All breastfeeding parents need easy access to their breasts for pumping or nursing! Here are six of the best nursing bras for pumping, including the different types of bras, and what to look for when picking one.
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Types of nursing bras
The two major things that differentiate nursing bras are design and the function.
Design: Crossover vs hooks
Obviously, the difference between nursing bras and regular bras is the “easy access” functionality.
Most bras intended for breastfeeding moms accomplish this in one of two ways – either through a crossover design, or by putting hooks on the top of the cup.
The crossover design is really easy to use – all you need to do when you’re ready to pump is push the cup fabric to the side of your breast and out of the way. The downside is that these bras can also provide somewhat less support, because there may not be as much fabric in the middle of the bra.
The cup hook design, on the other hand, has a little hook at the top of each cup. When you unhook them, the fabric falls forward so that your breasts are accessible to your pump or your baby.
Both nursing bra designs usually include removable padding for catching leaks.
Function: Sleep vs sport vs everyday
As with normal bras, manufacturers design nursing bras for different functions. Most of these fall into the category of sleeping nursing bra, sports nursing bra, or just a plain old everyday nursing bra.
How are they different? Sleeping bras are usually more comfortable and are intended to provide some support and hold your breast pads in place, but they aren’t really meant for daily use or exercise.
Sports nursing bras are obviously intended to be worn when you’re working out, and therefore they provide the most support.
And, of course, everyday bras are for going to work or Starbucks or just staying home.
What are the best nursing bras for pumping?
There are a few things to consider if you’re going to be using your bras mostly or exclusively for pumping.
Accessibility of both breasts
Unless they have twins, nursing moms only nurse on one side at a time. However, most exclusive pumpers double pump, so you want to make sure that your nursing bra gives you easy access to both breasts at the same time.
This isn’t a problem with nursing bras with the cup hook design, but may be an issue with some crossover bras. In my experience, when both sides are pulled down on some crossover bras, the cup fabric will creep back up while you pump, getting in the way.
Integration with a hands-free system
If you haven’t bought a hands-free pumping bra yet, getting nursing bras that integrate with one can be work really well.
In some cases, the manufacturer will provide an a hands-free piece that attaches to their nursing bras; other times, the bra itself has the ability to function as a pumping bra without anything additional.
(Note: The downside to an integrated nursing bra/pumping bra function is that you can’t wear any other bras and still be able to pump hands-free.)
Overall usefulness for your circumstances
Pumping moms might not need all of the different types of nursing bras.
Sports nursing bras are one example. While nursing moms might be exercising with their baby in a Mommy and Me class and need to stop and nurse, exclusively pumping moms are rarely going to need to have to stop exercising so they can pump immediately. Therefore, a normal sports bra can work fine.
On the other hand, though, comfort is really important in nursing bras, and women who are prone to clogged ducts or mastitis might want to use a nursing sports bra that is designed with nursing breasts in mind (i.e., without wires or seams that may be a problem) – even if they never actually use it while pumping.
Six of the best nursing bras
Below are six awesome options for nursing bras.
Here is some more info on each of these options.
1. Dairy Fairy Pippa
The Dairy Fairy Pippa proves that nursing bras do not need to sacrifice form for function! This nursing bra is not only also a pumping bra, but it’s a beautiful, lacy bra.
If nursing, there is a hook and latch at the top of each side that you can bring down for easy access. It also has holes in the panel (that are hidden behind a flap until you’re ready to use them) that hold up your flanges when you pump.
- It’s definitely the cutest nursing bra I’ve ever owned – it doesn’t look like one at all
- You can do anything with it – nurse, pump on both sides, pump on one side and nurse on the other, etc.Â
- It has just the right amount of padding (and doesn’t have removable padding that gets all bunched up)
- It’s a bit pricier than other options
You can see more of the Dairy Fairy Pippa in the below stories:
2. Kindred Bravely Sublime Nursing Bra/Tank
The Sublime hands-free nursing bra by Kindred Bravely is both a nursing bra AND a pumping bra. It’s super comfortable and has two hooks and layers – a pumping bra layer and then a covering over that that makes it a “normal” nursing bra. It also comes as a tank.
- It comes in busty sizes and is one of the best nursing bras for large breasts
- Easy to pump on one side and nurse on the other side
- Very supportive, comfortable, and well-made
- No need to take off your bra or have an extra accessory if you pump at work, because this does it all
- It’s a bit heavier than other nursing bras with the two layers and may not be ideal for really warm weather
You can see the Sublime in the below stories:
3. Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra
- Gives great shape without wires
- Shoulder clips are high-quality and easy to use one-handed
- Fabric is very comfortable
- Hold up well over time with machine washing
- May not fit certain women – large-busted women with a smaller band size reported issues with fit
- Sells as a higher price point than other nursing bras
4. Bodily Do Anything Nursing Bra
The Bodily Do Anything bra is an integrated nursing/pumping bra. It’s similar to the Kindred Bravely Sublime discussed above, but it is lighter weight.
- Material is comfortable and silky
- No need for an extra accessory for pumping
- It’s easy to pump on one side while you nurse on the other
- It’s a bit more expensive than some other options
You can see more of the Bodily Do Anything in the below stories:
5. CAKYE Nursing Bra for Sleep
CAYKE makes a high-quality crossover sleeping bra; three bras come in a package.
- Fabric and straps are both very comfortable
- Easy to use
- Durable and retains elasticity
- Some women reported that the fabric shifts during sleep, causing breast pads to fall out
- Sizing may not be consistent
6. Hofish Seamless Wireless Crossover Nursing Bras
The Hofish Seamless nursing bra is another great crossover nursing bra.
- Has wider side panels to help avoid side “spillage”
- Larger than usual opening for removable padding, making it easier to get them in and out
- Great quality for the price
- Some women noted that the removable pads can get warped
What to think about when buying a nursing bra
Here are a few other things to consider when picking a nursing bra:
Bras can be really expensive, but luckily – given the short amount of time that you’ll use them – many nursing bras are pretty affordable.
Comfort is more important when it comes to nursing bras than it is with regular bras, because any pressure against your milk ducts from a badly placed underwire or strap could led to a plugged duct.
None of the bras listed above have wires, and most are seamless because of this issue, so just keep this in mind if you consider other bras.
Finally, your breasts can change over the course of your breastfeeding journey. You may want to get re-fitted or re-measure when buying new nursing bras.
Integration with hands-free pumping
What’s your favorite nursing bra? Tell us in the comments!