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Pumping breastmilk remains one the most time-consuming and monotonous tasks of early parenthood. Does squeezing out ounce after ounce (if you're one of the lucky ones) in a rocking chair while binge-watching movies on Netflix sound like your worst nightmare? You may want to consider a hands-free breast pump, which will allow for more freedom of movement. But what are the best wearable breast pumps, and what should you be looking for when shopping?
First of all, what is a wearable breast pump? "Wearable breast pumps fit inside with a bra or tank, which enables a person to be hands-free and mobile," says Katie Kennedy, RN, IBCLC at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest. "They are designed to be quiet, discreet, and convenient. For these reasons, they work well in public, work, and travel settings. Some versions have fancy technology features that connect to a smart phone to track suction levels, battery charge, and volume of milk expressed."
The best wearable breast pumps in 2023:
Hands-free breast pumps are an ideal supplemental tool for breastfeeding mothers, especially those who tend to be on the go. To create our list of the top wearable breast pumps, we considered expert recommendations, first-person feedback, and online user reviews. Check with your insurance company before purchasing — not all of these will be fully covered by every plan.
For more of the best products for expecting or new parents, check out our top shopping guides:
What to look for when shopping for a wearable breast pump
"First and foremost, breastfeeding parents shopping for wearable breast pumps should consider comfort," says Jessica Madden, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps. "If a wearable breast pump does not fit you correctly, this can cause issues with the amount of breast milk ultimately pumped, as well as pain and discomfort. Next, it’s important to consider cost, noise level, and the desired volume of milk to be collected."
"Buyers should should look for good suction and a variety of different flange sizes," says Laura Howells, lactation consultant, postpartum doula, and founder of Woven Lactation. "Some hands free pumps have a motor that has to be worn on your belt, others have the motor on the part that fits into the bra. It's also worth considering if they require special bags which can get expensive or if you can pump directly into the reservoir and decant at the end of the pumping session."
- How much does a wearable breast pump cost?
The cost of a hands-free pump varies broadly. Buyers can expect to pay between $100 and $500.
- Are wearable breast pumps covered by insurance?
"Traditional, wired breast pumps are typically covered by insurance but wearable breast pumps are not necessarily covered by health insurance plans," says Dr. Madden. "It’s important to check your specific health insurance plan before purchasing to see what is covered for you."
- Can you return breast pumps?
Definitely not. These items are regulated by the FDA and once they're bought, they cannot be returned or resold.
- Do you need to wear a bra with a hands-free pump?
Yes. These motorized cups are bulky and won't stay on purely because of the suction. Invest in a quality nursing bra or a loose sports bra.
- Do women need to consider individual breast size when buying, or are they all sized the same?
"Breast size is not really a big deal except if someone is considering a wearable that will require some position maneuvering and add weight to the breast," says Kennedy. "Nipple size, however, needs to be considered with flange size choice. Most pumps will allow for sizing up or down with the flanges so you can have a fit that can effectively extract milk and maintain suction in the absence of nipple or breast discomfort."
- Can a hands-free breast pump be substituted for a traditional pump?
In short, no. Wearable breast pumps should not be a replacement for the good old-fashioned kind — especially in the beginning. "There’s a timeline with milk supply calibration," says Kennedy. "In the first one to four weeks post-delivery, the lactating person’s body is trying to figure out how much milk is needed to meet baby’s nutritional needs. If you are relying on or utilizing a pump during this time of setting the foundation for production, you will want a machine that’s effective and easy-to-use. I hear from many mothers that there’s a 'learning curve' with the wearables. Postponing this 'learning' until things feel more settled on the feeding front might be helpful for your sanity and to build a sufficient milk supply."
After over a decade as a digital editor, Maggie Panos is navigating freelance writing and full-time parenting. She covered entertainment for POPSUGAR from New York and San Francisco before setting down roots in tree-covered Portland and focusing on local journalism. A self-proclaimed "okay baker", Maggie is interested in all things lifestyle — especially if those things involve Bravolebrities.
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