Guide to choosing nursing bras

In the first post of our maternity series we covered selecting bras during pregnancy.  This week we will cover the basics for moms who choose to breastfeed.

Nursing Bras vs. Maternity Bra

Nursing bras and maternity bras share many of the same features, especially with regard to enhanced support.  In many circles the terms nursing bra and maternity bra are therefore used interchangeably, however one of the main distinguishing features of a nursing bra is that the cups are designed to provide easy access to the breast for feeding the baby.  This is usually accomplished by having the cups drop down from a clip.

When should I buy a nursing  bra?

Many women find that their cup size fluctuates widely in the first few weeks and months of breastfeeding before the baby and their bodies settle into a breastfeeding rhythm.    For this reason we suggest buying nursing bras in at least two phases:

1.  Early Phase

We suggest having at least 2 nursing bras on hand before the baby is born.  Yes, it is true that you won’t know exactly what size you will be when your milk comes in but shopping for nursing bras in the first week of motherhood will most likely not be high on your list of priorities.   Husbands and friends may be well meaning but the chances of them returning with a decent fitting bra if sent on a shopping expedition are fairly slim.  A good time to get fitted for nursing bras is in the 8th month of pregnancy.

The bra should fit on the middle row of hooks.  This allows both room for expansion in the last few weeks of pregnancy as well as for tightening as your ribcage shrinks after the baby is born.  Many quality nursing bras have four rows of hooks and eyes instead of the usual three rows to give even more room for adjustment of the band.   Buy one cup size larger than the size you are in the 8th month, as this will allow for the increase you will experience when your milk comes in.  As a practical matter, look for nursing bras with clips that are easy to open and close one-handed.

It is best that these early nursing bras are wireless since wireless bras are more forgiving that underwired bras to the fluctuations in breast size that occur in newly nursing moms.  Any underwired bra that does not fit properly poses a risk of clogged ducts and mastitis.

2.  Later Phase

Once you and baby have settled into a comfortable breastfeeding rhythm it may be time to get fitted for additional nursing bras.  At this point the fitting becomes more like a traditional bra fitting.  The nursing bra should fit comfortably on the slackest hook and the cups should fit your current size, with no wrinkling or bulging.  If you are used to underwired bras you may return to them at this point but bear in mind that as your baby goes through changes in feeding cycles breast size fluctuations may continue.  To avoid any potential issues pay attention to fit and ensure that the underwire lays flat against your ribcage all the way around and does not press against any breast tissue.

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