How To Choose A Nursing Bra

Look for styles that will change with your body

As a woman who has nursed two kids, I can say from experience: following the birth of a baby, you’ll need some new bras!

You can make it easier for yourself by getting ready before baby arrives. During pregnancy, if you buy an unstructured bra like a Bravado, it will get you ready for nursing – while allowing some leeway for size changes once you are actually breastfeeding. However, you’ll likely want something with a bit more style once your breast size has settled down around 6-8 weeks after your baby arrives.

That’s when it’s time to head out with your little one to go bra shopping!

Of course, it’s always recommended that you have at least three nursing bras available: one to wear, one to wash, and one for emergencies. (Breast pads or nursing pads can also be a good investment.) Even with breast pads and on-demand nursing, I still had to change bras frequently. You never know when you’ll need to change one due to any number of small disasters, from “leaking” to having your infant decide to spit up lunch. So do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough that you don’t have to launder daily. I personally never had less than 5 of these in my wardrobe.

After all, once you have a baby, laundry isn’t going to be your priority.

When it comes to sizing nursing bras, remember the old rules of bra fitting. The band should once again be comfortably snug around your back so that you prevent any riding up in the front and back. The cup should not bind or pucker or cut into your breasts. Also, the weight of your breasts should not be on the straps. The band against your chest should be doing the work of support, no matter what kind of bra you are wearing.

Choose bras that fit on the loosest hook and clasp setting. This will help you avoid buying a new bra immediately as you lose that baby weight. (Actually, breastfeeding is a great way to lose baby weight; you’ll use an extra 300-500 calories a day feeding your little one.) Definitely buy a new nursing bra if it becomes too loose even at the smallest band setting.

When selecting a cup size in a more structured nursing bra, be sure to leave a small amount of room for your breasts to expand slightly and reduce slightly as you cycle between milk-filled breasts and feeding. Don’t forget the other features of the bra when shopping, including the method for opening the cup for nursing. If you can undo the cup with one hand, so much the better! (Fumbling to undo a nursing bra with a squalling baby in your arms is not something I’d wish on anyone.)

When selecting a fabric type for your bra, look for a breathable fabric such as cotton that will allow moisture to escape from the skin rather than being trapped on the body. Microfiber is another nice option: I found that I was often warm from carrying an infant as I went through my day! Also, many infants love carriers of all kinds – and these also tend to keep you warm. So, think breathable and cool fabrics for greatest comfort.

If this all sounds too much for you, there are women who choose to go their entire pregnancy and nursing period while still wearing their everyday bras. I personally had one friend who, after her size had returned to normal (about 12 months post-partum) simply found an easy way to tip up her underwire bra and nurse. She did this for another 10 months or so before weaning. If this is more your style, just make sure the bra does not cut, bind or pinch breast tissue anywhere. When lactating, most women will find that they are much more sensitive to anything which constricts the breasts – and the result can be a painful blocked duct or the more serious condition, mastitis.

Given the fact that more and more lingerie brands recognize the need for nursing wear that respects women’s desires to be – well – desirable, I think it’s worth it to invest in some lovely and functional nursing bras. After all, the World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding continue for up to 2 years and beyond. You don’t have to continue nursing full-time to give your older infant or toddler the benefits of breast milk: I nursed just morning and evening for at least a year and got a healthier, happier child as a result, while I still went to work.

In any case, a good bra is worth it. If you are going to invest in your and your child’s health, you might as well look good while you do it!