Hands-free pumping

Can I pump without holding the breast shields?

Some products allow mothers to pump milk without having to hold a breast shield on their breast. There are numerous options (products): bras that hold the breast shield in place, special breast shields that hold milk and are placed under the regular bra while mothers pump, or pumps that are placed inside of a bra. If mothers use a hands-free product, they need to make sure the edge of the breast shield doesn’t press into the bottom of the breast, reducing milk flow, and ensure they can pump the usual amount of milk. The hands-free product should not take longer than pumping without the product and should not cause pain or leave mothers with full areas after use.

A) What is hands-free pumping?

Hands-free pumping means pumping without having to hold the breast shields with your hands. Instead, you use a product or device that keeps the shields in place on your breasts.

There has been a steady increase in the types of hands-free products and they may be:

  • Bras that hold the breast shields in place and may be:
    • Commercially made for this purpose.
    • Created by you from a sports-type bra or tube top.
  • Specialized breast shields that hold milk and are placed in your regular bra while you pump.
  • Electric pumps that are placed inside of the bra.

A constant-suction hand pump may remain attached to the breast without support, so it may in effect be hands-free. However, it too could be combined with a hands-free bra if it does not remain attached without additional support.

Regular hand pumps must be held when they are operated, making a hands-free option redundant.

B) Choosing a hands-free product

When choosing a product, consider:

  • What is the price?
  • How easy is it to use?
  • How easy is it to clean?
  • Is it comfortable for me?
  • Does it leak milk?
  • Does it combine with my current equipment?

C) Proper use of a hands-free product

If a hands-free product does not provide enough support, the edge of the breast shield may tip and press into the underside of the breast and decrease milk flow.

If you use a hands-free product, ensure that:

  • The product allows you to pump your usual amount of milk.
  • Pumping with a product does not take more time than pumping without one.
  • The product is not applying excess pressure and causing a red line on the breast.
  • Pumping does not cause nipple or breast pain.
  • Pumping does not leave you with full areas after use.