How Do Wearable Breast Pumps Work?

Wearable breast pump

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Pumping has its ups and downs. With a pump, you can offer your baby your breast milk without nursing them. So if you go back to work while they're still small, you can keep feeding them and maintain your supply while you're away.

Pumps also allow you to keep your supply up if there's an extent of time where your baby cannot nurse, such as if they're spending time in the NICU or if you're experiencing challenges with breastfeeding. These machines give parents another option for feeding.

However, pumping isn't always convenient. Needing to find a private area to pump with an accessible outlet can sometimes be a challenge. Pumps might also need to be transported from place to place with you, and they can be heavy. Wearable breast pumps are a fairly new invention that aims to solve some of these problems.

Ahead, we break down exactly what a wearable breast pump is and how it works.

What Is a Wearable Breast Pump?

A wearable breast pump fits inside your bra so you are totally mobile while pumping. There is no heavy motor to lug around, no tubing, and no need to find a power source. You can pump milk discretely with your breasts covered beneath your clothing.

How Regular Traditional Breast Pumps Work

Breast pumps use suction to stimulate your milk. Parts called flanges create a seal around your nipple and a motor provides suction. The milk flows from the flanges through tubes that lead to collection cups.

How Wearable Breast Pumps Are Different

Wearable pumps have all the same parts as a traditional pump, but in a compact and portable form. The flanges, collection cups, and motor are all-in-one, and the whole thing fits inside your bra. The motor is battery-powered so there is no need for a cord or outlet.

At the end of your pumping session, you simply empty the collection cups. "Some products collect data on your pumping sessions, which can be a big bonus," says Krystyn Parks, MS, RD, IBCLC, a pediatric dietitian, IBCLC, and owner of Feeding Made Easy.

Benefits of a Wearable Pump

Using a wearable breast pump can help simplify your life. Ahead, we've rounded up a few benefits to keep in mind.

You Can Be Mobile

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a wearable breast pump is that you do not need to be sitting down or plugged into a wall while pumping. "Pumping can take a long time and if you are trying to work or take care of a child while doing it, limited mobility is an issue," says Parks. "For parents who want to continue providing breast milk for an extended period of time, the increased flexibility for pumping can help prolong their breastfeeding journey."

Pumping Can Be More Discreet

Traditional pumps are used with your top off or pulled to the side if the style allows, so you may prefer pumping in private. Wearable pumps are large enough to potentially be noticed, but you can keep your bra and shirt on while using them. "They are also quieter because there are not any cords," notes Parks.

They're More Portable

Wearable pumps are more compact than traditional pumps, so it's easier to bring them from place to place. This can be helpful if you pump at home and at work, or when you want to travel with your pump.

Drawbacks of Wearable Pumps

Despite the many benefits, there are some drawbacks to wearable pumps.

For example, wearable pumps come with a higher price tag than traditional electric or hand pumps, with more expensive ones being around $500. They also may not be covered by insurance and may require specific products, like specialized milk bags.

These pumps also tend to not work as well as a traditional pump. "They aren't usually recommended as the sole product for exclusive pumpers," notes Parks.

Types of Wearable Pumps

There are few brands and types available. One of the most comfortable and easy-to-use options is the Elvie Pump.

Another well-known brand that makes wearable pumps is Willow. The Willow 3.0 Wearable Breast Pump is able to get the job done even if you bend over, reach around, or otherwise change your position. If you want a more affordable option, they also make the Willow Go Wearable Breast Pump.

There are, however, other brands that are more budget-friendly, and you can find wearable breast pumps at many online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and BuyBuyBaby.

How to Know if a Wearable Breast Pump Is Right for You

If you are planning on pumping frequently throughout your feeding journey and know that you will want the extra mobility, a wearable breast pump may be a good investment. They may also be a smart purchase if you will be pumping in a public setting and you don't want to seek out a private spot.

Wearable pumps can be on the pricey side, so they may not be the best choice for everyone. Consider if the benefits of being able to move around and stay covered up while pumping is worth it to you when deciding.

1 Source
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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. What to Know When Buying or Using a Breast Pump.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.