Difference Between a Hands Free Pumping and Nursing Bra


When it comes to purchasing a nursing bra, it can get a little overwhelming. With so many brands, attachments, and types of bras to choose from, a new mom can quickly become confused. 

The basics of nursing bras are actually quite simple. There are two options: a nursing bra or a pumping bra. So, do you buy a nursing or pumping bra? What is the difference?

A pumping bra is a nursing bra that allows you to attach your breast pump flanges and pump hands-free. A nursing bra is only for nursing. Choosing the best bra is going to depend on what your needs are.

Nursing Bras

Most bras on the market for breastfeeding will be for nursing only. This means there is no option to attach your pump. Though the design and appearance of each bra will differ, they all have the same basic makeup. You will find a clip toward the top of each breast cup that unclips to allow you to pull down the breast cup, exposing your breast so you can easily nurse your baby. Like so:


Clip at top of breast cup


Unclipping bra to pull down cup to nurse.

So why not just use a regular bra? Well, this seems like a good idea in theory but it is actually quite difficult to pull down the strap of your bra and have enough range of motion in your arm to support your baby. Not to mention you will ruin your bras… Case in point:


You will notice the fabric is ripped toward the top of the breast cup… Yep, victim of trying to use a normal bra as a nursing bra…

So unless you have extremely stretchy bras, I would not recommend you try and use a regular bra. They will rip eventually…

Pumping Bras

If you have ever pumped before, then you may have noticed what a pain it is to sit and hold the pump flanges to your breast for 20+ minutes… The best invention ever is the hands-free pumping bra.


Rumina Bra: All-in-One Pumping Bra

There are two different kinds of pumping bras, so it is important to pay attention when buying. They are:

  1. All-in-One Pumping Bra – A bra you can actually wear and doubles as a nursing and pumping bra.
  2. Bustier Pumping Bra – This is not an actual bra. It is a bustier that you zip on and attach the pump flanges and wear only while pumping. It is a quick and easy way to pump hands-free.

The All-in-One Pumping Bra is great for moms who pump often (like at work) and also breastfeed. I loved mine since I didn’t need to fuss with putting a bustier on and off and could use the same bra to pump and nurse my baby. It really makes a working mom’s life a lot easier! I would also recommend this type of bra for any moms who exclusively pump. Having the pumping option built into your bra is a huge timesaver. 

The bustier pumping bras are great to have on hand. I typically had one in my pump bag at all times to use in case I was not wearing an all-in-one pumping bra that day. You basically can pull your bra down and zip the bustier over it. Really easy and a great option for any mom who pumps! Here is what they look like:


Simple Wishes Pumping Bra

There are several great bustiers out there but Simple Wishes is by far my favorite. It has some support and body to it so that it’s not falling down. I have a Medela one too but that one is much less supportive. You can read about Simple Wishes here. 


A mom who will not be doing any pumping or has no need for the hands-free option would likely want to stick to a basic nursing bra. Moms who plan to pump for any reason may find the pumping bra a huge help.

There is no right or wrong. I have used both nursing only bras and pumping bras and like both. When I had to pump when wearing a nursing only bra, I would use the bustier pump bra, like Simple Wishes, and that worked great. 

I will say, though, I found that I could get more supportive nursing bras when they were not for pumping. So be aware that you do loose a little support with the all-in-one pumping bras in some cases.

Still deciding between a nursing or pumping bra? Read through some of our reviews and see which fits you best!

Nursing Only Bras:

Cake Lingerie (Reader Favorite!)

Bravado Body Silk Seamless

Pumping Bras and Bustiers:

Simple Wishes Pumping Bra- Bustier

Rumina Classic and Tank Pumping Bra – All-in-One

PumpEase Pumping Bra – Bustier

Medela Easy Expression Pump Bra- Bustier

Dairy Fairy Pumping Tank – All-in-One

Related Articles


6 Great Pump Options for all Moms! Even hands-free options like the Freemie.


How to build a Freezer Stash of Breast Milk


Sore nipples? These products can help get you comfortable again!






  1. Carl says:

    Thanks for a helping mom differentiate between nursing and pumping bra. I agree with you the bustier pumping bra is excellent and every nursing mom needs. My milk supply is always low. So I spent a lot of time hooked up to a pump at least to make sure I’ve enough for my young ones. Bustier pumping bra makes me feel expressing milk is an easy job. It saves my time, energy and frees my hand during those times.

    • Heather Grace says:

      Hi Carl,
      Pumping isn’t easy (not to mention it can get down right boring). I am glad you found a pumping bra that works for you! And I agree with you on all the pluses you list: saves time, energy and frees our hands- yes! Best wishes on your pumping journey! I hope your supply issues get easier for you. Take care!

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