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11:46 AM

Supporting sisters

Sports bra hack inspires pumping mom of NICU patient to lend a hand (or two!) to others

When Lindsey McGreer’s son Felix was born, the realization that he would unexpectedly spend his early weeks in the Children’s Mercy NICU was stressful enough. So the news that his diagnosis of facial nerve paralysis meant that she would not be able to breastfeed him directly added another level of heartache.

It wasn’t that Felix would miss the value of breast milk: Lindsey could use the supplies in the NICU lactation room to pump milk for her newborn. It was the complexity of pumping itself, precluding the bonding experience she had so eagerly anticipated.

But a couple of weeks into Felix’s month-long NICU stay, she discovered instructions posted in the NICU Lactation Room for ways to modify a sports bra to free her hands while she pumped. She gave it a try with an old sports bra her mother brought her from home.

“It was comfortable, didn’t negatively affect my supply, and allowed me to pump hands-free,” Lindsey said. “It literally changed my life.”

From that experience, Support a Sister, an initiative to help to other moms in similar situations, was born.

Helping hands, encouraging words

The logistics of pumping are complicated and frustrating. Or, as Lindsey puts it, “It’s nuts. You need four hands to do it.”

But a sports bra, with strategically placed cuts customized to each individual, can hold pumping equipment up to the breast in the correct location, freeing Mom’s hands, reducing spill – and more.

“There is so much bonding that is lost when you are not able to hold your child to feed them. It was a loss I deeply felt,” she said. “But being able to pump hands-free, I was able to use a tissue to wipe away my tears, fold my hands to pray or even just respond to messages from family and friends on my phone.”

While commercial hands-free pumping bras are available in stores, they are expensive, and the right fit can be difficult to find. So determined to help others going through similar circumstances with a less costly, customizable solution, “I came up with this idea to donate a free sports bra to other moms going through the same experience, and held on tight to it,” she said.

Support a Sister now provides a sports bra with an attached card sharing step-by-step directions along with scissors and other supplies to make the necessary modifications for a customized fit. After receiving initial financial support from a crowd-funding campaign, Lindsey and her husband now fund the project, supplying sports bras of varying sizes to the NICU Lactation Team and restocking as needed.

Just as important to Lindsey as the bra itself is the hand-written note of encouragement each card carries.

“It is really important to me to leave an encouraging word on each card for the mom who receives a bra from Support a Sister,” she said. “When you are basically living in the hospital, you start to feel so isolated. It’s an amazing feeling to know that someone is out there cheering you on beyond the hospital walls.”

She enlists family and friends to assist with note-writing, and has found many helping hands for the project, as well as space to do the work, at the Jewish Community Center’s Meshugge Crossfit.

“The women I work out with are my most reliable volunteers to help package the bras to get them ready for the moms at Children’s Mercy. The managers of the gym area always willing to let us use their space in the gym to get the job done,” she said.

Going forward

So far, Support a Sister has provided sports bras, and the words of hope that go with them, to more than 1,000 NICU moms. And that’s just the beginning.

The positive feedback she receives from the Lactation team and comments from mothers they send her way continues to inspire her.

“I’ll keep donating them until someone asks me to stop!” she said. “It has been so therapeutic to know I am helping out another mom.”


Learn more about the NICU at Children's Mercy.

Learn more about NICU Family Resources at Children's Mercy.