As an exclusive pumper, I was doing a lot of hand massaging to get the most milk I could get out during pumping. It was frustrating to finish a thirty minute pumping session and still feel that my breasts were heavy with milk. I was cautious about investing in the Lilu Massage Bra because there weren't too many reviews yet, but after struggling with ductal narrowing (formerly known as "clogged ducts"), I decided to bite the bullet and buy it.
I vastly underestimated how much weight I had gained, so the medium I bought ended up just baaaarely fitting. Even though it is a bit small, it's still comfortable and feels high quality. (I saw that Lilu offers free exchanges for sizes for unused bras, but when I saw that, I already had the bra on and was using it. Plus, I kind of am hoping to not stay this size. I was able to loosen the bra a bit, and while it's still tight, it's not leaving marks on my shoulders or too tight for me to clip myself. Hopefully in time it will fit a bit looser.)
It works amazing at emptying my breasts. I consistently am getting about an ounce more out of both sides, which I believe is helping my supply. Also, normally when I'm super engorged, I have to hand express to get things going. Otherwise, I could get to the end of a 30 minute pumping session and still have a rock hard breast and only an ounce of milk out. After hand expressing, things would flow faster it seemed like. But with the lilu massage bra, I didn't have to do any hand expressing to get things moving. My formerly rock hard breast was completely soft by the end of the session! Truly that amazes me because even hand massage and pumping couldn't get the milk out before.
On flanges: both my pumping pal flanges and plastic spectra flanges fit through the openings on the bra, but I find that hard plastic flanges are easier to use with this bra. Pumping pal flanges need to be bent back and slowly unbent onto the breast in order to be applied correctly, and since my bra was already very tight, it just wasn't happening. With the plastic flanges with a silicone insert, I only had to position my nipples in the right place after clipping the bra on, and I was good to go.
On how the bra helps address ductal narrowing/clogged ducts: we used to think that "clogged ducts" resulted from failing to empty the breast adequately. The newly released mastitis protocol explains that research has found that it's impossible for a milk duct to become "clogged." What causes a "clogged duct" is actually inflammation in the breast that causes the passages through which milk passes to swell, allowing less milk to flow through. This is called ductal narrowing. To treat it, you need to use ice and ibuprofen. To prevent it, you need to be gentle with the breast to avoid inflammation.
What does this have to do with the lilu massage bra? Sometimes hand massage can result in damage to the breast. Especially in the beginning of my pumping journey, I had no idea how to get the milk flowing, and I got quite aggressive when I was worried about developing a "clogged duct." This inadvertently caused the very thing I was trying to avoid. BUT the lilu massage bra is so gentle yet effective that I haven't experienced any "clogged ducts" at all! It's gentle so it doesn't damage the breast tissue and cause inflammation, and it empties the breasts effectively so that you don't need to do much if any hand expression/massage. I highly recommend the bra to anyone who is struggling with recurrent ductal narrowing/clogged ducts like I was.
One slight issue is the battery. When I first got it, I plugged in the bra and tried to turn it on--it didn't turn on. It had to be plugged in for about half an hour before it finally turned on; I was worried until then that I'd gotten a dud. The cord it comes with is quite short, so you're tethered to your power source while pumping. Also, the battery drains fast on the higher setting. Since I do thirty minute pumping sessions, I try to only use it wireless for one session before charging it again. If the battery gets too low before charging it again, it will refuse to turn on for about 20-30 minutes.
The bra with the compression bags is quite heavy and bulky. With the compression bags in, I could never get away with wearing it under my clothes while at work. However, it's perfectly functional and great to use around the house.
Overall, this bra saves a lot of time and pain. Sooo glad I don't have to hand express or hand massage anymore!