I am so not a bra girl. But when I was finally pregnant after some long, frustrating years, I was actually excited about buying bras for this new part of my life. In my third trimester, I asked my mama friends for their recommendations, read the reviews and ordered online. Two nursing bras and one nursing cami (one to wear, one to have and one to wash) saw me through 10 months of successful breastfeeding in style and real comfort.
Speaking with Felicity Savage, Associate Designer at Bravado Designs, we created this tried-and-true shopping guide on maternity and nursing bras.
Why do I need a maternity bra?
Rather than buy a bra just for pregnancy, a lot of pregnant women wear stretchy, supportive nursing bras, particularly in the second and third trimester, and continue to wear them while they’re breastfeeding.
In your first trimester, you may notice fuller, tender breasts, thanks to those surging hormones. By the second trimester, breasts continue to grow because of increased blood flow and developing milk ducts. And in the third trimester, your rib cage has expanded to accommodate your growing baby, so you need a bigger band size. Similarly, your cup size will increase by one or two sizes from your pre-pregnancy size.
All those changes mean your old bras are just not going to fit. “A lot of moms are surprised that they will need two or three bra sizes throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding journeys,” says Felicity (who, by the way, came in to be a Test Wear mom and ended up landing a job with Bravado when her maternity leave ended). “Remember that it’s a gradual change over nine months and beyond.”
What should I look for in a maternity bra?
“Comfort is a huge priority,” says Felicity.
- Stretch in the cups for your changing breast size during your pregnancy.
- Support in the band should be snug, but not uncomfortable because this is where most of the support in your bra comes from. For a daytime bra, look for adjustability in the band, so it can accommodate your expanding rib cage as your belly grows. If you’re wearing a bra at night, go for a band that doesn’t have hooks and eyes so that it’s flat for comfortable sleep.
- Wider straps to help comfortably distribute the weight of your breasts.
Why do I need a nursing bra?
If you plan on initiating breastfeeding, a nursing bra will allow you to quickly and easily expose the breast for your baby to access throughout the day.
When your milk first comes in, your breasts will feel engorged because they are now fuller, firmer and heavier. A nursing bra is specially designed to cater to the fluctuations of your breasts as you breastfeed, and your milk replenishes. Another reason is that the soft fabrics and flexible silhouettes of a nursing bra are less likely to irritate your nipples, which may be sore from breastfeeding.
What should I look for in a nursing bra?
“Stretchy, comfortable fabric is key,” says Felicity.
Other boxes to tick:
- Full breast access through drop-down or pull-away cups for essential skin-to-skin contact with your babe.
- Nursing clips that you can unfasten and refasten one-handed is important for when you have a baby in your arms, or you’re half asleep.
- A wide bottom band, which is where you will get most of your support.
- A non-underwire design during the first few weeks of breastfeeding, as underwires can lead to clogged milk ducts.
- Layers in the cup such as a removable foam insert, or a double layer of fabric provides a smooth silhouette and nipple discretion.
Felicity’s Favorite Maternity and Nursing Bras
Bravado Designs’ bras are designed to offer you comfort and support both during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Consider these styles:
No wonder it’s Bravado Designs’ number one seller: seamless for a smooth fit, four-way stretch, and super-soft double-layer fabric make this a totally comfortable bra. It molds to your figure and is stretchy enough to fit your changing breast size throughout the day. “Generally, you can wear the Body Silk Seamless in the third trimester and into breastfeeding,” says Felicity. “It offers a medium level of support and the removable foam inserts give you the option of added shape and nipple discretion.”
The Original is super soft and super comfy, made with breathable stretchy cotton-modal with no hooks and eyes in the band. For some moms, the light to medium support is enough to wear every day during pregnancy; for others, it’s just the right bra to give nighttime support to sore breasts. “This is your go-to bra for the first few weeks post-partum, when your breasts are likely to be engorged and at their biggest, and you may be having nipple pain or cracking,” says Felicity.
How do I get the right fit?
“A lot of women don’t know how a bra should really fit and feel,” notes Felicity. “Their regular bras are too loose and doesn’t have enough support, or they are super tight and rely on the straps to get support, rather than the band. Lots of first-time moms also think only underwires can give support, which is not the case.” In other words, if your bra is too loose, your newly bigger breasts will be uncomfortable and unsupportive; too tight and you risk plugged milk ducts or mastitis, a painful breast infection.
To determine how your bra fits you, check for the following: Rib band
- This should sit parallel to the floor. If the band rides up in the back, it’s too big.
- You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably underneath. If you can fit more than 2 fingers, it’s too loose.
- The fabric in the cup should be smooth with adequate coverage. If there is puckering or extra room, it’s too big. If the top edge cuts into the breast, it’s too small.
- Breast tissue should not spill out of the sides of the bra.
- The shoulder straps should anchor the bra without providing support. If the straps are slipping off, they should be tightened, or a small cup size may be needed. If the straps are digging in, they should be loosened, or a larger cup size may be needed.
Ready to purchase your maternity and nursing bra? Calculate your bra size with the help of Bravado Designs’ How to Size guide.