this thing's incredible

The (Actually Good-Looking) Maternity Bra That Saved Me From Pumping Hell

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Dairy Fairy

When I was pregnant with my son a few years ago, along with the many hand-me-down maternity clothes friends sent, I also received a big bag of postpartum bras. There were two different kinds: nursing bras, most of which have little plastic clips where the top of the triangle meets the strap to open up and expose one breast at a time for feeding; and hands-free pumping bras, which often look like a stretchy little tube top band with two holes cut out around your areolas to support the pump’s flanges while you’re hooked up and pumping. Each type serves its purpose but not the other’s, and every single one of them was the hideous beige of the compression stockings Sophia wore on the Golden Girls. I put them in the corner, where it was easy to forget about them while we did other important things like finishing the baby’s room and stressing about what sort of public space I’d be in when my water broke.

It’s typical for newborns to lose up to 10 percent of their body weight in the first two weeks before getting back to their birth weight, and our son was no exception. What made it even more complicated was the fact that he had a tongue tie. We had the procedure done to remove the tiny bit of skin that restricted his tongue’s movement, but that inhibited his ability to breastfeed. He barely ate, which started a bit of a Catch-22: The less he ate, the less milk my body produced, and the less would be there for him when he finally figured things out. Since my husband and I were initially trying not to supplement with formula, I was told by our lactation consultant that I needed to pump. A lot.

The Ayla comes in nine sizes, including petite. The company also recently introduced Milkful collection, a similar plus-sized collection ranging from 42D-52G.

That led to a horrible cycle: Immediately following each attempt to nurse, I would pump. Eight to 12 times a day. I slept in two-hour intervals, with all my awake time devoted to nursing the baby, then changing into a pumping bra, then pumping. By the time I finished pumping, it was time to change back into a nursing bra and start all over again. Those first couple weeks were brutal.

I was crying to my best friend one day, the pump MUR-MURRRHing in the background while I bounced my sleeping baby in his chair with my foot, when she said, “Has no one told you about the Dairy Fairy bra? I’m sending you one right now.”

Unlike most maternity bras, not only can you unclip this one to nurse, it also has slits that let it work to pump, too. Since those slits aren’t the big open circles of other pumping bras, you can actually wear it like a regular bra the rest of the time. Plus, it has an underwire to support milk-heavy boobs (there’s also the wireless Rose 2.0 version for sleeping or for those with smaller breasts). It’s perfect for anyone who needs to pump and nurse in the same day, whether you’re in the kind of situation I was and you need to boost your milk supply, or for so many other reasons: tracking how many ounces of milk you produce to get a sense of how much your baby is eating, giving your nipples a break from a baby with a painful latch, building up a surplus so that someone else can handle a feeding, or for when you’re back to work and you don’t enjoy feeling like your boobs are about to explode. It didn’t solve every postpartum issue for me (that would take a lot more than a bra), but it instantly relieved the need for all of those wardrobe changes. And it let me sleep a few extra minutes.

Maybe just as important, these bras do something not a lot of pumping or nursing bras can: They actually look sexy. For me, this was less about trying to look a certain way for my partner and more about how having a baby can make you feel desexualized by society, like a holy mother vessel, and then discarded like a weepy bag of hormones and milk if you don’t snap back the next day. Becoming a mom is already enough of an identity shock; you don’t also need to feel like a granny in the process. This bra’s black lace let me say to myself that, even though my boobs were now a thing that made food for my baby, they were still mine.

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This (Actually Sexy) Maternity Bra Helped Avoid Pumping Hell