It's loud, but effective.
Despite being a writer who specializes in motherhood, I didn’t buy my first nursing bra until I had my second daughter this past February. Since I work from the privacy of my home, I can breastfeed her easily, so I never thought I needed to invest in a nursing bra, let alone a pumping one. (Because I’m at home, I don’t pump much anyway.)
But here’s the other side of that: When I do pump (before bed or if I miss a feeding), I dread it. I never feel like I produce as much milk as when I breastfeed (which might be an accurate assessment, as some research suggests that a baby’s suckling is more effective than a breast pump’s work). My arms wind up tired from holding the bottles. I fear clogged ducts (even though I’ve never had one). Mostly, I just dread it.
Enter: the Lilu Massage Bra, a hands-free pumping bra that mimics compression massage, a technique shown to help increase and maintain milk supply and make pumping easier. I’ve been using it for three weeks to write this article, and I really like it. Not only that, I think it works.
Does the Lilu Massage Bra actually work?
Your first question is likely, “do you actually pump more milk when you use this bra?” To that, my short answer is yes.
Every time I have used Lilu’s bra while pumping, I have noticed that I have pumped more milk than I usually do, even at the end of the day when supply tends to be at its lowest. This leads me to believe that the bra’s compression massage—it’s actually quite relaxing—does indeed help me better empty my breasts. (For what it’s worth, the brand says you could pump up to 50 percent more milk each session. While I haven’t found that significant of an increase, I have noticed a bump.)
As for the claims about increasing and maintaining milk supply, I’m not sure. I’ve never had an issue with milk supply, nor am I looking to increase my supply. I’d be inclined to say that I do notice a slight increase in supply overall while using this bra (even just using it once or twice a day), but it’s not something that’s overly noticeable. Though if you were using this bra as part of a regular pumping routine, it could have an impact on your overall supply.
What's it like to use the Lilu Massage Bra?
Baby and motherhood products that promise the moon and come with multi-page instructional packets scare me. (Just the other day, I spent 30 minutes sitting on my kitchen floor installing a battery in a play sink for my two-year-old; something I thought would be a two-minute process.)
But using Lilu’s bra is surprisingly easy. The directions are simple and easy to read, too. Even if you didn’t read them, you’d figure out how to use the bra.
All you have to do to start the massage once wearing the bra (you just put it on like you would any other bra and slip the pump flanges through openings) is push a button. From there, it’s nothing fancy: The massager works at two speeds, high and low.
What does it do well (and is there anything terrible about it)?
Anyone who’s bought any item of maternity clothes (bras included) knows that sizing can be incredibly variable, making the process of shopping frustrating.
I was impressed by the sizing chart on Lilu’s website that is easy-to-use. Based on your current bra size, the chart suggests sizing for the Lilu (S-XL).
I also think this bra does what it’s supposed to do in a functional way with an added benefit of making the pumping process easier (no hands!).
Some drawbacks: My first thought upon opening the Lilu was that it was heavy (though it doesn’t feel heavy when you wear it). The cute bag it comes in is a tight squeeze for the bra and its bulky massage parts. I also find the bra’s plastic clasp to be a bit cheap.
In a market of sleek and semi-silent wearable pumps (the Willow, the Elvie) the Lilu’s noise also stands out. It isn’t discreet or quiet, though I doubt that it was designed to be either. Frankly, I don’t really care. I use it in the privacy of my living room when the kids are asleep, and I’d trade a little bit of noise and clunk for efficacy any day.
Who's it good for?
It’s hard to say who the Lilu massage bra is best for. I like it and I’ll continue using it, but I also don’t know if I would have bought the Lilu to begin with because I didn’t think I’d need it or like it. It's also expensive, though the company states that the bra can be paid for with funds from a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account. You should confirm eligibility with your insurance carrier.
If you work in an office and are pumping every three hours or so, you might find it annoying (and a little bit more time-intensive) to put the bra on multiple times a day. The company notes you can wear the bra over a nursing bra and you can—I’ve tried it. (But personally, I might just suck it up and hold the pump versus undressing and dressing for pumping sessions.)
But I could also be wrong: Maybe if you work in an office and you’re sick of holding your pump to your breasts every three hours and you’re worried about supply or you just want to sit back and (try to) relax for a few minutes, this could be for you. A pleasant surprise for me is that this bra truly does allow you to do just that: relax a little bit.
And that’s one of the main benefits I’ve noticed. Even though it’s a bit of a nuisance to put on the bra before you pump (it is, after all, just another *thing* you need), the Lilu does eliminate some of the work and stress of pumping—and there’s some research to suggest that simple relaxation goes a far way in helping to increase your supply and help you remove more milk.
So would I suggest you or a friend buy it? If you’re stressed about pumping, sick of holding your pump on your own, and hoping to increase supply, I’d say give the Lilu a shot.
Adriana Catalina Vázquez Ortiz
Founder and CEO, LILU