Mothering’s Top Pumping Bras for Nursing Moms

We've got the top ten pumping bras for nursing momsIf you are a nursing mother, the chances are that at some point, you will have to pump. And who wants to sit there for 15-20 minutes (sometimes more) without the use of their hands? 

Pumping bras allow mothers not only to pump the milk their baby needs but also allows them to keep their hands free while doing it. The thing is, though, how do you know what the best pumping bras are? What is the difference between a pumping bra and a regular bra?

What Are Pumping Bras?

A pumping bra looks much like a regular bra, but it adds convenience to a nursing mother’s life by offering a hands-free way to express her breastmilk. It is only used when expressing milk and does not take the place of a regular bra or a nursing bra throughout the day. Simply put, it is a bra-like piece of nursing equipment that holds the suction flanges and the bottles for the expressed milk so the pumping mom doesn’t have to hold them up to her breasts while she expresses milk. 

Pumping bras are easy to use and generally come in just a few sizes to accommodate women of different bust sizes. It can easily slip over a woman’s nursing bra, or it can be worn independently during pumping sessions. Pumping bras are often designed as tube tops or with straps- which one you prefer depends on your comfort and personal style. 

How Often You Should Pump

New mothers often wonder how often they should pump to build enough of a supply for their little ones. How often a mother pumps depends on several factors, including if she is an exclusively pumping mom, only pumping for the occasional back-up supply, or pumping in order to increase her current supply. 

Exclusively pumping moms are nursing mothers who choose to express their breastmilk instead of nursing their baby from the breast. During the newborn stages, exclusively pumping mothers should be pumping every two to three hours to keep up with a newborn’s high demand for breastmilk during the early stages of life. As the child grows older and decreases the frequency in which he or she is nursing, an exclusively pumping mother can also extend the time in between pumping sessions. In addition, as a mother continues to pump her body will acclimate and begin to produce more milk between sessions, making it easier for her to get the number of ounces she needs for her little one. 

Mothers who are exclusively pumping will want to pump whenever their baby would nurse to mimic their baby’s feeding needs. The human body- especially a nursing mother’s body- is amazing. It will accommodate the needs of the child in terms of frequency and amount as long as the pumping mom continues to pump whenever the baby would normally eat. And that includes times when they are not with the baby or overnight when the baby wakes to nurse. 

RELATED: Top 10 Electric Pumps for Pumping Moms

Mothers who are only pumping occasionally in order to have a back-up supply for an occasional caregiver do not necessarily have to work on a specific schedule. Pumping small amounts between sessions (right after a baby nurses is usually best) or from the breast they are not eating from generally gives mothers enough of a supply for the occasional babysitter. 

Some mothers, however, find themselves needing to pump in order to increase their milk supply. In cases like these, many mothers will often pump for 10 to 15 minutes after their baby nurses in order to encourage her body to produce more milk. They will do this after every nursing session or every other nursing session to help increase their supply. 

How Much Milk Should You Pump Each Session?

How much milk you need to pump each session depends on your baby. In the newborn stages new mothers will often only be able to pump small amounts of two to four ounces at a time. As a mother continues to pump she will be able to pump more and more during one session. The amount a mother is able to pump is largely based on the individual, however. Some women can pump large amounts during each session, giving them an oversupply of additional milk. And some women have to work harder to get amount they need for their little ones by adding in additional pumping sessions or using different supplements to help them increase their supply. 

There is nothing “wrong” with a mother who only can produce small amounts of milk during a pumping session. If a mother is nursing in addition to pumping, she doesn’t have to worry that she isn’t feeding her baby enough. Babies are extremely efficient at the breast and can often expel more milk than a breast pump. And even if a mother is only exclusively pumping, her body will continue to increase her milk supply as her baby needs it as long as she continues to add in additional pumping sessions or pump for longer during sessions to signal her body that she needs to produce more milk. 

25 Ways to Increase Milk Supply When Pumping

If you are only occasionally pumping in order to have a backup stash but you feel as though your baby isn’t getting enough milk you can try to increase your supply by trying some of the following things: 

  • Nurse more often
  • Drink more water, especially right before and during nursing sessions
  • Nurse on both breasts, or nurse on one side and pump on the other
  • Add supplements such as fenugreek, milk thistle, fennel, stinging needle, alfalfa, goat’s rue, brewer’s yeast, garlic, or ginger

If you are exclusively pumping, you can increase your milk supply by doing some of the following things:

  • Pumping more often
  • Pumping longer during sessions even if no milk is being expressed
  • Ensure that you are pumping at least eight times per day for your newborn 
  • Drink more water, especially right before and during nursing sessions
  • Pump on both breast during each pumping session
  • Add supplements such as fenugreek, milk thistle, fennel, stinging needle, alfalfa, goat’s rue, brewer’s yeast, garlic, or ginger

RELATED: 5 Yummy Milk Shakes to Increase Milk Supply

If you are using pumping as a way to increase your milk supply for your nursing baby you can do some of the following things to help increase your milk:

  • Pump right after you nurse
  • Pump one breast while you nurse on the other one
  • Drink more water, especially right before and during nursing sessions
  • Add supplements such as fenugreek, milk thistle, fennel, stinging needle, alfalfa, goat’s rue, brewer’s yeast, garlic, or ginger

There are also some commercially made supplements you can purchase that may help increase your milk supply. Many of these supplements contain several different herbs like fenugreek, milk thistle, fennel, garlic, and ginger which makes it easier to get all the supplements a nursing or exclusively pumping mother might need to help increase her supply. A mother can also create supplements at home with simple recipes for lactation cookies or other treats that can often help increase her supply. 

Lactation Cookie Recipe to Help Increase a Mom’s Milk Supply

These homemade lactation cookie from Bunsen Burner Bakery are a great way to ensure that you get some of the milk-boosting foods into your diet. 


  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup brewer’s yeast
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter (substitute in peanut butter or leave out altogether)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  • Using a mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat until just combined.
  • Add the almond butter (optional) and oatmeal, mixing again until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop 1.5 tablespoons of dough onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown. Cookies will puff up a bit in the oven; if you prefer flatter cookies, press down on the top of each cookie with the underside of a spatula. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to a week; cookies will keep frozen for up to 3 months.

A nursing or pumping mother should make sure that she is adding 450 to 500 additional calories into her daily it when pumping or nursing. There are also certain foods that can help increase a mother’s milk supply that may be useful in addition to breastmilk supplements such as:

  • Spinach
  • Oatmeal
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Sesame seeds
  • Carrots
  • Yams
  • Leafy greens
  • Water

The Benefits of a Pumping Bra for a Mother

All mothers who find themselves pumping breastmilk for their little ones, whether they do it occasionally or they do it exclusively, a pumping bra can come in very handy. A pumping bra allows a mother to be hands-free while she pumps giving her the freedom to do things like drink water, read a story to her toddler, nurse her baby on one breast while she pumps on the other, eat healthy snacks like the lactation cookies above, or simply browse on her phone to help pass the time (and stay awake for those overnight pumping sessions). 

Pumping bras also make it easy for mothers to store the expressed milk. Her milk will pump right into the pumping bottles and she can either store it in there for short term storage or pour it into a milk supply bag or glass bottles for longer storage. Some pumping systems even allow a mother to pump directly into a storage bag skipping the middle man (and all the cleaning of bottles and parts).

A DIY Pumping Bra

Most pumping bras are extremely affordable and will add a significant amount of ease to each and every pumping session for a mother since her hands will be free to do other things. However, a new pumping bra may not be worth the investment for a mother who is only occasionally pumping. You can easily make your own nursing bra at home with just a few things: 

  • An old sports bra (cotton ones often work best)
  • A pair of scissors

In order to make this DIY nursing bra, simply cut out small circles into the breast area of the sports bra. When you are ready to pump, simply place the flanges through the holes of the DIY pumping bra. Then attach the bottles or bags for storage and begin pumping. One caveat to a DIY pumping bra is that the holes you cut will often fray and become loose, or the bra itself is not tight enough to hold the breast pump flanges to your chest without assistance. However, a DIY nursing bra is a wonderful option for a mom who is only occasionally pumping and can save some money. 

RELATED: Pumping in Public

Top 8 Pumping Bras for Nursing Moms

Commercially-made pumping bras are wonderful for mothers who pump often or for those that simply want a product that makes their life a little bit easier. Here are some of our favorite pumping bras that will give pumping moms everywhere their hands-free to do whatever they need to do (like read more articles from Mothering on their phone or tablet!)

Momcozy Adjustable Pumping Bra

The Momcozy Adjustable Pumping Bra fits a variety of breast pumps and makes it easy to go from nursing to pumping and back to everyday wear. The cotton and wireless design make it comfortable to wear day and night, giving room for the breasts to fill with milk without making it uncomfortable. 

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Essential Pump and Nurse Tank

This convenient pumping bra isn’t just a pumping bra- it’s a tank top, too. You can wear it both as a nursing tank top or as a pumping tank top, making it easier for moms who both nurse and pump to go back and forth. It comes in black, white, or grey and can be worn under clothing to make both nursing and pumping sessions easier. 

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Essential Pump and Nurse Bra

If you are looking for just a simple bra that can help you pump or nurse, the Essential Pump and Nurse bra makes it easy to do both. The clip-down design allows you to easily insert your flanges for your breast pump or nurse your baby- or both at the same time! It comes in a variety of colors like black, white, grey, pink, and beige so you can have different ones to wear under different clothing. 

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Lupanette Hands-Free Pumping Bra

This hands-free pumping bra makes it easy to pump without having to hold the flanges or bottles of your breast pump. The best part? The bra straps can be altered in a variety of ways so it makes it easy to wear under any style of clothing–racerback, halter, strapless, or traditional are all options with this pumping bra. 

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Simple Wishes D-Lite Hands-Free Nursing Bra

This simple design allows moms to easily strap into their pumping bra without having to wear it all day long. If mom is more comfortable in regular, non-maternity bra throughout her day and simply wants something to wear when she is pumping, this is the pumping bra for her. 

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BRAVADO Designs Hands-Free Pumping and Nursing Bra

Most pumping bras only come in a few colors- black, white, gray, or beige. The hands-free pumping bra by BRAVADO has different color options to fit your personal style. Because who says that pumping bras have to be boring?

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Pacasso Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Moms might be moms, but that doesn’t mean that her pumping bra can’t do something for her. These pumping bras by Pacasso give mom a little bit of lift like a regular bra while still functioning as a nursing and/or pumping bra. This allows mom to be comfortable with her style as an individual as well as be able to continue nursing and pumping as she would like. The comfortable cotton design makes it easy to wear all day long, too. 

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Pacasso Zipper-Front Pumping Bra

This convenient pumping bra is easy to put on as it zips closed in the front versus snapping closed in the back. This allows mom to easily slip it on without compromising her comfort throughout the day. The zipper-front pumping bra is also great for use in the car or on the go as it allows mom to put the bra on without exposing herself. It is also a great option to keep at home for quick pumping sessions after you nurse or between sessions. 

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Pumping bras make a world of difference for moms everywhere, no matter if they are pumping occasionally or exclusively pumping. The hands-free designs give moms the ability to continue to do what they need to do or would like to do while they pump, saving time and reducing the inherent stress that comes with frequent nursing and pumping. 

Photo: Blanscape/Shutterstock

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