danger that she will end up hunching over, causing back problems.
Petite women who have to lift their breast towards the baby may unwittingly block their milk ducts which can cause mastitis.
In the worst case, a baby in the wrong position may not latch on properly – the main reason women give for quitting breastfeeding within two weeks.
Emma Pickett, from the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, told the Royal Society of Medicine that almost every breastfeeding woman she sees uses a pillow and nearly half suffer complications.
Pickett, who works as a lactation consultant, told the conference: "Sometimes a mum comes to a group, she is ten days or 14 days in, and the baby has never attached. It turns out she was just holding the baby too far away."
She said "squidgy beanbag-style" pillows were the worst culprits. "The baby sinks down as it feeds and is not in the right position, so the nipple is rubbing against the roof of its mouth," she said. "This can be extremely painful for women, many of whom say breastfeeding is worse than childbirth."
Many specialists now recommend feeding in a laid-back position – rather than sitting upright. In this case a pillow is not necessary as the baby is supported by the mother’s body instead.