If you’re a new mom and you’re wondering, “what the heck is a pumping bra and why do I need one?” you’ve come to the right place. Many first-time moms don’t know the difference between a nursing bra and a pumping bra. This is to be expected as looking at pictures of all the clasps and clips and holes and folds that come with different nursing or pumping bras online might inherently leave a person with more questions than answers. To be fair, many websites seek to be discreet in their pictures of how each bra unfolds into accessible formats for breast feedings, but it only makes sense that many women would be left questioning. While we appreciate each company’s attempt to remain tactful in displaying this everyday action of a mother’s life, first-time moms may be wishing that someone would come along and show them just exactly how it works. We understand this and are here to hopefully clear up any confusion or questions.
The Difference Between a Nursing Bra and a Pumping Bra
To start, it’s important to perhaps distinguish the difference between a nursing bra and a pumping bra, because if you’re anything like the first-time mothers we’ve spoken to, even that is a bit murky. A typical nursing bra is a bra with fabric that clasps at the strap and can be unclasped for times of feedings. These clip-on-clip-off cups are a functional way to give you coverage while feeding your baby in a way that doesn’t require you to fully undress and take off your whole bra or shirt when attempting the breastfeed. Many companies also make bras with less support or structure that are more comfortable to sleep in and have pull-aside flaps. Whatever format you prefer, just know that a nursing bra’s main quality is that they have fabric that can unclasp to be pulled down or fabric to be pulled aside for easy access.
A pumping bra, unlike a standard nursing bra, has the general purpose of keeping your breast pump in place so that you can remain hands-free and not have to worry that the pump might fall off. Pumping bras pose extra security and support to the suction that occurs when the breast pump’s flanges are in the right place. This fabric in the bra that holds this specific capability is typically found as slits and cut-outs around the nipple that allow the breast pump to be threaded through the hole and then held in place by the fabric re-placed around it.
The confusing part? Many brands make a combination sort of bra that includes both nursing a pumping features. If you are someone who is planning on doing both throughout your motherhood journey, a bra that has both features can be a huge game-changer. The visual way to recognize that a bra is both a nursing bra and a pumping bra is to look for a bra that unclasps at the strap for nursing and has a hole around the nipple that can be revealed for pumping.
Finding the Right Pumping Bra
A quality pumping bra can be very hard to come by. Far too many look like robot corsets and can’t possibly be functional, practical, or comfortable for the long-time usage they require. When looking for a quality pumping bra, we recommend looking for the following signs to assess whether it is high quality or not.
1. It should have Suction Control & Stability
The fabric surrounding the hole typically found in pumping bras should have a tight fit. This helps the breast pumping device stay on properly and not move in order to get good suction. Obviously, it shouldn’t be overly tight, but most pumping bras should be sturdy enough the keep the breast shields in place, while also remaining stretchy enough to be able to comfortably remove and secure the pump in the first place. The bra should hold the pumping equipment without feeling wobbly or slippery. Ultimately, the goal is to allow you to be as hands-free as possible.
2. It should have Flexibility and Adjustability
Nursing and motherhood often mean that your cup size will fluctuate dramatically throughout this stage of life. Because your breast size will change so dramatically throughout this journey it is important to have a bra that is either very stretchy or has extra hooks in the back to take in and let out room for your changing body.
3. It should have Comfort and Ease of Wear.
At the end of the day, it’s most important that you are comfortable, mama! Your bras should not dig into your shoulders and ribs. They should be easy to adjust. Most importantly, they should provide support to your pumping equipment. All the while, it’s important to take inventory of how easy it is to insert and remove your pump.