Hands-free breast pumping has obvious advantages. Not only does it give your arms a rest, it also releases your hands to do other things. It also makes it easer to pump for longer periods, such as when power pumping.
There are, fortunately, specialist pump bras designed to take the strain out of expressing. Find the right one, and you’ll be able to get on with eating, cleaning or working at a computer comfortably.
At first glance, they can look a little intimidating, so we’ve put together a guide to help you choose the best one.
Making a pumping bra or buying one?
Some particularly practical mums choose to make their own hands-free pumping bras. This is certainly the economical choice, but it’s not always the most convenient. After all, each time you need to pump you’ll have to fiddle with elastic bands and readjust the pump for a good seal.
Making your own pump bra might be cheapest, but specialist versions needn’t break the bank either. The Arshiner Easy Expression Simplicity (£14.99, amazon.co.uk), for example, costs less than £15 and has all the features you’ll need, including an adjustable strap, an expandable zipper panel and an accommodating Velcro fastening for a comfortable fit.
Another affordable option is TANZKY’s Double Pump Bra (£12.99, amazon.co.uk), which comes in at under £15 too. It’s underwired for added support and is compatible with all the best-known breast pumps. Featuring snap-down clips and made from 95% cotton and 5% spandex, it’s well designed and comfortable, and it keeps your hands free so you can get on with your day.
Pumping bras or pumping bustiers?
The key difference between a pumping bra and pumping bustier is how much structure it provides.
Because they’re more discreet, you can wear pumping bras under your clothes as normal. This can be convenient if you don’t want to carry round a lot of kit on a day-to-day basis. The underwiring on many bras, however, can become uncomfortable as your breasts change shape when your milk supply increases and decreases.
Bustiers are most often worn only when you are pumping, either over a nursing bra or on their own. They function in much the same way as pumping bras, but because they’re more supportive, they often make for a tighter seal and a more efficient process. For this reason, they also tend to be more expensive.
While it is possible to wear bustiers all day, the thicker fabric and more rigid design make them less discreet under your clothes and probably less comfortable.
However, the strapless style and front zips of designs like Medela’s Easy Expression Bustier (£27.79, amazon.co.uk) make them simple to put on and take back off when you need them.
If you’re looking for a pumping bra for large breasts, go for one with adjustable closures like this PumpEase bustier (£29.99, amazon.co.uk).
At the top end of the scale is Simple Wishes’ Double Pumping Bustier (£34.99, amazon.co.uk), which costs a fraction under £35. This bustier supports your breasts and the breast tissue to guarantee a snug funnel fit. Four overlapping fabric layers keep the expressing cups perfectly in place and minimise the chance of leakage. It’s also designed to allow for hand compression to help you express as much milk as possible.
Whichever one you choose, the real secret to a happy pumping experience is to make sure you’re comfortable and relaxed.