Far from being a luxury, a good nursing bra is a must have for a successful breastfeeding experience. Why? A well fitting bra can make your (now heavier) breasts more comfortable, help prevent plugged ducts and make getting baby settled and latched on to the breast faster and easier too.
Some moms may ask, why not just wear a regular bra as long as it fits you? Nursing bras are expensive! Good question.
While it’s tempting to wear a regular non-nursing style, if you do so you’ll likely either pull down on the cup or pull up on the bra in order to expose your nipple and get baby latched on. Both of these can put excessive pressure on sensitive breast tissue that can lead to discomfort, and in some moms, plugged ducts. Nursing bras are designed to expose the breast comfortably and fully so that baby can latch on easily and you aren’t being pinched anywhere.
Also, a regular bra may not be as comfortable because the nursing breast tends to change sizes through the day. Many women notice that they wake up fuller (and their breasts therefore larger) and their breasts are smaller at night. Nursing bras generally are designed with a bit more stretch to accommodate these changes.
The last issue is ease and quickness of access. When you have a crying baby, especially in a public place, the last thing you want is a difficult bra that makes it hard for you to get baby onto the breast. A nursing bra has openings that enable you to use one hand to discreetly open the cup.
So how do you find a well fitting nursing bra?
One way is to get a proper bra fitting at a maternity clothing store, lingerie store or department store. If you’re in your third trimester of pregnancy, your rib cage is a bit bigger but your breasts are smaller than they will be the week after baby’s birth (it takes about 3 days for your milk supply to “come in” or increase dramatically after baby arrives, this is when your milk goes from colostrum to mature milk). Keep this in mind if you go bra shopping during this time.
Some women love underwire for additional support, and some nursing moms hate it. If you do prefer an underwire style, make sure the wire isn’t poking you anywhere and feels comfortable. If you get plugged ducts while nursing, suspect the underwire. No matter what style you choose, your bra should not leave red marks on your skin. That means it doesn’t fit properly.
A bra that fits well will be far more flattering to your postpartum body because it will give you good support and a better profile. If you have large breasts, look for wide straps or cushioned straps for comfort. If you exercise, you may want to wear two sports bras at a time, especially if you jog. Heavy breasts that bounce around can get sore.
Some nursing openings are easier to manage than others. When you go bra shopping, try opening the clasp with one hand to be sure it’ll be easy to manage while holding a squirmy baby.
If you’re on a tight budget, avoid buying more than 3 bras in one size at a time. Since your breast size will change several times during the course of breastfeeding (especially if you nurse for a year), you’ll probably need a different size long before the bra actually wears out.
Wash bras by hand and dry on the line if you want them to stay nice longer. One easy way to wash your nursing bra without much fuss is to simply take it into the shower with you, wash it with a little soap, rinse and hang it to dry over the shower rod. This method only takes a minute. It’s a good idea to avoid fragrance in your laundry detergent and skip fabric softener. Some babies are sensitive to the perfumes. A mild soap such as Castille or Ivory is effective and gentler on your bras.
Choose a bra that is made from breathable fabrics (cotton), or one that absorbs moisture such as microfiber. You don’t want a bra that encourages the growth of yeast, which can cause a painful condition known as thrush. Avoid nursing pads with plastic on them for this reason.
Some of the more popular brands of nursing bras are Bravado and Glamourmom. Bravado offers good support without underwire and has a wide, anti roll band that is more flattering to the postpartum body – it doesn’t “cut” into your skin and create an unattractive roll underneath. Bella Materna bras are a bit pricier but they get rave reviews from moms. Their microfiber styles are great under T-shirts and help avoid the “head lights” phenomenon.
Nowadays moms don’t have to choose between glamour and nursing. A lot of lingerie companies are recognizing that women want to look sexy when they’re breastfeeding too and are making pretty, feminine and even racy lace nursing bras.
What about nighttime? Most women are more comfortable without a bra at night, but when you’re nursing you may wake up in a pool of milk if you don’t have a bra and nursing pads on. Choose a style made especially for nighttime. These are designed to be super stretchy so you don’t have to fuss with opening cups. Simply move the cup to the side. They also hold nursing pads in for extra protection against leaking.