Not all nursing bras are created equal and they are not a one size fits all needs. When I was a first time mom, I learned this the hard way. When I first became a breastfeeding mom a little over four years ago, one thing I did not expect was how much bigger and heavier my breasts would get when my milk came in.
Superpower nursing boobies seem to have a mind of their own!
I had bought nursing bras spur of the moment days before heading to the hospital to deliver without even trying them on and quickly realized something wasn’t quite right. Now, as a mom of 3 with baby number 4 arrived recently, I have found that every occasion requires a different style of bra based on individual needs and comfort. Also, as a lactation consultant, one of the most frequently asked questions revolves around nursing bras and how to find the right one that provides 3 important elements...comfort, style, and support.
A great nursing bra will not only be used relentlessly, but will serve a very important purpose. Accompany your nursing bra choices with stretchy and easy to nurse in tops, tanks, and hoodies that can be used for nursing where ever you may be. You'll be well on your way to nursing success!
I would love to share with you, some of my top detailed tips for finding the perfect nursing bra and nursing tops for all of your daily needs.
Choose The Perfect Nursing Bra for Every Occasion
Proper fit and support are key and the number one thing I touch on with moms. A bra that is too tight or too loose can cause problems for mom. There are various stores that provide complimentary bra fitting services so find one that is closest to you and treat yourself. If they don't do fittings or have measuring tapes, you're in the wrong store.
However, you don’t want to get fitted for a nursing bra and stock up before baby arrives. When your milk comes in, (typically between days 3 and 5 post delivery), your breasts can increase 1 or more cup sizes so before baby arrives, I recommend mom get 1-2 nursing bras for use until your milk comes in. You can try these on towards the end of your pregnancy as your breasts have most likely increased some in size already and should fit properly for hospital use after delivery.
When should you get fitted for a nursing bra? I recommend getting fitted after baby arrives and your milk comes in. Remember, your cup size will most likely increase after you milk comes in so it is essential to wait to get the proper fit. However, I know that getting out right away might not happen, so you can get your hospital use bras 1 cup size bigger to hold you over until getting out to get fitted seems possible.
In case you needed, here is what you need to pack in your hospital bag here.
Rule number 1-NO UNDERWIRE- For everyday use, long term wearing, and lounging, steer clear from underwire. It can cause some painful problems for mom such as clogged ducts, engorgement, and mastitis.
Read more on what to do with clogged milk ducts here.
There are several different types of bras that are great for lounging and everyday use. The softer and more comfortable, the better in my opinion. There are many nursing bras labeled as "sleep bras" and "sports bras" that are great depending for every day lounging use depending on whether you prefer to pull-up or snap down. These seamless sleep bras usually have thin adjustable straps, washable inserts (lined/removable cups help conceal bra pads used for leaking), and come in various colors and patterns.
Working out can be done while breastfeeding (without affecting supply), but you need to make sure that you have a supportive bra that isn't constrictive. You need to support your breasts during rigorous physical activity, both for comfort and to prevent complications such as clogged ducts, engorgement, and mastitis.
Non-nursing bras labeled high intensity are great for the times that you work out. These bras usually have thicker straps which provide maximum support while working out. Because these bras provide maximum support, they can sometimes feel a little snug in which case I recommend going up 1 size larger.
There are also great nursing sports bras that can be used during physical activity. Look for ones that have the thicker straps and provide maximum support. Be sure to use the sizing guidelines that correspond with each individual company.
**Not every nursing bra that is labeled a "sports bra" is a good fit for physical activity**
Date Night/Mom's Night Out-
This is the only occasion that I say that it is OK to wear underwire. As long as it is only for a few hours at a time, moms can wear underwire without complications. The key here is fit; band size, cup size, and the ability to adjust the straps. Since you will only be wearing these for a short periods in duration, find one that looks best under clothes that you will be wearing out.
I suggest investing in a nude and black underwire bra as these are the most versatile a wardrobe. Lace, pattern, and bows, and texture look cute, but they often times show through cute nursing tank tops or nursing dresses. Basic is best for practicality.
Full coverage or demi cup is a personal choice. Full coverage tends to be a better fit and provides more support for large chested women. For smaller chested women, a demi cup might be just enough. Either way, find something that makes you feel sexy but is also practical and comfortable for your big night away that isn’t too snug or restrictive. An awesome alternative are the push up bras with sporty straps that are firm like an underwire bra but do not have the actual wire.
Another common question regarding nursing bras is whether or not to get a straight strap or a criss-cross strap. Straight versus cross-cross back again is personal preference based on clothing needs (daily tops versus athletic top). However, a criss-cross back can provide more support and take more pressure off of the shoulders, especially for larger chested women.
Most importantly, no matter which type of bra you are shopping for, getting fitted, proper support, and comfort are key for all occasions and use. Not too tight, not too loose and supportive.
Last but not least, find a nursing bra and an efficient, easy to use nursing top that is comfortable, makes you feel great, and is functional for you as you nourish and care for your little one.
Read more about the author:
Sarah Lang RN, LC is a Lactation consultant- breastfeeding service & women's wellness coach, focusing on postpartum health goals and maintaining milk supply. www.milksprout.com