The Best Pumping Bra
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The Best Pumping Bra

Apr 10, 2023

Pumping breast milk is a necessary if not exactly pleasant chore for many mothers. A pumping bra, which holds pump parts in place, leaving your hands free for other tasks, can make it easier and more convenient. After 15 hours of research, including interviewing two lactation consultants, considering 25 different pumping bras, and evaluating feedback from five women who spent over 20 hours using nine of them to pump a collective 350 ounces of milk, we concluded that the Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra is the best for most women.

The Simple Wishes allows for more adjustment and customization and holds the pump equipment more securely to the breast than any other bra we tried.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $31.

Fit and support are crucial to ensuring a pumping bra does its job and doesn't leave you crying over spilled milk. With its clever multi-paneled construction, the Simple Wishes allows for more adjustment and customization than any other bra we tried, while holding your pump's breast shields—the funnel-like attachments that channel the milk into the bottles while you pump—more securely to your breasts. This bustier-style pumping bra is the easiest to put on and take off of all the bras we tested, and the cotton fabric feels softer and more comfortable than other bras’ stiffer material. It's also one of the best-selling pumping bras and has been favorably reviewed by thousands of pumping mothers.


The Dairy Fairy Arden costs twice as much as our main pick and won't hold your pump's breast shields as tightly against your breasts. But it's more attractive, can be worn all day, and works for both pumping and nursing.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70.

You have to put on and take off the Simple Wishes each time you pump, but if you’re willing to spend more for the convenience and comfort of a pumping bra that you can wear all day (and nurse in), check out The Dairy Fairy Arden; it is more supportive and adjustable and easier to use than the other alternatives to our top pick. However, though more attractive than the utilitarian Simple Wishes, the Arden won't appeal to everyone in its fabric and design, and, like the other all-in-one pumping bras we tried, it doesn't hold the pumping equipment as tightly as the Simple Wishes.

The Simple Wishes allows for more adjustment and customization and holds the pump equipment more securely to the breast than any other bra we tried.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $31.

The Dairy Fairy Arden costs twice as much as our main pick and won't hold your pump's breast shields as tightly against your breasts. But it's more attractive, can be worn all day, and works for both pumping and nursing.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70.

To learn about what to look for in a pumping bra and how to use one effectively, we spoke with April Rosenblum, an international board-certified lactation consultant with a practice in Philadelphia, and Tipper Gallagher, also an IBCLC, based in Minneapolis, who runs a breastfeeding information blog called The Boob Geek. We also consulted online breastfeeding and pumping resources like KellyMom and Stanford School of Medicine and read dozens of discussions on message boards like La Leche League International, BabyCenter, and What To Expect. We also polled 50 members of an active Facebook community for exclusively pumping mothers about their opinions on pumping bras.

I’m the research editor for The Wirecutter, assisting our writers and editors with product research and reporting for more than 100 guides to date. I’m also a mom who has breastfed and pumped for my three children, including my current baby, who was about 6 months old while I researched and wrote this guide.

If you’re planning on pumping breast milk with some regularity, you may find that a pumping bra—a garment that allows you to keep your hands free while you’re pumping—enables multitasking and thus makes what's often a tedious chore less unpleasant. Unlike a nursing bra, which unclips to expose the breast for feeding a baby directly, a pumping bra has slits in the fabric over the nipples that are designed to hold the breast shields (also called flanges) of your breast pump securely against your skin. (A pumping bra is just a bra and does not include any pump hardware.) This leaves your hands free to feed or care for your baby, hold a book or phone, use a computer, drive a car, massage your breasts, or do whatever else you need to do during the 15 minutes or more you’re likely spending per pumping session.

"Pumping bras can provide stability, so you can do things like turn your pump setting up without worrying about dropping the pump parts," lactation consultant Tipper Gallagher told us. Using a pumping bra also means you won't have to grip the pumping equipment, which could cause hand and wrist stiffness or pain—even repetitive strain injuries—after long periods of time. Many women find that using a pumping bra is simply more comfortable than going without.

But both Gallagher and April Rosenblum told us that you don't need a pumping bra to pump effectively, and the bra itself won't make you pump more quickly or produce more milk. If you pump only occasionally, you may find a pumping bra isn't necessary. And if holding your pump equipment in your hands is working well for you, you also don't need a pumping bra. The main consideration is if a pumping bra will make it easier, more comfortable, and more pleasant for you to pump.

"Pumping bras should make pumping more convenient, not less convenient," Rosenblum said. "A mother might say ‘I need to be really good at pumping, I’ve got to wear my bustier,’" but that's not true. If putting on and taking off a pumping bra for each pumping session is cumbersome for you and makes you pump less frequently than you need to—even if you end up pumping for longer sessions—it could lower your milk supply, Rosenblum said.

A pumping bra itself won't make you pump more quickly or produce more milk.

It's also important to make sure a pumping bra will not get in the way of your pumping and any manual techniques you use to help remove milk, such as breast compressions and massage.

"One consideration is whether or not you’ll get enough milk if you go hands free, since massaging and holding your breast while pumping tends to get a lot more milk out," Gallagher told us. "Sometimes a pumping bra can prevent that," for example, by making it harder to reach your breasts to massage and compress them.

Rosenblum suggested that you may want to speak with a lactation consultant before trying a pumping bra, in order to make sure it won't interfere with your technique and goals. "If [someone is] depending on pumping to establish or increase her supply, she should talk to a lactation consultant. If a woman is just getting a pumping bra because she's going back to work and her supply is fine, then it's a matter of convenience and she doesn't need to talk to a lactation consultant."

You can also try making a DIY pumping bra by cutting holes in a sports bra (this will work only with detachable flanges), or using ponytail holders, though that won't be as supportive as the pumping bras we recommend.

We started by making a list of 25 popular pumping bras on Amazon, Target, Babies"R"Us, and BuyBuy Baby. We found that most pumping bras fall into two categories.

Bustier bras: These are typically bandeau-style garments that you put on just to pump and take off afterward. You move aside or remove your top and unfasten the cups of your bra (if a nursing bra) or take off or slide your regular bra out of the way before putting on the pumping bra. You insert the breast shields through the two openings in the cups of the bra. Most bustier pumping bras are one-size-fits-all or come in just a few sizes, but can be adjusted to achieve the snug fit required to hold the breast shields—which will soon have milk-filled bottles attached—in place.

All-in-one bras: These wear-all-day bras look like a typical nursing bra, with cups that unhook for breastfeeding as well as slits over the nipples for the breast shields to be inserted through. Similar to nursing bras, most all-in-one bras are soft-cup, but some have underwire. With an all-in-one bra, you don't need to put on or take anything off to pump—you just open or lift your shirt. This type of bra also allows you to nurse your baby or nurse and pump at the same time. Because they need to fit as comfortably and supportively as a regular bra, all-in-one bras come in a wider range of sizes.

We also found a few hands-free pumping solutions that aren't bras at all, such as harnesses, panels and breast pump adapters that clip onto a nursing bra, and specialized collection cups that fit into your bra.

After talking with our experts, polling pumping mothers on our staff, reading user reviews, and surveying pumping mothers on Facebook, we determined a good pumping bra of either style should offer:

We narrowed our list of 25 bras in part by focusing on those that had the highest star rating and most reviews on Amazon. We also polled mothers on Exclusively Pumping Mamas, a popular Facebook group with over 16,000 members, to find out what bras they’d had good (and bad) experiences with. This led us to eight finalist bras, a clip-on bra accessory, and a harness we decided to test:

Bustier bras:Pump Strap Hands-Free Pumping BraPumpEase Hands-Free Pumping BraSimple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra

All-in-one bras:The Dairy Fairy ArdenThe Dairy Fairy AylaRumina Essential Relaxed Pump&NurseRumina Classic Pump&NurseRumina Seamless Pump&Nurse

Bra adapters:Bravado Designs Clip and PumpLactaMed Simplicity Bra Kit

First, I tested each of the 10 bras and bra alternatives over approximately 20 pumping sessions, assessing how each met the criteria outlined above (adjustability, stability, suction, accessibility, comfort, ease of wear).

Based on this assessment and our extensive background and online research, we narrowed the bras to three finalists: two bustier bras and one all-in-one bra.

We recruited four additional breastfeeding mothers, three of whom were currently pumping and one who had pumped extensively in the past, to test these three finalist bras. Each tester used one to three of the finalists over the course of a week or more.

Our testers normally wear size 30E, 34A, 34B, 36DD, and 42G bras.

The Simple Wishes allows for more adjustment and customization and holds the pump equipment more securely to the breast than any other bra we tried.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $31.

The Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra is more adjustable than any other model we tried, letting you change both the band circumference and the spacing between the breast shield openings to get the desired fit. The cotton-spandex bra feels softer than others made from stiffer materials, like the Pump Strap's neoprene, but is still the most supportive bra we tried, with multiple vertical seams to provide structure. It's the only model we looked at that has two layers of overlapping fabric at the flange openings, which hold the pump equipment more securely than the slits or holes of the other bras we tested, and offer more coverage. The front closure, with its high-quality YKK zipper, makes the bra easier to put on and take off than any other we tested. Finally, the Simple Wishes has a proven track record with pumping women, with a 4.5-star rating (out of five) on Amazon across more than 6,000 reviews. (It's also the only pumping bra we know of that has gone viral on Instagram.)

The Simple Wishes Signature bra comes in two sizes, which should fit 30AA through 48J. The bra is made of three separate pieces (or four, if you add the optional center spacer): a 12-inch-long back panel and two front panels that Velcro to each end of it. You adjust the length of the back panel on both the left and right sides to customize the fit. Many women's breasts are asymmetrical in both size and shape, and this bra's construction allows you to independently tighten either side or the top or bottom. This can be especially helpful when breastfeeding, as many women report producing more milk or becoming more engorged on one side than the other. The Simple Wishes is the only bra we tried besides our "Also great" pick (The Dairy Fairy Arden) that allowed this specificity of fit adjustment.

Our 34A tester said she appreciated "how adjustable [the Simple Wishes] was. It was very good at holding everything on tightly."

The Simple Wishes includes optional straps that can be attached over the shoulders or in a halter or racerback style. Most of our testers and other users we consulted said they didn't need the straps, but using them can provide extra support.

The Simple Wishes is the only bra that lets you adjust the spacing of the breast shield openings by zipping in an (included) 1-inch-wide center panel. We think this is a useful feature, because women's breasts don't just vary by size and shape, but also in whether the breasts are wide set or splay out toward the sides, or are closely set, all of which affect where your nipples are in relation to the rest of your body. The other bras we tested let you adjust only the spacing of the breast shields, by loosening or tightening the bra overall.

Despite the complexity of its design, the Simple Wishes is easier to put on and take off than other pumping bras we tried. Once you adjust the back panel to your desired fit, you simply zip the bra on and off from the front each time you use it. You can make major adjustments to accommodate size fluctuations using the Velcro, but most of the time you won't need to do this once you "set" your size. Other bras we tested that fasten only in the back, like the Pump Strap, or in the front, like the PumpEase, require you to readjust with each use.

Two layers of fabric forming a vertical and horizontal slit make up the breast shield openings. This design holds the breast shields more securely than any of the other pumping bras we tested, which all had single-layer openings. The fabric also fully covers the nipple area once the shields are removed, which some people may appreciate, particularly when pumping in a workplace or other public space.

The Simple Wishes was by far the most commonly cited favorite among all the pumping women we polled, both on our staff and in the Exclusively Pumping Mamas Facebook group. One member of that group, a milk donor who has pumped and donated over 148 gallons—babies consume 25 ounces per day, on average, so that's a ton of milk—told us she’d tried six other pumping bras and the Simple Wishes was the best. Numerous women have called it their "go-to" pumping bra and even "a lifechanger."

The bra comes in two sizes in either black or pink.

Some of our testers found the Simple Wishes fit too snugly and came up too high on their chest for them to be able to easily massage and compress their breasts during pumping.

One of our testers commented that she found the breast shield openings on the Simple Wishes a little too secure. "I couldn't very easily adjust the shields once they were in, which I like to do to make sure the nipple is centered in the shield. The two layers made that tricky."

Another tester noted that though the Simple Wishes made her pumping equipment feel more secure and comfortable, she found she was "constantly aware of having the pumping bra over my regular nursing bra. It just felt bulky and annoying." But this is a flaw with all bustier pumping bras. If you think you’ll find it irritating to put on and take off an extra garment to pump, you may want to consider The Dairy Fairy Arden. (It's also likely more comfortably to fully remove your regular bra before putting on the Simple Wishes.)

You also can't simultaneously nurse and pump while wearing the Simple Wishes, as the openings are too small to allow a baby to latch. But none of the bustier pumping bras we tried were really compatible with nursing; if you want a pumping bra that allows you to nurse and pump at the same time, you’ll want to try The Dairy Fairy Arden.

The Dairy Fairy Arden costs twice as much as our main pick and won't hold your pump's breast shields as tightly against your breasts. But it's more attractive, can be worn all day, and works for both pumping and nursing.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70.

Though The Dairy Fairy Arden didn't suit all of our testers and won't hold pump equipment as firmly as our main pick, if you want a bra you can wear all day that works for pumping and nursing, we think it's the best of the available options. The Arden comes in six sizes, encompassing 32A through 44I. Our testers wore sizes XS, S, M, L, and 2XL.

The Arden offers the most adjustment options of any all-in-one bra we tested, with six rows of hooks-and-eyes in the back, compared with just three rows on the Rumina Classic and Seamless bras.

The Arden also has a unique fastening system, with three rows of hooks along the band at the bottom of the crossover cups, which lets you open the cups to nurse or to insert the pump equipment, and then refasten each cup at the appropriate hook to get your desired tightness. The hook system allows you to get the right initial fit, to account for changes in your breast size over time, and even to adjust throughout the day if you experience engorgement or size changes as you pump or nurse. Aside from the Simple Wishes, none of the other bras we tried allow this degree of adjustment.

One of our testers described the Arden as "a genius set up," but not everyone who tried it was convinced by the crossover design. Our L and 2XL testers felt the adjustable, crossover cups were trying to be "too clever," and both reported that they found it hard to unhook or re-hook the clasps one-handed.

Our 2XL tester also felt the crossover clasps, which are the same size on the XS bra as they are on the larger bra, weren't quite strong enough to accommodate the mass and weight of larger breasts: "It must’ve been the Crossfit championship trying to keep my boobs in all day." She noted that the clasps came partially unhooked a few times, which made the band dig into her skin.

Because the cups partially overlap, both our L and 2XL testers noted it was sometimes harder to unclasp the bottom cup to nurse on that side. Several testers said they tended to just push aside the outer and inner cups for nursing, which works well too.

All the testers found the Arden to be adequately supportive and a good fit.

Similar to many nursing bras, the Arden is wireless, and anecdotally we’ve found that many breastfeeding mothers don't wear underwire, for comfort reasons (we’ll publish a review of nursing bras later this fall). Because you can tighten the crossover-style cups, we found the Arden was more supportive than the other wireless bras we tested. It's made of a double-layered cotton-spandex, which makes the bra smooth and more concealing under clothing than the thinner bras we tested, like the Rumina Seamless. Our 2XL tester was pleased that the straps were wide enough to help support larger chests.

Two of our testers found the Arden didn't hold the breast shields as closely against their bodies as they wanted; to get enough suction, one tester said she had to tighten the back band each time she pumped and then loosen it again for normal wear. All of the all-in-one pumping bras we tested failed to support the breast shields as securely as bustier-style bras like the Simple Wishes.

Two testers also noted that the fabric slits that hold the pumping equipment were a bit small, and both reported spilling some milk when removing their breast shields after pumping. But we found this was the case with all the all-in-one pumping bras we tried, which uniformly had smaller openings for the pump equipment than the bustier bras did.

The Arden's cotton-spandex cups are lined with two layers of polyester-spandex, a material that is often used in activewear due to its moisture-wicking properties. We tested the Arden's moisture-wicking ability by dribbling a half teaspoon of water onto the lining (this test was suggested by Min Zhu, an assistant professor of textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, who spoke about performance fabrics with the writer of our sports bra guide). We pressed the material against our hand (to simulate body temperature), and it took about 3 minutes for the material to feel dry again.

One tester said the Arden's quadruple-layered construction, with its cotton-spandex outer layer and polyester-spandex lining, was too hot for summer weather, making her sweat. The lining should help wick away some moisture—from both sweat and milk—but if you prefer thinner, lighter bras, the Arden may not be for you.

The Arden is expensive—about twice as much as most of the bras we tested. But it offers more adjustability, is easier to wear, and is better constructed than the cheaper bras we tried, which we think is important for a bra that needs to remain comfortable and supportive (both for your breasts, and the pumping equipment) and retain its shape after having pump equipment inserted and removed up to a few times a day, every day.

It comes in a few color and style combinations: pink, gray, or beige (with eyelet lace trim), and black or cream (without trim).

Bustier bras:

The Pump Strap Hands-Free Pumping Bra is a 4-foot-long strip of neoprene with wide slits for the pump equipment. It closes with a Velcro panel in the back and is relatively easy to put on, but because it's one-size-fits-all, all our testers complained about the extra material that stuck out in the back after it was fastened, which felt uncomfortable to lean against. Although you can cut off extra fabric outside the parts with double stitching to make the bra smaller, we think our main pick still offers more convenience and adjustability. Though the Pump Strap supports the equipment well, and the wide openings allow for easy adjustment, multiple testers found the neoprene material stiff, uncomfortable, and ugly, with one commenting that it made her more aware of "being hooked up to a machine," and another noting that she’d "never wear it outside."

The stretchy nylon PumpEase Hands-Free Pumping Bra comes in four sizes and a range of cheerful prints. The small breast-shield openings give little room for adjustment, though. And because the PumpEase closes with four rows of hooks-and-eyes in the front, if you tighten the adjustment, it pulls the pump equipment closer to the center, and loosening it moves them toward the side, which isn't ideal for getting a perfect fit.

The Bravado Designs Clip and Pump is a piece of stretchy material—cotton, modal, and spandex blend—that clips onto a nursing bra (it's designed for Bravado bras, but we found it worked with other brands as well). A strap wraps around your rib cage, and you insert the pump equipment into two keyhole-shaped openings. Though it supports the pumping equipment well, the Clip and Pump doesn't allow much adjustment of overall size or placement of the breast shields.

Although the Medela Easy Expression Bustier is popular on Amazon, we didn't test this model because it got the most negative callouts in our opinion polling on Facebook and has a lower star rating (3.5 out of 5) than our contenders. It's similar in design to the Simple Wishes, but less adjustable and customizable.

The LactaMed Simplicity Hands Free Bra Kit is not a bra at all, but rather a set of shoelaces with toggles and an alligator clip. Rosenblum told us that harness-style, hands-free pumping devices like the LactaMed can work well for some women because they allow full access to the breast for massaging. But it took us several tries to figure out how to get it on, and the pumping equipment felt precarious.

All-in-one bras:

The Rumina Essential Relaxed Pump&Nurse and Classic Pump&Nurse bras are similar, cotton-spandex crossover-style bras; the main difference is that the Classic has a hook-and-eye back closure, while the Relaxed is pullover, like some sports bras. Neither bra has adjustable straps. You simply pull the cups to the side to nurse and insert the pump equipment through two layers of fabric to pump. Both bras were very comfortable, similar to nursing bras for sleep, but not particularly supportive of our testers’ breasts or of the pump equipment.

The Rumina Seamless Pump&Nurse, made from two layers of very soft, stretchy cotton-spandex, is the only bra we tested that comes with machine-washable cloth nursing pads—a helpful feature, as many women use pads to absorb leaking breast milk and moisture. But those pads have to be removed or scrunched to the side before pumping, which is awkward. The bra clips down for nursing, but to pump, you have to loosen the shoulder straps all the way and then squeeze the breast shields through two tiny openings in the bra. Loosening and retightening the straps each time is cumbersome, and the pump equipment felt wobbly and unsupported.

The Dairy Fairy Ayla was the only underwire pumping bra we tested. Though the pump equipment was easy to insert and well-supported, the bra's lace felt scratchy, and the underwire, which is meant to be flexible, somehow felt stiffer and more obtrusive than the underwire on a traditional bra.

Both the Simple Wishes and The Dairy Fairy Arden bra should be machine washed with cold water and air-dried.

Breast milk will get on these bras. Because you’ll wear the Arden bra all day, you’ll need to wash it as often as you wash your nursing or regular bras while breastfeeding. Our experience has shown that you’ll probably want to wash the Simple Wishes bra once a week if you use it most days.

Tipper Gallagher, IBCLC, phone interview, June 28, 2017

April Rosenblum, IBCLC, phone interview, August 29, 2017

Jane Morton, MD, Maximizing Milk Production with Hands-On Pumping, Stanford School of Medicine

Courtney Schley

Courtney Schley, a senior editor covering sleep and appliances, has been at Wirecutter since 2014. She has held several roles at Wirecutter, including research editor, as well as supervising editor of baby and kid coverage.

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