As a mom-to-be, you’re likely in constant planning mode. With arguably more fun plans like designing the nursery, compiling your baby registry, or scheduling maternity and newborn photo shoots, you might not have given as much thought to what you will need. Or maybe you have given your postpartum needs some thought, but you’re too overwhelmed to act.
One thing you should be sure to give proper consideration is your nursing bra. You already know your body is in for some major changes. One of those changes is that your chest will likely require more support and comfort than you’ve previously had to worry about.
Shopping for a nursing bra is all about timing and considering the right features.
When to shop for a nursing bra
Timing your nursing bra shopping can be tricky. Your breasts can begin growing from your first trimester of pregnancy, but they typically don’t stop until your milk comes in – after your baby is born. So how do you shop for nursing bras ahead of your little one’s arrival?
There are a few ways to go about it. You can use bra extenders to buy some time as your rib cage expands, especially if your cup size doesn’t change much early on. This option works best if your current bras are comfortable enough to grow with you. If you have an underwire, you might find it best to invest in something softer to prevent aggravating your tender breasts.
Another option is to buy maternity bras throughout your pregnancy, sizing up as you feel uncomfortable in your current bras. Maternity bras are usually made with softer, more stretchy fabric that grows with you and often don’t have an underwire. Unlike a non-maternity wireless bra, however, a maternity bra is designed with support in mind, usually in the form of a thicker, sturdier band below the bosom. That’s something you’ll want as your breasts get fuller and heavier. Keep in mind that maternity bras do not have clips to lower the cups for nursing, so you’ll likely want to purchase an actual nursing bra before you pack your hospital bag if you plan to breastfeed.
If you opt for bra extenders or maternity bras but want to plan ahead for delivery, a good time to look for a nursing bra is around the 36-week mark of your pregnancy. At this point, your breasts and rib cage have likely gone through their most substantial growth. Make sure any bra you buy before your baby is born fits on its tightest setting so you have the option to adjust as your milk comes in.
The final option is to wear nursing bras as maternity bras, especially in the second half of your pregnancy. If you go this route, you’ll want to make sure you choose bras that can grow with you while still offering plenty of support.
What to look for in your most comfortable nursing bra
When it comes to shopping for nursing bras, there are special considerations beyond what you might look for while shopping for any other bra.
- Support: Your breasts will be heavier when they’re full of milk, so support is essential in a nursing bra. A wireless nursing bra with a thicker waistband can help hold everything in place without a potentially painful wire getting in the way of your breasts’ changing size and shape. Extra straps across the upper back, like in the Bamboobies super strappy nursing bra, can take additional pressure off of your chest. This can be especially helpful to mamas who have larger breasts to begin with. The best nursing bras for large breasts not only hold your breasts up, but they also help you maintain a stronger posture to protect your upper back from strain and pain.
- Comfort: As we already covered above and in a previous post, your breasts might feel tender or sore at various points in your pregnancy, and they’ll likely feel even more achy during the early stages of breastfeeding. They’ll also go through changes throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period that might make your pre-pregnancy bras feel uncomfortable. Not only could your breasts grow by a full cup size, but they might be itchy or more sensitive (thank you, hormones!), or your nipples might stick out more, rubbing against the fabric of your bra. A bra like Bamboobies yoga nursing bra, which is made of ultra-soft fabric that can stretch with your changing body while still holding its shape, is a must-have.
- Easy nursing access: When your baby is hungry, you won’t want to take too much time getting situated to nurse. Many nursing bras have plastic clips to pull the cup down for access to your breast, but these clips aren’t all equal in ease of use. Some bras use less fabric to hold the bra up while the cup is down, which can potentially be less comfortable or make it harder to clip the cup back in place after. Some nursing bras have clips that are too stiff to quickly and easily unclasp them with one hand while you hold your baby with the other. Test out the clips on your nursing bras before your baby arrives, if you can, to make sure the process is seamless. Trust us: the last thing you want when there’s a hungry, screaming baby in your arms is to be fumbling with the plastic clip on your bra. Other nursing bras use strategic fabric placement instead of clips, allowing you to easily pull the cup down from your breast. If you go this route, just be sure you feel sufficiently supported, as the bands on this style tend to be more elastic.
How many nursing bras should you buy?
You’ll probably want at least two to three nursing bras for postpartum use. Because your milk continues to come in through the night, it’s a good idea to wear a nursing bra while you sleep for extra coverage and support. Assuming you will want to wear a different one during the day, it’s a good idea to have at least one backup for inevitable milk spills or general laundering needs. If you want to reduce washing frequency (and what new mama doesn’t?), you can certainly opt for more!
Pregnancy is an exciting time, and it can be a lot of fun planning for the arrival of your little one. Just make sure you’re taking care of your own needs too, Mama!
Glamour: The $7 Product That Makes My Too-Tight Bras Wearable
American Pregnancy Association: Breast Changes During Pregnancy
BabyCenter: Breast changes during pregnancy
BabyCenter: Maternity and nursing bras: Everything you need to know
Kindred Bravely: How to Fit a Nursing Bra: 3 Mistakes Moms Make Bra Shopping
West Valley Medical Center: Breast Size and Back Pain: What’s the Relationship?