You must have seen this.
A picture of a mom pumping using a hands-free pumping bra while continues working on her laptop. Or perhaps, while having a conference call.
No doubt, hands-free pumping bra lets us multi-task while pumping.
It saves a lot of time because we don't see pumping like a hard chore in which you need to stop whatever you were doing.
And also, it saves a lot of breastfeeding relationships where initially moms cannot afford to have pumping break, but thanks to these wonderful pumping bra, they can still continue providing milk for their babies while pumping and working at the same time.
But there's one caveat here.
Some moms prefers to do hands-on pumping.
There's a similarity, in which these moms also needs to have their hands free from the need of holding the milk bottle all the time.
But they don't meant it for multitasking with other job. Rather, they want to get most milk from their breasts using hands-on technique.
The question is:
"Can those hands-free pumping bra be used for hands-on pumping?"
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of top 5 popular hands-free pumping bras (in regards of whether they can be used for hands-on pumping).
Before we dive in, first of all, we need to know, what does hands-on pumping entails. Here's a good article about it, but let's summarize some important points here:
- Massage (breast compression) while double pumping. This is the very basic step, studies have shown, when a mom does breast compression, she can get as much as 2 oz extra milk compared with if she's not doing breast compression.
- Massage again focusing on areas that feel full
- Hand-express or single pump / hand-pump switching for one side to the other while doing intensive breast compression until the breasts are drained as much as possible.
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1. Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Bra type: bustier (it is meant to be worn only while pumping, you can not wear this as a regular nursing bra and you can't nurse with it).
Sizing: 2 flexible sizing (XS-L and XL plus).
Color: plain black or pink
Bra opening: Velcro at the back, zipper in front (comes with optional bra straps)
Pumping support: 2 layer overlapping fabric (the outer is overlapping vertical opening while the inner is horizontal slit) to hold the flange firmly even after the bottle is full of milk.
Compatible with: almost all popular breast pumps. The pump opening layer is uniquely design such that pumping bra can be used with either one-piece or two-piece breast shield. You can insert the pump flange right from the front.
Price: check in Amazon
This is the most popular hands-free pumping bra.
1. The sizing is pretty flexible and the design gives a very good support to hold the flange and bottle (even after the bottle is already filled with milk).
2. Zipper opening means less time needed to put this bra on before pumping (compare to a bustier with hooks).
3. Also, I love that it is compatible with most breast shield models (both one-piece and two-piece breast shields) This is unlike Medela bustier (which is cheaper but can only be used with two-piece breast shields).
1. Thick fabric, need more space when carrying it in the bag.
2. Does not cover the whole tummy (not as long as nursing / pumping tank).
Can you do hands-on pumping with Simple Wishes?
Some moms reported that they can still do breast compression over the bra ( I did try it and yes, it can be done).
But please take note that its fabric is quite thick, so it may not be as comfortable as massaging breast skin to skin.
Some other moms also mentioned that you can loosen it a little bit so that you can insert their hands inside the pumping bra to do massaging.
Certainly, you won't able to do hand-expression with Simple Wishes on, you need to take it off before you do any hand-expression.
I've also tried to do hand-pumping (with a manual pump) while wearing Simple Wishes. While it is possible to do this, I feel that my movement is a somehow restricted and switching the pump from one breast to another one is quite tricky.
You can read more reviews about Simple Wishes pumping bra here.
2. PumpEase Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Bra type: bustier
Sizing: 4 sizes- small, medium, large, x-large
Color: plenty design prints and color to choose (9 designs)
Bra opening: a set of hooks and eye closure at the center front
Pump support:Though pump ease is essentially just a two-layer fabric, it holds up the pump flange pretty well.The pump flange opening is just horizontal slit at the nipple position.
Compatible with: most breast shield models (both one-piece and two-piece breast shields).
Price : check in Amazon
1. It's pretty light and fold up neatly and very compact. Very handy when you don't want to stuff too bulky thing into your pump bag.
2. Fits both one-piece and two-piece breast shields.
3. Lovely fabric prints (not a boring black or pink/tan color).
1. Determining the right size for you can be tricky and must be done carefully. This is because you can not adjust the bra size at all (unlike simple wishes whereby you can adjust how tight you want it to be by adjusting the Velcro behind).
Update: Pumpease reaches out to me clarifying that PumpEase is adjustable (through a sets of hooks and loops). Yes, that's right, but ultimately you need to choose the right size to begin with. This is unlike Simple Wishes in which one bra size can be adjusted to fit XS-L.
2. Hook and eye opening: there are 6 of them, definitely this takes longer to put on compared to a slip-on or zippered bra (can be annoying for moms pumping at work who need to get things done fast!)
3. Less supportive compared to Simple Wishes. I noticed that once the bottle is filled with a decent amount of milk, it is easy to loose suction, so you still need to somehow support the bottles with your arm or thigh (by leaning forward), not totally hands-free.
Can Pump Ease pumping bra be used for hands on pumping?
Because the fabric is thinner, it is easier to massage your breast and do breast compression even with your hands over the fabric.
You can still do hand-pumping or single pumping with this bra put on.
Unfortunately, you can't do hand expression with this on.
You can use PumpEase for nursing through the flange opening (or lift one side up or down, but definitely not as comfy as using Rumina or Dairy Fairy which were built with both capabilities).
3. Rumina Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Bra type: bra that can be worn daily. It's not a bustier, you can wear this just how you would wear regular nursing bra. And you can nurse with it!
Size: 5 sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL)
Color: black, tan, white
Bra opening: this is a slip-on bra, there's no hooks or velcroes).
Pump support: 2 layers of fabric, the outer has the opening at the bottom, while the inner features side opening).Unlike Simple wishes and PumpEase in which you can see the pump opening when it is not used for pumping, Rumina's pump opening is very discreet (you won't see it if you are not pumping).
Compatible with: most breast shield models. Can fit both single-piece and two-piece breast shields
Price: check in Amazon.
Another variant of Rumina pumping accessories is Rumina nursing tank.
This is a nursing / pumping tank with full coverage (no tummy showing if you pump with this!
Great when you need a discreet pumping look, e.g sharing the nursing room with other moms, or pumping in your office / cubicle.
Simple bra design (no hooks, velcros, clasps) with moderate support.
I love that this bra can serve for both nursing and pumping. Since this can be worn as a regular bra, you are saving that extra time to put this on before pumping. You can just start right away, wohoo,..
This is the least supportive bra among all that I reviewed here. So, you can't go totally hands-free with this. Once the milk starts filling your bottles, you need to at least support the bottles with your arm.
Fabric may fray and threads may unravel after first few wash, though it's still doing its job well.
Can Rumina be used for hands-on pumping?
The answer is a big yes.
I love that the fabric is thin so that you can do breast compression with your hands over the fabric or you can choose to insert your hand to do direct massage.
Since this bra is suitable for nursing, that means you can easily do hand-expression with this bra on. Simply pull the front panel down and you can begin hand-expression right away.
Bra type: this is a blend between a bra and bustier. You wear it over your regular nursing bra, clip it onto the B-clips of your original bra.
Size: accomodate various sizes from S to XL
Color: Black or dove heather
Bra opening: hook and loop at the back
Pump support: figure 8 opening (patent pending), allows you to fit either a two-piece or one-piece breast shield.
Compatible with: both two-piece and one-piece breast shield.
1. Very quick to use, especially if you use nursing bras every single day. Not as complicated as using a bustier type.
2. Figure 8 openings allows easy access to insert / take out the breast shield without spilling out the milk (such a toughtful design)
3. Material is not very thick, allowing for massage during pumping.
1. Since the material is pretty thin, it may not offer a good support once the bottle is half-filled with milk. You still need some extra support to keep the flanges in place.
2. Can only be used with nursing bra with B-clips (not necessarily Bravado nursing bra). Say bye if you are using other types of nursing bra.
Can Bravado Clip and Pump be used for hands on pumping?
Yes, to some extend. The thin material allows you to do a thorough hand-massage while pumping, helping to encourage better milk flow.
If you follow up with manual pumping, this can still be used as well.
However, if you need to do hand-expression, you need to take this out so that you have full access to your breast.
5. Lactamed Simplicity Hands-Free Pumping Bra Kit
Bra type: this is neither a bra or a bustier. It is essentially a set of straps with clips to help you hold the pump flange in place.
Size: one size fits all
Color: Various colours available (black, brown, purple, pink, teal, blue)
Bra opening: slip over your head and adjust the clips
Pump support: by inserting pump flange in between straps and adjust the clips to make it stay in place.
Compatible with: most breast pump brands (can fit both one-piece and two-piece breast shields).
Price: super affordable (check in Amazon)
1. Super-compact, it's not bulky as Simple Wishes.
Some moms wear this directly under their shirt, but you can always wear it just before you begin pumping.
2. Very supportive. I found this kit to be the most supportive hands-free kit compared to the previous three. It still holds the suction well even though the bottle is already full of milk. In fact, I've read reviews from mom using Evenflo glass bottles while pumping with this and it can still hold all the weight very well.
3. Highly adjustable: you can adjust the straps in various ways (the height so that the 'hole' is at your nipple height, also the horizontal position where the vertical straps meets the horizontal band (this is very useful because I've been reading some negative reviews about other pumping bra brand whereby the moms felt the nipple being squished in awkward direction in order to fit the flange opening.
4. Very cheap (less than US$20).
1. It may look complicated at first (especially because the straps are pretty long and tangled up together when you remove it from the carrying case).
But as long as you are paying attention to the small brochure that came with this kit, you will be set in just a few seconds.
2. You will be exposing your bare breast while pumping, obviously, because there's no fabric at all. Use your shirt or nursing cover to pump discreetly.
However, to be honest, if you really want to do the real hands-on pumping, this is the best.
3. The straps goes over your neck to support the bottle weight. Hence, as the bottle is filled with milk, the straps may slightly dig into the skin, making it less comfortable.
Can Lactamed Simplicity bra kit be used for hands on pumping?
In fact, this kit was first invented to help mamas to do hands-on pumping by freeing up their hands from the need of holding the bottles.
You can do breast compression skin to skin to your breast while double pumping.
You can easily do hand-expression even while you're still wearing this kit. Simply push the strap aside and hand expression begins.
I don't know about you, but for me being able to massage my breast directly (not over the fabric) gives me a different feeling and kinda makes me confident that I will be pumping more milk.
Initially, I thought I was just wasting money to buy this (in Singapore it is retailed at SG$20+.
But, to my surprise, I actually prefer to use this compared to the first 3 pumping bras.
I don't need to take out my clothes to put this on (fyi, I usually use a front-zippered long-dress, so putting Simple Wishes / PumpEase is quite a struggle, not with this.
Also, I was pleased with how supportive this kit is even after the bottles are already full of milk. Super convenient when you can focus your effort on doing the 'hands-on pumping', not worrying about the need to support the other side when you do breast compression on one side.
6. Dairy Fairy "Arden" Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Bra type: this is a bra that can serve as both nursing and pumping bra.
Size: S to 2XL
Color: black / creme/ nude / blush.
Pump support: the inner layer of front panel has a vertical slit serving as the hole for inserting the breast shield piece. On top of it, there's an outer panel that covers up that pump panel so that it feels like a regular bra (no holes visible).
Compatible with: almost all breast shield models. Can fit both single-piece and two-piece breast shield.
Price: check in Amazon
Disclaimer: I don't own this bra personally (because it's not easy to buy it from Singapore), but I feel the need to include it here because it has a pretty positive reviews from other pumping moms.
Pretty. This is not just a plain bra, the design is quite attractive for a pumping bra.
Very supportive. Although the bra was made from lycra -cotton blend, it is still firm enough to support the bottles even after being filled with milk.
Can be used for both pumping and nursing, so that you don't need to change your bra before your pumping session. What a time saver!
Expensive. It retails at $68 at Amazon, more than 2x higher compared to other pumping bras.
If you are using a one-piece breast shield with a bigger funnel size, the pump opening may stretch with use, and may become loose over time.
The outer panel is fixed with hooks.., so it may be annoying fiddling with the hooks right after pumping / nursing.
Can Dairy Fairy "Arden" be used for hands-on pumping?
The answer is yes.
The material is quite thin, so that you can still do breast compression over the pumping panel.
When you want to do hand expression, simply pull down the front panel to have full access to the breast and you can do hand-expression easily.
Where to buy: Amazon (worldwide)
Bra type: this is a bustier that can serve as both nursing and pumping bra.
Size: 3 sizes available (adjustable with velcro)
Color: bright pretty colors available
Bra opening: super strong velcro at the back
Pump support: there is quite big slits in the front to insert the pump flanges (one-piece breast shield can be inserted very easily). The material is quite thick so that you can totally go hands-free (it will still supports the flange pretty well even after the bottles are filled with milk).
Compatible with: both one-piece and two-piece breast shields.
Price: check in Amazon
1. Velcro opening makes wearing this bra is super quick. You can wear it on its own or over your regular nursing bra.
2. Super strong support. While a lot of other pumping bras start loosing support once the bottles are full of milk, this one stay strong. Some moms even reported that the extra compression helps to encourage better milk flow leading to more pumping output.
3. Great for moms with super large breasts. If you have been disappointed because other pumping bra does not fit your size, then this is for you. Pump strap is very popular among big-chested mamas because it provide adequate support for them while pumping.
1. Extra compression due to very supportive bra. Some moms reported more milk after pumping with this.
2. Ample of opening allows for easy access for both inserting / taking out the flanges or doing breast massage.
1. Since the velcro is super strong, the sound can be noisy and startle your baby if you happen to pump beside him.
2. The extra flap dangling at the back can be annoying. Some moms reported that it's better to cut the excess out once you find your best fit.
Can Pump Strap be used for hands-on pumping?
Yes, you can do hand massage while pumping while inserting your hand through the flange opening. Manual pumping is also feasible.
I haven't tried doing hand-expression with this, but considering that the opening is big enough even for nursing, I believe it is entirely possible to do hand-expression without needing to take this strap off.
I hope this review helps you to determine which pumping bra is most suitable for your need, especially if you plan to do hands-on pumping.
For me personally, from material-wise, I like Rumina Classic the most, because it feels very soft and fit my body perfectly. Too bad it is not very supportive once your bottle is full of milk.
The next that I like is Simplicity Lactamed pumping kit. Though it looks like a bunch of straps, it gets the job done, I can wear it easily over my regular clothes, and very supportive.
What about you? Have you ever used a pumping bra before? Which brand is your favorite?