January 14, 2022

Top 4 Ways A Pumping Chair Differs From Nursing Chair


Having a child brings a wealth of emotions and experiences. Most are good: the snuggles of a newborn against your chest, the sweet little fingers that wrap around yours, the new love that has been brought into your world. Becoming a mother, whether for the first time or not, can also be exhausting and overwhelming, especially when the time comes to head back to work.

With the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that women breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months and preferably for a full year if the health of the mother and the baby allow for it, many women find themselves in a unique position: returning to work, only to have to ‘pump’ during the day. 

Adding pumping to the routine of a workday isn’t always easy. Many employers don’t have well designed pumping spaces or nursing rooms, or if they do have allocated mother’s rooms, they aren’t furnished with the proper furniture to make pumping a positive and productive experience.

One of the most glaring ways employers fail to support their employees is by not realizing there is a very significant difference between pumping chairs (also sometimes called a lactation chair) and nursing chairs.

Yes, they are different! Nursing chairs are not good lactation chairs.

While nursing and pumping both nourish an infant, the proper chair needed to do each is very different.

Here are the top 4 ways a pumping chair differs from a nursing chair:  

1. Chair Movement

Most nursing chairs are gliders. This makes sense as a mother who has her child on her during nursing needs to be able to position both mom and baby in a comfortable position for breastfeeding. Many children also enjoy being soothed during or after and the rocking abilities of a glider, recliner or old school rocking chair provides just that. The movement of the chair can both inspire a positive nursing session and can help calm an infant before or after as well. 

However, unlike nursing, a pumping mother needs a chair that doesn’t move at all. This is because she is connected to equipment that needs to stay still during her pump and NOT MOVE. Most importantly, staying still helps avoid spilling any breastmilk. And it also helps stay connected in the proper position during the session. The stability of the chair is a key factor in supporting a productive and positive pumping effort. 

2. Pumping / Nursing Position

A mother who is nursing her child will likely find that reclining slightly feels more comfortable. This allows for the weight of the baby to be better distributed on the mother and for the mother to hold her baby in place for the duration of the feed more easily. As some babies fall asleep during or immediately after a nursing session, this also provides a comfortable position for a mother to stay for a long period of time.

A pumping mother on the other hand, should be positioned as upright as possible for two reasons. First, this allows the breast pump to be perfectly positioned on the mother. All cups and cords are instantly in the right place and position. This upright position is also best for the full extraction of milk. If a mother were leaning back, the pump would have to suction harder to yield the same result. Gravity is an important consideration. Lastly, as a pumping mother has no need to linger in a pumping chair after her session. So, the reclining feature simply isn’t just supporting bad form, it isn’t necessary.

3. Arm Rests

If you’re nursing your infant, you likely want a soft arm rest to place your arm or your newborn’s head. A soft, mushy arm rest, covered in a soft and gentle fabric would be very inviting. There is no need for the arm rest to serve as anything other than a gentle edge to your glider and a possible rest for arms or baby.

But for a pumping mom, this arm rest is a critical piece of the experience. Having a wide rim arm rest that can balance a pump, a bottle, or even a laptop will drastically impact the pumping experience. Pumping requires a lot of equipment and can be a juggling act. The chair design can be a great support in making that a lot easier. A pump or a laptop cannot be stabilized on a cushy arm rest. A chair such as the Nessel Pumping Chair goes so far as even having bottle holders built into the arm rest to ensure no milk is spilled or lost in the pumping process.

4. Material

A newborn is often wrapped in blankets, swaddles or clothes that are tended to with the utmost of care. Fabrics and materials that are soft and organic tend to be popular. This is true for the materials of a nursing glider, as moms often prefer to keep anything close to their new child gentle to the fresh skin.

However, a pumping mom who uses a lactation room in a work environment has a drastically different set of needs. She needs the materials to be bleach-cleanable, ensuring that between uses, the chair can be properly cleaned and sterilized. The chair should be made from medical grade material to allow for proper cleaning between uses. Should any breastmilk spill from the pump or the bottle, you want it to be easily wiped up.

If you’re a mom planning on breastfeeding, a glider chair is absolutely the right choice for a home nursery.

But if you’re a mom planning to head back to work and will need to pump there, be sure to ask for a specific pumping chair. A properly designed lactation chair is very different from a nursing chair, and will offer you the right support as you do the impossible task of doing it all.