By Elisabeth Dale
It’s hard to imagine that a medical insurance plan could change the way nursing bras are designed. But the Affordable Care Act, in an effort to increase overall breastfeeding rates, may lead the way. Why? Because new mothers will have greater access to expensive ($250 and up) but more efficient electric breast pumps. And nursing bras that make it simple to latch on to baby or a breast pump could be the next best bra solution.
Breast pumping bras have been around for a few years. Brands like Simple Wishes and Pump Ease have created a convenient way for lactating mothers to keep breast pumps attached to their chest, leaving their hands “free” to do something else. They are not “bras” in the traditional sense, and some simply adapt a woman’s existing nursing bra. But they are useful and necessary for those who use a breast pump, which turns out to be any new mother who can’t be with her nursing baby 24/7 but wants to maintain her milk supply. Even breast pump manufacturers, like Medela, offer their own version of a “hands free” bra.
The standard nursing bra has changed over the last decade. Some brands like Hot Milk, Cake, and You! Lingerie offer new mothers feminine and flirty designs. Others have introduced more efficient nursing clips, innovative fabrics, and flexible wires that better adjust to expanding and contracting lactating breasts. But the focus has been on baby and a more stylish, comfortable mother. It’s not the functional relationship between a new mom and her electric breast pump. A woman must remove, or add another “bra,” to do one or the other task.
Now with the Affordable Care Act, women will have part or all of the cost of an electric breast pump covered. Demand for these medical devices is already on the rise and suppliers are working to keep them in stock. Under existing laws, employers are required to provide workers with a private room and unpaid break times for pumping. A nursing bra that works with or without baby may be the best solution for these women.
A new hybrid nursing/pumping bra has been developed and is now on the market. The Dairy Fairy Arden bra supports both breastfeeding functions, whether it’s baby or pump. Simple Wishes is also close to launching a new combination nursing and pumping bra. It could just be a matter of time before major lingerie industry brands come out with their own models.
What do you think? Will changing breastfeeding patterns or increased use of breast pumps change the way maternity and nursing bras are designed?