Nursing Bras: Things to Consider [Guest Post by April]

Today’s post was written by my good friend and first-time-mom April, and it’s the first-ever guest post for the blog! April gives a quick guide to bras for nursing moms based off of her own experiences. 

So you’ve made the decision to breastfeed your child. Great! People are always talking about how good that is for babies. What they never mention is how big of a deal this is going to be on your poor breasts. They will increase and decrease in size and weight throughout the whole ordeal (you can forget wearing your pre-baby bras for a while). Getting a good set of nursing bras is an essential investment for the breastfeeding mom. Stretch marks, back pain, clogged ducts, and other issues can be avoided or minimized with the right support. Here’s a few things keep in mind as you search for a comfortable and convenient way to hopefully enjoy the nursing relationship.Know Your Size(s)
My biggest problem with finding a good nursing bra is that I didn’t know what size I was in the first place. A fitter probably won’t be able to help you find the right nursing bra. For one thing, your size will fluctuate throughout the day. I found that I changed two cup sizes from day’s beginning to end. Also, your size is going to change over time. Nursing the baby for 6 months? Your size could change rather dramatically after the first month or so of nursing, after supply has been established. Planning to nurse over a year? At 13 months, I’m still fluctuating through two cup sizes (this baby is getting weaned soon, gosh darn it).  I use this method for getting a good measurement [see also these good bra calculators for a quicker calculation].

The general rule for buying the first nursing bra is to do so before the baby arrives. You probably won’t want to go shopping within the first week after delivery (I was way too tired and had more than enough to keep me busy), and if you need to order online it’ll need time to get there. Make sure the bra fits on the loosest setting; you’ll need to be able to accommodate your shrinking ribcage. According to most websites, adding a cup size to your 8-month measurement will give you a good fit when your milk comes in. I’m pretty sure I went up two cup sizes, but one cup size up is a good all-around rule for something that’s hard to predict with perfect accuracy.

After about 6 months and onward, as supply begins to decrease somewhat, it’s time for another set of bras. I would recommend measuring in the morning (before the first feeding, if possible) and in the evening (when you’ll probably be the smallest) to get a feel for the range of sizes you’ll need. Personally, I went a cup size down from my early morning measurement in order to make sure the bra would fit the majority of the day.

Consider Ordering Online
If you are reading this blog regularly, you most likely have the same problem that I do: there isn’t a store nearby that carries your size! I need a 30F, and I live in a small town with very little selection in a 30 band for regular bras. Finding a nursing bra here in that size is even more impossible. Right now I have a pair of Royce nursing bras that I love (a brand which, by the way, runs a tad tight in the band, so consider yourself warned), but they are a British company and I’m in the US. The cool thing about having to order online is that you don’t have to go to the store to try anything on. Okay, so that might not appeal to some of you, but for those who are going to be first time moms and think that their little dear is going to be their best bra shopping buddy, here’s some advice: don’t count on it. Not all small children are very happy about having to wait for you to try on any amount of clothing. Ordering online can solve both lack of selection and lack of child patience issues.

Royce Nursing bras

Some bra sites that carry a good variety of nursing bras, including in 30 and under bands:
Breakout Bras
Ewa Michalak
Linda’s Online

Compensate for Nursing Pads
If you are just starting to breastfeed, make sure there is enough space in the bra for a good nursing pad. Some women leak a lot, others don’t, but milk stains when letdown happens at the wrong moment and noticeable bulges in your bust when a nursing pad doesn’t have enough room both look kind of awkward. This means that an unpadded bra will probably be your best friend at the beginning. Look for a bra with full coverage and a firm band.

Easy Access
One thing that a nursing bra absolutely needs to have is easy nursing access (I hope this one is obvious). This is the big reason that just buying a regular bra won’t work out so well for most breastfeeding moms. As much as I wanted to think that the one-handed access feature for nursing bras was just a gimmick, it’s pretty important. After all, you’ll probably be holding a sleeping infant or wiggly toddler; do you really want to A) accidentally flash the public due to a weird maneuver to get your bra back in place, or B) wake a sleeping infant. Or both, really. Even if the baby isn’t sleeping, it’s not like you can always just put the kid down to re-adjust, especially if you are switching sides. When you try on the bra, make sure each clasp (or pull-aside) is easy to replace with either of your hands.

What About Underwire?
While many experts say that underwire is a bad idea for a nursing bra (possible cause of clogged ducts, etc), this is mostly because many women don’t know how an underwire bra should fit (see also this video for how a correctly-fitting bra should look). Properly adjusted, they are perfectly safe to use and will probably give better support to some. See this post for more info about proper sizing for underwire. My only complaint about underwire nursing bras: getting the darned flap to stay down or in a comfortable position while nursing. Make sure you check to make sure this won’t be an issue before buying.

…Also, the Sleep Bra
I’m a firm advocate of getting a sleep bra. If you are generously endowed, breastfeeding probably won’t be kind to your sleep habits, especially if you are a side sleeper or stomach sleeper. A comfortable, supportive bra for night (when, if you are lucky, your baby might go for many hours without relieving you) is essential. Plus, if you tend to leak at night, you’re going to need something to put those nursing pads in.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but hopefully I’ve given you a few tidbits worth using. Nursing a baby is hard, but there’s no reason for your bra to add to the difficulty. A good nursing bra is worth the money.

For veteran nursing moms out there, what is your favorite brand of nursing bra or your biggest complaint about them?