Any breast-pumping parent will tell you: This business ain’t easy. While breastfeeding and pumping can become second nature for plenty of parents doing the seemingly endless yet necessary and badass work of feeding their babies, it’s no secret that breastfeeding is quite a bit cozier than straight-up baby-free pumping. When you’re pumping there’s no snuggles, no sweet little hand to hold, no baby eyes staring adoringly up at you while you continue to literally give them life. There’s just a million pump parts to assemble and disassemble, a cramped space to do it in, plus the added pressure to eke out “enough” milk in whatever limited time you have to pump.
Pumping is anything but a bonding experience; it’s just you and a machine. Maybe you’re doing it at home, if you’re lucky. But for plenty of pumpers, this tedious task happens in some sort of office-building closet being glorified as a “lactation lounge” — or, honestly, sometimes just in a bathroom (ugh). From my own personal experience of breastfeeding for 1.5 years and pumping for most of that, I can wholeheartedly tell you that pumping is a pain. But guess what: It doesn’t have to be, thanks to an invention by the brand Lilu.
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One of the major issues encountered by pumping parents is how to maintain supply — especially if you’re primarily or exclusively pumping, since a pump is not going to trigger your body’s release of the lactation hormone prolactin the same way nursing your actual baby does. It’s just plain not as efficient as a human, so most people who pump (2/3 of them, in fact) rely on breast self-massage to get the letdown going in the absence of their baby. Which makes sense, since according to a Stanford University study, breast massage can lead to the production of about 50% more milk. But honestly, I’ve tried it; managing to assemble that pump and get it going in that refrigerator-sized private space (for me it was an old supply closet under my NYC office’s staircase) while also managing to massage your own boobs to convince them that letdown is a good idea? Come on. I am not Superpumperwoman here.
This very specific but absolutely widespread problem is precisely why Lilu, founded by two engineers, created a massaging bra (genius) — just for the purpose of pumping. Because for most of us working moms, “breastfeeding” means pumping. We don’t have the luxury (and, yes the exhaustion) of being with our kids all day and thus being able to take breaks every couple of hours to feed. No, if you work outside the home and you’re breastfeeding, that likely means you’re taking three or four breaks in your eight-hour work day in order to pump, in order to maintain supply, in order to then be able to breastfeed your baby once you’re home — and leave enough milk for their caregiver to bottle-feed them while you’re at work, pumping all day. Oh, the irony.
The Lilu Massage Bra (the first self-massaging bra, in fact) is the brilliant #lazymomhack that pumping parents have been waiting for. It comes in sizes 34A to 40F, along with massage cushions that mimic motions recommended by lactation consultants. Plus, the bra works alone (hands-free, natch) or clipped directly onto your usual nursing bra.
With the Lilu brand’s focus on the massage bra, it’s is currently a one-product retailer — with the exception of one chic nursing/pumping cover-up (which, btw, makes a great gift for new moms, with or without the Lilu bra).
Note, though, that while the Lilu bra is indeed the magical pumping hack we’ve been waiting for, it is not a pump in and of itself. Sorry; you’ll still need to get one of those separately. Luckily, that part isn’t hard — and most of them are covered by insurance.
“If you have health insurance in the United States, you should be entitled to one new breast pump per child at no cost under the Affordable Care Act,” Amanda Glennn of the information site Exclusive Pumping tells SheKnows. “What insurance carriers will cover varies — some will pay for a manual pump, others for the rental of a hospital-grade pump for a certain number of months and others for a portable double electric pump. However, some medical device companies will allow you to ‘upgrade’ what your insurance covers.”
But also, think about your unique pumping needs, lactation consultant Andrea Tran of Breastfeeding Confidential tells SheKnows. Are you, for example, an under-the-office-stairs-every-hour pumper? Or are you working from home and can take breaks to breastfeed your actual baby?
“Not every mother is going to need a double electric breast pump,” Tran advises. “You know, if a mom is only pumping once in a while, and especially if she’s buying it herself, she may not necessarily need the Cadillac of pumps.”
Luckily, no Cadillac is needed with Lilu; the bra is compatible with breast pumps from Spectra, Medela, Lansinoh, Ameda, Avent, and Baby Buddha. But whichever pump you choose, the Lilu is a worthwhile addition/accessory/investment. Not just because it’s comfy and takes the “ugh” out of pumping; but also because it seriously shaves off precious time and effort from those midday pumping sessions by stimulating letdown for you and thus letting you get back to work — and then, back to your baby — that much faster. And that baby is the point of all that pumping anyway, so we might as well get to hang with them instead of spending 20 more minutes alone in a closet. Er, sorry, I meant “lactation lounge”…
Here’s more on Lilu and other groundbreaking products that make breastfeeding (almost) easy.