Illustration of a traditional breast pump assembly overlaid onto a wearable breast pump

Transitioning to wearables

What to expect from your new wearable breast pump


Skip the intro, I want the info

After the first few months of round-the-clock pumping for her tongue-tied bub, Dani knew her way around a breast pump or two (in fact, she'd used 4 in 3 months (!)). Now, the traditional setup of a direct-to-bottle pumping system is generally non-negotiable for an exclusive pumper like Dani, and absolutely has its advantages – including helping to establish your supply, and minimising cleaning as well as the risk of spillage through transfer. They're super handy for simply pumping a bottle as you get ready for bed, for your partner to use at the next night feed. But outside the privacy and comfort of your bedroom? For a lot of pumpers, Dani included, wearable breast pumps hold huge appeal as a hands-free, portable option.

You can imagine then how excited Dani was to learn that the wearable cups she'd heard other pumpers raving about would work with her favourite pump motor and promised to improve her mobility and save her sanity. Eager to try them out, impressed with how simple they were to connect to her pump's normal tubing, and encouraged by how comfortable and secure their soft silicone flanges felt, she began her third pumping session for the day. After popping on a load of laundry, making herself some lunch, and prepping her daughter's bottles, Dani figured she should be nearly done and pulled a cup out to check how much she'd pumped. It felt light. Too light. And by the time she'd set it down in front of her, Dani knew it was nowhere near her usual amount. The other cup held even less.

Dani was pragmatic, and, after each of the next few attempts failed to collect much, she drained the remaining breast milk with her regular pump set-up to protect her precious supply. But what of the promise of the hands-free wearables? Dani had tasted the freedom they afforded her but the cost of such poor output was too steep to justify. When she reached out for advice, a fellow pumper was able to offer her renewed hope. Dani didn't realise but just as she had trained her body to adapt to all those pumps over the previous months, she could do it with her wearable cups too. The advice for adapting to wearables was simple: Increase the suction (but stay within your comfort levels), pump for twice as long as usual and, most importantly, use the right size flange insert!

Dani got herself professionally sized, and sourced a flange insert that could work with the silicone breast shields in her cups. With her sizing correct, she immediately saw an improvement. Phew! Pumping for twice as long led to a reassuringly quick response from her body too. Yay! Soon Dani found she was able to pump her usual amount with the wearable cups, and within a few weeks noticed that she could even begin to cut down the length of those pumping sessions. Being able to use wearables successfully meant Dani was finally able to fit pumping into her plans for the day, instead of planning around her pumping sessions. Also made easier was Dani's decision to continue pumping and building a supply of breast milk for her daughter that would last right through to the birth of her next bub! Woo!

Wearable breast pumps offer us unprecedented convenience. So, when everyone's pumping experience is unique, how can you best set yourself up for a successful pumping journey with wearables?

Illustration of a traditional breast pump assembly overlaid onto a wearable breast pump

Wearable breast pumps can free up your day and allow you to pump on your own terms and schedule. We're just as excited about this as we expect you might be and wanted to share here the ins-and-outs of using wearables, especially for those who have not experienced the seamless start and immediate benefits so many others enjoy from the get-go. Whether you need to help train your boobs to be wearable-friendly or are simply looking to build on a great start, we've outlined below an easy-to-follow approach which can help you make your transition to wearables a success. So find out what to expect and set yourself up with encouraging and ever-helpful advice from Little Bird Lactation's International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Kate

Wait, what's a wearable breast pump?

Traditional pumps and the bottles they pump into sit proud of your body, their flanges held by your hands or a specialty pumping bra. A wearable system can simply work with your (ideally portable) pump motor via its tubing and express your milk into a collection cup that fits right inside your regular maternity bra, for more versatile and discreet use:

Wearable Express Cups for hands-free in-bra pumping

The newer fully wearable breast pumps integrate their motor so that they are not relying on any external tubing or motor, offering an even more discreet, completely mobile pumping experience. Some wearable pumps can even be controlled remotely via an app, like this:

Wearable breast pump in bra pumping

What else is different about wearable pumps?

Wearables typically have much larger soft silicone breast shields/flanges (as opposed to the hard plastic flanges on traditional pumps) because they are dual purpose. They form a seal against your skin using the compression of your bra, but they also form a leak-proof seal around the cup you're pumping into. Cool huh? Though still very quiet and lightweight, all-in-one wearables with an integrated motor can feel heavier as they are supported by your bra and sound louder as the motor is so much closer to your ears than wearable collection cups that are tubed up to an external motor. The all-in-one wearables also produce their suction with fewer parts, a bonus for cleaning and assembly! With all these changes, a small percentage of pumpers may find they need time for their body to learn to respond to wearables effectively. If this sounds familiar, don't lose heart, we've detailed IBCLC Kate's advice for a successful transition below for you!

Other useful things to note about wearables:

Transport of both your wearable pump and expressed breast milk is worth consideration, as these pumps will go wherever your day takes you, however far away that may be from a fridge! Once you've pumped you'll need to transfer your milk to a bottle or bag. You'll want to be able to keep the wet and dry parts of your pump separate, and your milk cool if you're out and about for any length of time. An ice pack in a cooler bag or the insulated pocket of your baby bag will do nicely.

What can I do while pumping with a wearable?

We've heard of pumpers using their wearable breast pump:
  • at the beach 
  • at the supermarket
  • at the footy 
  • at a party
  • at their desk or in meetings at work
  • when meditating or stretching
  • when pushing a pram or on a walk
  • when travelling by car, public transport or plane
  • when company is visiting
  • while chatting to customers
  • while teaching classes
  • while treating patients
  • while doing their makeup and hair
  • while they're mowing the lawn (!) 
  • so they can be more present with their little one/s 
  • so their bub doesn't have any bottles or tubes to grab or knock

Almost anything you can remain reasonably upright or sitting up for is fair game.

Who do wearables work best for?

Wearable pumps are fantastic for those:

  • who ideally, but not necessarily, have already established their supply (7–12 weeks) either through direct feeding or pumping
  • who would rather play in the backyard with their bub than be plugged into a power outlet while pumping
  • who want to express without undressing
  • who want to get through their to-do list with their wearable on, instead of adding pumping to the list too
  • who are enjoying a cheeky day, night or weekend "off"
  • whose colleagues, clients and/or customers just don't need to know they're pumping
  • whose pumping journey would otherwise be done if their only option was pumping into bottles
  • who proactively take steps to assist in the transition into wearables if at first they don't respond as well as expected

Photograph of woman meditating while pumping with her Embody wearable breast pump

Kate wanted to share the following advice regarding wearable pumps:

When transitioning to a new or wearable pump there are some things we can do to support your body to adapt over time. We don't need to do these things forever, just until our bodies adjust.

Get the basics right:
  • Firstly, always ensure you have the right flange size and that the fit is comfortable for you. Use flange inserts/convertors to achieve this if needed. Note: not all convertors are created equal - some are designed to work in hard plastic flanges only, others work in both plastic and silicone flanges. 
  • Check that your nipple is centred properly in the flange/insert when preparing to pump, otherwise the suction will not be concentrated where it is required for adequate stimulation and may cause pain or discomfort.
  • Wear a comfortable maternity bra and use the straps to adjust the compression of the flange against your breast. For wearables, the fit should be firm but not pulling up or down.
  • Calm and focus your mind. Don't forget to take a moment to consciously relax your body and mind. These 3-minute square breathing and body scan guides are great for this. Gaze at photos/videos of your little one (or the real deal!) and think about how nourishing and enjoyable your breast milk will be for them. The hormones you activate doing this can help naturally stimulate your letdown. 

Level up if need be:
  • Apply warmth before pumping or breastfeeding. Resting a warm (not hot!) flannel or wheat bag on your breasts for 3–5 minutes prior to pumping will help to dilate your milk ducts and promote hormones to help with your let down. You can even leave it on during your pumping session if comfortable/practical to do so.
  • Hand massage while pumping is an effective way of promoting milk output, according to research. Use your hands to gently massage the breast when pumping. You can always ask your Lactation Consultant to demonstrate the correct technique if needed.
  • Your pump will start in massage mode, which you can adjust to the strongest suction you are comfortable with for use in combination with the hands-on massage and warmth mentioned above until you see/feel your milk letdown. Five minutes in, look down your bra at the bottom of the cup to see whether milk has begun to collect – If there is none, stop pumping and check your setup. Check that the valve is secure in the valve base, your nipple is centred properly  and your wearable pump is held firmly in place by a well-adjusted bra. 
  • Pump for longer at each session when you begin using wearable pumps until your body adjusts. Be prepared to add 10–15mins extra time on top of your usual session time or pump until you reach your usual output. This is way less inconvenient than it sounds as wearables tuck neatly away in you bra while you get on with your day.
  • If preferred, you could add extra pumping sessions instead of pumping for longer at each session. The key factor is increasing the overall time you spend pumping during this transition phase.
  • Just for the initial transition period (not forever!) you can also choose to drain your breast completely afterward with your traditional pump or a direct feed if your breasts feel full after your wearable session. This optional step won't always be necessary but can help minimise any impact on your supply.

Something extra to try: 
  • Adjust the settings as your session progresses. You will likely find with your wearable pump you will prefer different suction levels than your previous pump's equivalent expression mode. So take the time to dial in your preferred settings while staying within your comfort level. If you feel you'd benefit from further stimulation you can also try mixed mode, which interleaves massage cycles in between express cycles. In the case where your wearable pump has a motor for each side, you may also be able to tailor the settings for left and right independently.  
  • Transitioning away from a vibration style letdown mode? Consider a vibrating and warming Milkdrop Lactation Massager or similar, but only if the above options don’t help. This is particularly relevant for those transitioning from Spectra pumps as their body may have become reliant on Spectra's very specific vibration pattern to help initiate their letdown.
Transitioning to Wearables Tip 1: Nail Your Setup. Hold pump firmly in place with a comfortable bra. Nipple centred in correct sized flange  Tip 2: Activate Your Letdown. Hack your hormones with breath, body awareness and a focus on bub. Try warmth, massage and vibration.  Tip 3: Express Your Curiosity and Patience. Experiment to find YOUR settings. Add extra pump time until normal output reached.

    How long will it take me to train my body to be wearable-friendly?

    Some mama's bodies are more sensitive to changing their pump set-up than others. Equally, some see results of this transition training quicker than others. Disclaimers aside, we'd expect that with awareness, patience, and self-compassion the vast majority of pumpers who had experienced an underwhelming start with wearables would see their output improve and session times begin to shorten within 2–3 weeks of following the approach outlined above consistently. 

      Wrap-up: What to expect from your new wearable breast pump

      Transferring breastmilk to bottles from Youha Embody wearable breast pump Australia - How to express breastmilk for bottlefeeding or breastfeeding with hands-free breast pump Australia, how to store breastmilk, baby bottles

      Most pumpers enjoy their wearable breast pump right from the start, and the benefits available are well worth the persistence required of those who encounter challenges initially. With a good milk supply and success using traditional pumps, Dani hadn't expected that she would have any issues using wearables. But then, she didn't expect it would take such a simple approach for her to resolve them either! So if you're thinking of using wearable breast pumps, or have been underwhelmed by your body's response to them, give this approach a go, because you deserve to enjoy using your pump and the power it can give you to take control of your breastfeeding journey.

      Use the share button and share this blog on what to expect from and how to transition to wearables successfully and help others in your life maximise the freedom and convenience they can experience from pumping with their wearable breast pump. 

      Thanks for sharing Dani!

      Our delightful mate Dani is a Certified Lactation Counsellor, mama of two, former exclusive pumper, and a primary school teacher to boot! 

      For encouragement and exclusive pumping support, you can visit, follow and connect with Dani on Instagram at to.the.pump.and.back

      Return to intro

      Thanks for your advice Kate!

      Our lovely mate Kate is a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with over 8 years of experience in both Community Paediatric and Neonatal Nursing (damn, girl!)

      ​Little Bird Lactation is here to support you through your feeding journey however that may look. The aim is to educate, empower and support you and your family to meet your feeding goals and smooth any bumps in the road.

      You can visit Little Bird Lactation online at

      Return to article

      Just a friendly reminder that this blog provides general information and is not intended and should not be considered, nor used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If in doubt, please always consult your healthcare professional.

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